Stretching V Strength in Yoga

Up until recently Yoga was seen purely in terms of flexibility and it’s benefits.

There are 2 questions that are now emerging after recent research –

  1. Is Yoga JUST about stretching and flexibility?
  2. How beneficial is stretching to our mental and physical health?

Besides stretching Yoga has strength work, core work, balance/motor skills, breath work, relaxation and mind control.  Indeed some authors argue that stretching is the least important part of Yoga.  The general public mistakenly often believe Yoga = stretching.

Much recent research points out that reduced mobility is best served working on alignment of joints, strength and muscle balance work. VERY LITTLE “TIGHTNESS” IS THE RESULT OF LACK OF FLEXIBILITY.

Moreover there is little hard evidence that stretching reduces the risk of injuries or even aids rehabilitation after injury.  However subjectivity Yogis consistently report that stretching does help them feel relaxed.

So is stretching is wrong?  If stretching is passive there is little evidence of the positive gains for this, however if the stretching is active (one group of muscles tightening, the opposite group relaxing ) this can lead to a better aligned and stronger body.

The key phrase here then is “strengthen to lengthen”.  Misaligned joints and weaknesses in soft tissue lead to shortening of muscle, tendon and fascia.  Alignment and strength is the way to progress.