Yoga stretching is actually a type of physical activity that has recently gathered a great level of success and popularity in the western world. Based on the ancient (dating more than 5,000 years back!) physical, mental and spiritual method for bonding one’s body and mind and reaching a state of perpetual peace, practicing yoga postures and stretches has developed to a highly popular and natural means of increasing muscles flexibility and strength, improving posture and coordination, while relieving from various pains.
How Yoga Stretching Works
As mentioned elsewhere, yoga stretching makes use of the basic principle of active stretching, to a significant extent. In general, and irrespective of the innumerable variations, yoga is in fact a crossbreed of active stretching with other types of stretching (for example, isometric), engaging no external force; roughly speaking, the principle of yoga stretching involves active stretching movements which contract the agonists while activating others muscles in order to keep the assumed position.
Yoga Stretching Exercises
There is an unlimited series of yoga stretches, originating from various yoga types (suggestively, Hatha, Power Yoga, Kali Ray TriYoga, Kundalini and many more); in that sense, it is practically impossible to give you even a short list of the basic exercises for beginners (spinal flex, side twist, sun salutation, mountain pose, cobra pose -photo 1-, lunge pose, downward-facing dog pose -photo 2-, seated forward bend etc.); moreover, those body postures (“asanas” in Sanskrit) are very complicated to be fully performed at the start, including several intermediary stages that cannot be considered as stretching.
Still, if we want to focus on the stretch itself, we can give you a couple of yoga stretching examples – always keep in mind you should follow the Do’s and Dont’s of our General Stretching guide:
- The side twist: Assume a seated position, crossing the right leg outside your left knee; then, you raise up your left arm, placing your left elbow to the outside of the right knee, and twist towards the right leg, feeling that stretch and holding it for about 30 seconds. (Typically, in yoga stretches, you hold them for 30 seconds to one minute.)
The mountain pose (tadasana): Stand with your legs and feet together and parallel to each other, your arms to your sides, your spine straightened and your chin parallel to the ground; now, move your abdominals inwards, let your shoulders loose and allow for your chest to gently lift, like energy is coming all the way up from the lower parts of your body to the top; stay there for the needed seconds and you have greatly benefited your back, abdomens and thighs (photo 4).
- The lunge pose: From the downward-facing dog pose, move the left foot forward and next to the left arm by gently bending its knee so that your left lower leg eventually forms a 90-degree angle with the ground (thusly, making sure that your left knee does not go beyond the ankle), its sole is in firm contact with the floor and your thigh is parallel to the ground; with your back totally straightened at that point, squeeze your shoulder blades and move your head upwards so that it stares directly forward and you feel the stretch in the groins, hamstrings and the spine (photo 5). For other groin, hamstring or spine stretches click here, here and here
Due to the huge diversity of yoga stretching, executing stretches from various yoga types is a common method to take full advantage of them; this should be done after an in-depth analysis and evaluation of one’s needs together with an experienced yoga teacher. Mastering yoga stretches for 30 to 45 minutes three times a week is more than adequate in order to get remarkable flexibility results.
Performing yoga stretches on a regular basis can deliver much more than the typical stretching advantages. Therefore, apart from the significantly improved flexibility, which obviously is the aspect mostly sought after when implementing stretching, even amateur yoga athletes can earn:
- Benefits for the spine; besides, one of the most important requirements for a robust body is a flexible spine, and the whole yoga philosophy focuses on that aspect.
- Subsequent rewards of the aforementioned also include improved posture and alignment, better balance and reduced risk of back pain.
- The prevention of injuries during work-out is more effective, since people who practice yoga stretches usually are in particular knowledge of their limits in a training session, whereas these very limits are broadened anyway, thanks to the augmented range of motion.
- Added benefits associated with yoga stretching include increased levels of energy as well as upgraded muscle strength and improved muscle toning.
By nature, yoga stretches are more demanding and difficult to perform compared to, let’s say, passive stretches, or even the simple active stretches, and that calls for some serious training with the help of a good yoga instructor; otherwise, if executed inadequately or wrongly, this type of stretching will probably not deliver the wanted results or, even worse, it may trigger an unwanted injury.
What To Consider
Although yoga stretching addresses to men and women of almost all ages and physical condition, it doesn’t mean that its more complicated types can be performed by anyone, especially if they don’t have the determination and open-mindness to integrate this type of activity as something more than just a stretching activity so as to reap all of its benefits (mainly, flexibility, balance and injury prevention).
That taken into consideration:
- You should never attempt to perform yoga stretches without having warmed up your muscles beforehand; if you neglect that part, the reduced blood flow into your muscles may have as a result the provoking of a strain or tear!
- Proper and well-timed breathing, although important anyway when performing any type of stretching, is an even more crucial factor for performing correct and effective yoga stretches, as it eases your movements and provides your body with the needed oxygen and energy.
- Adolescents under 14-15 years old and women in pregnancy must avoid it.
Due to all the above mentioned, finding a qualified and devoted yoga teacher remains the best way to actually get benefited from yoga stretching; an experienced teacher will be more likely to understand your aims and needs as well as spot your limits so as to come up with a truly productive and safe stretching routine. Especially the precondition of appropriate breathing makes undertaking yoga stretches on your own almost unattainable, even having carefully studied a detailed tutorial!
Photos & Videos
Below you can watch a few of the most popular yoga stretching exercises:
Yoga stretching is a sui generis form of increasing your flexibility, and not only that. It is definitely something more than merely forcing yourself into weird and uncomfortable postures, consisting eventually an alternative health practice which can not only supply suppleness and strength but also revitalize your body and mind. So, the benefits are there, provided you are able to grab them, and that’s why the need of proper consultation beforehand as well as precise execution of the stretches are vital for the end result.
Category: Types of Stretching