To many folks, yoga is the label slapped onto a stretching session. However, while yoga includes stretching, it goes far beyond challenging your body through deep stretches. If you’re new to yoga, you might feel the stretch through each move, as your muscles might be less flexible, but as you progress, you’ll notice that stretching isn’t necessarily the only thing yoga entails.
So, what is the difference between yoga and stretching? If yoga incorporates stretching, is it considered static or dynamic stretching? These are great questions, so if you’re wondering the same things, continue reading to learn more!
Is Yoga Considered Stretching?
Yoga can be considered a form of stretching, but it isn’t just stretching. There are multiple types of yoga, each involving a slightly different kind of training, and while stretches are an essential part of most sequences, it isn’t necessarily the focal point.
For example, consider Bikram yoga, a grueling type of hot yoga. In a Bikram yoga class, participants hold the poses for longer periods of time. In these poses, they might feel the stretch through certain muscle groups, so technically, it’s a stretch. However, aside from the stretching feeling in specific muscles, participants will likely feel the intense burn in the working muscles as they strain to maintain the pose.
On the other hand, consider Yin yoga (also known as gentle yoga), a type of passive yoga. This type of yoga is slower-paced, with longer holds in each pose. Again, while participants will likely feel the stretch in certain muscle groups, they might feel others activate. So, although stretching is an essential component of yoga, it isn’t the focal point.
Yoga vs. Stretching
While one can be the other, yoga and stretching aren’t the same thing. Generally, when you focus on stretching, you target a specific muscle group. For example, let’s say you do an upper-body workout. For that particular day, you might not need to stretch your entire body, so you stretch your upper muscles only.
Or, maybe you run or do a killer weighted leg workout another day. Stretching only your upper body wouldn’t help your lower body with soreness and flexibility after the recent work, so you stretch your lower muscles.
So, we’re trying to say that stretching is usually restricted to a specific muscle group. Of course, you might decide to stretch your entire body in a session, but generally, folks tend to focus on a particular muscle group.
Yoga, on the other hand, is a full-body workout. Many types of yoga include sessions that drive your heart rate up and force you to focus on your breathing as you move through intense flows. In some yoga classes, like Bikram yoga, you might kick in the intensity up high enough to bring your heart rate into the cardio zone.
In a different yoga class, such as Yin yoga, you might slow things down with mindful breathing and a slower pace through certain moves. Although these classes might echo the sentiment of a good stretching session, the difference here often falls to the mindful breathing integral to yoga.
In a cut-and-dry outlook, you could say yoga is more of a workout while stretching is more of a cool down. Of course, there are exceptions to both, but it’s essential to recognize their clear-cut differences.
Is Yoga A Form Of Dynamic Stretching?
As mentioned, yoga isn’t always just stretching. However, certain moves and sequences can be considered a form of stretching. For example, if you’re moving through a sequence that stretches your muscles, such as the Sun Salutations sequence, you could technically call it a form of dynamic stretching.
In case you need a quick refresher course, dynamic stretching is simply a form of stretching wherein you actively move through the stretch. So, instead of holding the stretch for an extended period, you flow and move through the stretch, giving your muscles time to elongate briefly.
Is Yoga A Form Of Static Stretching?
Technically, yoga can be viewed as a form of static stretching. However, like dynamic stretching, not all yoga poses are a form of static stretching. Some types of yoga encourage participants to breathe deeply through stretches that challenge flexibility. For example, participants in Yin yoga might find that their muscles experience a thorough stretch through the long, static holds.
Again, just as a refresher, in case you’ve forgotten, static stretching is a type of stretching where participants hold the stretch without actively moving. Instead of actively flowing through the stretch as you would in a dynamic routine, you maintain certain poses, holding the muscle in its extended position.
This allows you to slowly deepen the stretch as your muscles feel ready, which is an excellent way to build your body’s flexibility.
Do I Need To Stretch After Yoga?
Although many types of yoga incorporate stretching into flows and sequences, you might need additional stretching after a challenging yoga session. For example, let’s say you did a heart-pumping, fast-paced, hot yoga class yesterday and decided against a dedicated stretch after class, but today, you’re feeling the effects.
Your muscles might be stiff and sore, especially if you’re new to yoga as a form of exercise. On top of that, hot yoga is entirely different than most forms of yoga, so even if you’ve been doing yoga for years, hot yoga might throw your body a curveball. So, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate stretching to loosen and elongate those sore muscles in this particular case.
Consider the muscle groups that ache and focus on those areas. Additionally, remember to stay hydrated, as hot yoga can cause dehydration, which is associated with muscle soreness and cramps.
Or, in a different example, let’s say you did a yoga class that involved long, drawn-out holds that caused an intense burn in activated muscles. Although the class incorporated some forms of stretching, you still feel sore after class. Again, focus on those muscle groups in a dedicated stretch.
You might find that stretching right after class, when your muscles are still warm, helps you avoid intense muscle soreness. Of course, your muscles will likely protest the new exercise if you’re starting with yoga, but as you build your strength, you’ll notice it takes more effort to overexert your muscles to the point of soreness.
Even if you’re not sore, stretching after your yoga class can be a beneficial addition to your day, especially if you have tight, inflexible muscles. Certain poses in yoga may be tricky for you if you have a limited range of motion, so stretching tight muscles while they’re warm after a yoga class can help improve your ability to do these moves. As you hone your flexibility, you might find that you can better improve your form and technique through specific movements and sequences.
However, while stretching after yoga can help mitigate soreness and improve flexibility, it isn’t technically required after a yoga class. In some cases, you might get plenty of stretching in your yoga session, so adding an extra stretching session at the end of the class might not make sense for you. Ultimately, you should do what works best for your body and its needs.