It’s perhaps my least favorite question. “Isn’t yoga just stretching?” But before I get worked up into a fuss about all of the reasons how yoga is so much more than stretching and why it’s such a great mindfulness practice, as well as a powerful way you can change your life… let me take a breath.
Actually, in a way stretching is sort of like ‘Yoga Lite’.
I realized this recently when I was stretching after a particularly heavy strength training work out. It came to me suddenly and out of the blue. There I was lying on the mat, blissfully focusing on breathing and the thought just slipped through my mind: I can’t wait to get to downward dog after this count. It wasn’t as though I was planning to get into a yoga pose at the moment, but it felt so natural.
When people ask if yoga is just stretching, my natural reaction is a little irritated. It feels like they’re talking down to yoga, as though it’s just the 15 minutes of down time after you do a full workout. In my mind, yoga is the 60-90 minute flow that’s not only physically, but also mentally challenging. To compare it to stretching seems like insanity.
But most people don’t understand yoga like we yogis do.
To the majority of the population, I bet yoga is that strange class they see parodied on television or that they see inspirational photos of on Instagram. They know it has to do with meditation and occasionally, chanting. Is it any wonder that they equate it to stretching?
Admittedly, when I’m in a particularly good stretch – it feels a bit like yoga. I don’t want to talk down to stretching, because it’s so important to stretch after doing cardio, strength, or really any kind of work out. After contracting so much, your muscles require some level of stretch to make sure they don’t break from being wound so tightly. That’s why in yoga we alternate between strong poses and the softer ones that we regain breath in.
So is it really that bad to think about stretching and yoga as siblings? Maybe half-siblings?
What are your thoughts on stretching, yogis?