Yoga vs Stretching: What's the Difference?

According to research, those who do not stretch daily have poor flexibility decreased range of motion, and increased risk of injury. If stretching is not part of your daily exercise regime, you could be risking your mobility and in the future, your independence.

The debate on yoga vs stretching is a very popular topic. From what social media tells us, yoga is a form of fancy worded stretching that involves some positive quotes, chants, and really confusing words of Sanskrit.

Both have their benefits, such as improved flexibility and athletic performance. Depending on your lifestyle and type of exercise you do, yoga may provide more overall benefit. However, in order to achieve a healthy, more limber body, stretching is something you need to consider.

Keep on reading to discover the difference between yoga vs stretching, how it could benefit you to know, and what you should be doing.

How They Are the Same

Before we dive into how yoga is an extension of stretching, we felt it is important to cover where they are also similar. If you have ever attended a yoga class, you probably noticed that some of the postures are quite similar to athletic stretching.

Stretching is defined as reaching, widening or pulling something, and putting your limbs into positions that make the muscles feel less tight.

We will cover a few of the similar stretches that you may recognize:

  • Seated hamstring stretch- Janu Sirsasana
  • High Lunge stretch- Virabhadrasana or Warrior one
  • Low lunge hip stretch- Anjaneyasana
  • Laying Glute stretch- Sucirandhrasana
  • Squat Position- Malasana
  • Tall lengthening stretch- Tadasana or Mountain pose
  • Seated forward hamstring stretch with both legs – Paschimottanasana

You can probably see the similarities here, but since stretching is just one of the eight core components of yoga, we will now cover why if you need the flexibility, you should just stick to stretching.

What Happens When You Stretch

Your muscles are comprised of many different fibers that contract upon stimulus. Within those fibers, the basic unit of contraction is called the sarcomeres. While the muscle contracts, the sarcomeres cause an overlap which shortens the muscle.

As the muscles stretch, the sarcomeres assist the elongation, to the point where the connective tissue then gets a chance to elongate as well. Along with the same force of the tension, the collagen in the connective tissues become more aligned with every bit of force.

Eventually, the sarcomeres become aligned, one at a time until all disorganized fibers are aligned with the direction of the tension.

When you are lifting, your total strength is dependent on the number of muscle fibers that you can recruit at one time. It is the same idea with stretching, the more fibers that you can recruit, the more elongated your muscles can become over time.

How Can You Stretch Deeper?

In the nerve endings of the muscle fibers, there are little muscle spindles called proprioceptors, which play a role in preventing you from stretching too deeply and injuring your muscles. These proprioceptors send signals to the spine to cause an involuntary contraction or “myotatic reflex”.

In order to stretch deeper, you have to stretch without triggering your proprioceptors. This can be done by holding a gentle stretch for over two minutes, then eventually, with every breath, going deeper and deeper.

Why Stretching Feels So Good

Ever notice how a good stretch can make you feel great and rejuvenate the body? That is because when you stretch, you are releasing endorphins. Endorphins cause a sense of euphoria and tranquility within the body, similar to the feeling after a good workout, deep laughter, or even intercourse.

Stretching also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation in the body and a state of mindfulness.

The Focus on Breathing

One of the great benefits of stretching is that it forces you to connect with your breath. In order to go deeper in your stretch, you have to take a deep breath and exhale as you push a bit deeper each time.

For many people, they have developed poor breathing habits at a young age. This leads to an inability to control stress levels and poor postural habits.

Once we begin to consciously control our breathing patterns with stretching, it can have profound results on our well-being and our overall health.

Proper breathing can positively affect the nervous system, muscular system, cardiovascular system, promotes relaxation, and lower stress levels.

Yoga Vs Stretching, Which One Is Better for You?

Both yoga and stretching provide great results for the body and the mind, including strength and flexibility. While many people think that you need to stick to yoga to achieve relaxation results, that is not the case. Stretching also helps with other attributes such as:

  • Strengthens your ability to focusReduces high-stress levelsEnhances your ability to be in the momentHaving a limber body makes you feel more confident and happyYou will feel more connected to your bodyYou can reward yourself with stretching after an intense workoutYou feel more comfortable in your body, instead of feeling tight all the timeHelps you relax after a hard workoutreduce your chances of exerciseReduces muscle soreness

If you are into lifting and athletics, such as Crossfit, etc. stretching will help you to perform better, lift heavier, run faster, and become an all-around better athlete.

Learn More About Benefits of Both Yoga and Stretching

As you can see, there are many differences between yoga vs stretching. If you want to achieve a long, limber, and properly functioning body, it is essential that you stretch daily to see and feel the benefits that you are looking for.

If you are new to stretching, it can feel confusing to know if you are doing it right, thankfully we have many articles on our blog that instruct you how to properly stretch.

If you liked this article and want to learn more, check out the FAQ section for more information.