Yoga vs Stretching
Nowadays, people are focused on their health and appearance as never before. Some of them are ruled by the beauty standards, while others want to feel better and improve their overall health. Very often body transformations are mainly connected to weight loss or weight gain. That’s why today, there is an enormous number of various methods that can help in achieving these goals. The experts and the Internet offer you a bunch of diets and workout plans that will help you to trim off unwanted pounds and become healthier. Such a variety of weight loss methods oftentimes can lead to misconceptions, and sometimes people don’t understand the difference between nutrition plans or exercises that may look similar at first view. They also don’t understand the difference between the effects on their body. The same goes for yoga and stretching, which are often confused. However, despite the fact that they have common features, these are two different types of workout routines. In this article, you will get an answer to one of the most popular questions of the modern fitness world – yoga vs stretching, what is their difference and what is better? Let’s start!
Yoga vs Stretching: Differences and Similarities
At first sight, yoga and stretching seem to be similar. Yes, they even have some similar exercises. For example, a yoga position called baddhakonasana looks the same as butterfly stretch, and janu sirsasana is basically a stretch position, when you stretch one leg out as the other one touches your crotch. However, these two types of routine are of different practices.
There are not that many similar features as you might think. First, both yoga and stretching are good for your muscles, as they allow them to relax after some strength training session or after a long working day. They help in relieving tightness and you start feeling much better. Second, both types of workouts can target all the main muscle groups. Some asanas and stretching positions can engage your entire body. Third, as it was mentioned above, some of the movements look quite similar. Taking into account these three similarities, it is quite clear why some people, especially those who don’t have enough experience, tend to confuse yoga and stretching.
First, let’s see what yoga is and what is stretching.
Many of you definitely have seen yoga classes at least once, and according to the media, it is a training session performed by fit and extremely flexible people, who say “ohm” from time to time. However, it is just an attractive picture which differs a little bit from the reality.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice, which demands not only balance, stretching and proper breathing, but calmness of mind and high concentration level as well. It is approximately 5, 000 years old, and some experts claim that it can be traced back more than 10, 000 years. It is based on an ancient Indian philosophy and has numerous variations. Yoga does not only include physical load or using postures of different complexity levels, but also incorporates different breathing techniques and even meditation. Therefore, it benefits not only your physical health but your mental health as well. Many experts recognize this practice as mind-body medicine (4). It is more than just a workout routine. It improves not only your fitness level (strength, balance, and endurance), but also helps you to find inner balance, peace, and harmony.
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What is Stretching?
And what is stretching? Stretching belongs to one of the most important parts of your daily workout routine. It offers a bunch of benefits for your body and it helps reduce tightness from your muscles and relax them after a workout. If you don’t stretch at all, your muscles stay tight and are unable to function properly. It can lead to injuries, including muscle damage, joint pain, and even strains (6). Stretching on a regular basis helps you to keep your muscles flexible, lean, and long (5). It is also important to stretch daily, as perfect flexibility doesn’t come overnight.
Stretching requires proper breathing techniques as well, because if you hold your breath during a stretch, it will tense your muscles (3). Correct breathing can help to improve your results and to go deeper in your stretch. Such proper breathing technique and the ability to control it can bring benefits to your overall health status. It can also have a positive influence on your cardiovascular, muscular, and nervous system and can contribute to lower stress levels.
Moreover, stretching has a positive effect on your mood, making you feel better. You get such an effect because during the stretch, your body releases endorphins also known as “feel-good chemicals”, which work as happiness booster and pain and stress reliever (1). This type of exercise also makes your body activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of mindfulness and relaxation (7).
Benefits of Yoga And Stretching Routines
Some benefits of these routines look similar, but still they are different:
As it was mentioned above, both routines require proper breathing. However, they slightly differ. Breathing is crucial for the proper performance of yoga poses. During such training sessions you should breathe as deep as possible. Moreover, in some yoga techniques breathing is the subject of concentration. In stretching, proper breathing helps to avoid holding your breath during other workouts and helps to improve the effect.
Yes, everyone can practice yoga and stretching. However, yoga poses are created for different fitness levels. To perform some of them you should spend years preparing your body, in order to acquire the necessary level of openness, balance, and strength. Accordingly, if you don’t perform complex asanas, you won’t get the benefits from them. However, even if your body is not that flexible, stretching will bring you the same benefits as to someone with a much higher fitness level.
Goals of training
Stretching is a better option for those who want to improve their performance of other workouts, to recover after an injury, or to relax their muscles after a hard training. Yoga is more suitable for those who aim to improve their fitness level, balance, and mental health.
A stretch involves holding a certain position and stretching the muscles as much as you can. Your main aim is to stretch the muscles until you feel uncomfortable, and after this workout, you get rid of muscle tensions. Yoga includes a wide range of poses, and a training session itself can have different forms. Sometimes, it can be in the form of a flow, when the poses gradually and slowly follow each other, and you feel relaxed and concentrated. Sometimes, you change poses rapidly, and as a result your heart rate increases.
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Yoga vs Stretching: what is better to choose?
Both workouts are beneficial for your body, and it is impossible to say which one is better. Everything depends on your aim and what you expect from a training session. Besides, nothing stops you from combining them. For instance, you can have yoga 2-3 times a week (or even more, depending on your goal) (2) and perform stretching after your strength training sessions.
In conclusion, as you can see, there is no winner in the battle of “yoga vs stretching”. Both techniques have numerous benefits to your body. They are both similar and different, and you cannot say which is better or which is worse. Everything depends on your goal. However, whatever routine you choose, it is highly important to take care of your health. Before starting yoga or stretching, the best option will be to consult a health professional and qualified instructors in order to avoid injuries and to stay healthy. You can also check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Endorphins: Effects and how to increase levels (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- How Often Should You Do Yoga a Week? (2019, livestrong.com)
- How To Stretch Properly: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Stretching (n.d., bodybuilding.com)
- Mind and Body Practices (2017, nccih.nih.gov)
- Stretching: Focus on flexibility (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- The importance of stretching (2019, health.harvard.edu)
- Why does stretching feel so good? (n.d., sciencefocus.com)