Yoga vs. regular stretching. They’re the same thing, right? Nope. At first glance, they look similar, but yoga offers so much more.
Both yoga and stretching will increase your flexibility and mobility. But yoga also focuses on a body-mind balance. It helps you to go within to improve your well-being and overall health.
The beauty of yoga is that it combines static stretches with moving, dynamic stretches. It also builds strength and balance. Regular stretching doesn’t do that.
Yoga teaches you to breathe in a way that relieves stress and can help with mental health issues. It also causes the release of endorphins both during and after your yoga session.
And that’s not all.
Yoga vs. Regular Stretching
Let me start by saying that both of them are really good for you. It’s just that yoga offers significantly more health benefits.
Yoga takes the physical, mental, and spiritual elements of movement, and it uses them to make you healthier and stronger. Think of it as a type of holistic healing. In fact, the National Institute of Health recognizes yoga as mind-body medicine.
In yoga, we do poses or postures (stretches) that balance steadiness and alertness with comfort and relaxation of the body and mind, all while focusing on the breath.
Regular stretching doesn’t require the same level of attention or focus.
Yoga does involve stretching. But it’s also about developing the strength, flexibility, and balance that allows you to do it.
The main point of yoga is not just to stretch your muscles. It’s more about maintaining and restoring the mind and body to function together perfectly.
The Amazing Health Benefits of Yoga
There is no question that stretching is good for you. It offers some pretty great benefits to your overall fitness, including increased flexibility and mobility. But as good as it is, it doesn’t come close to the health benefits you get from yoga.
Research shows that practicing yoga can also help you with flexibility and mobility, but it can do so much more. A few of the other benefits include:
- Overall improved health and wellness
- Decreased anxiety
- Decreased depression
- Stress reduction
- Chronic pain management
- Helps with recovery from and the treatment of addiction
- Stimulates brain function
- Decreased lower back pain
- Eases menopause symptoms
- It helps people quit smoking
- Improves quality of life and helps to manage symptoms during illness
- Prevents heart disease
- Can aid in weight loss
The Different Types of Yoga
Many different forms of yoga are practiced across the globe. You’ll find lots of styles right here in America too. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types in the U.S.
One of the very gentle types of yoga is Hatha. This one is excellent for beginners because it moves at a relatively slow pace.
When you do Hatha yoga, you will hold each posture for several breath cycles. And you will be working on building balance and strength. Hatha will help you improve flexibility, and it also has a meditation aspect.
Often Hatha is used as a generic term that describes any type of yoga where you do physical poses. Truthfully, most American yoga classes could be considered a form of Hatha yoga.
These classes offer a gentle introduction to the basic yoga postures. You probably won’t leave the session all sweaty, but you’ll certainly feel longer, more relaxed, and more flexible.
Iyengar is another popular form of yoga. This one is very detailed and precise. It’s a super meticulous kind of yoga that pays special attention to correct alignment in each posture.
Iyengar classes will typically include props like straps, blocks, bolsters, and blankets.
You won’t really get your heart rate up too much in this class. But most people are surprised at how physically and mentally challenging it is. Iyengar will help you to improve balance and build strength.
If you have an injury or any chronic conditions, then Iyengar is the way to go. It’s also great for all fitness levels and ages.
Do you have a type-A personality? Are you a perfectionist? Well, then you’ll love Ashtanga.
Ashtanga yoga provides stringent guidelines. It’s both challenging and orderly.
In this type of class, you will do six series of exact sequenced yoga poses. You’ll find these same postures repeated in every session.
Ashtanga works on strength, endurance, and aerobics.
One of the reasons I really enjoy this type of class is because it flows well. You will build internal heat as you breathe through each pose. So you can count on leaving sweaty from this demanding workout.
If you love to dance, then you should check out Vinyasa yoga. This kind of class links the movements and breath so that they flow. Some types of yoga will give you a cardio workout. Well, this is one of those.
Vinyasa yoga is much faster-paced than the others. You’ll often find classes that feature pumping music that helps you move to a beat.
This form of yoga is quite intense. Another thing I love about it is that no two classes are ever the same. So if you like variety in your workout, you’ll enjoy Vinyasa.
I would recommend Vinyasa to anyone who loves HIIT workouts. It’s also very popular with endurance athletes and runners.
This style will work on flexibility, balance, strength, endurance, and cardio.
Now, if you want to really sweat while you work on flexibility, balance, strength, and endurance, then you should try Bikram. In Bikram sessions, the room is heated to about 105 degrees with around 40 percent humidity.
This type is similar to Ashtanga because every class repeats a specific sequence of poses. Most Bikram classes are 90 minutes long.
It’s very vigorous. Many people find it particularly strenuous and intense because of the heat in the room. If you choose Bikram, be sure to hydrate before, during, and after your class.
Hot yoga is another very intense style. It’s a lot like Bikram in that you do it in a heated room. The difference is that in hot yoga, you don’t just stick to the same 26-pose sequence you do in Bikram.
The great thing about the heat is that it allows you to go deeper into the poses and stretches. But you have to be careful to stay hydrated and not overdo it. Just like in Bikram, you will work on balance, flexibility, strength, and endurance.
You’ll definitely sweat buckets in this intense class. But don’t be afraid to start here because many hot yoga classes are beginner-friendly.
If what you really want is to get your zen on, you should check out Yin yoga. Yin is the exact opposite of the intense, fast-paced Ashtanga.
The thing I love about Yin is that it helps to balance and calm the body and mind.
In this form of yoga, each posture is held for several minutes. It’s a meditative style designed to restore the elasticity and length of the muscles. On top of that, it’s mentally restorative.
I recommend Yin yoga for anyone who wants to stretch, unwind, and de-stress. However, it’s not good for anyone who has connective tissue disorders.
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Yoga vs. Regular Stretching: Similar But Not Exactly the Same
While we’re discussing yoga vs. regular stretching, it’s important to note that they are quite similar in many ways. Both of them will improve your flexibility. That means fewer aches and pains and better mobility.
Here are some specific examples of yoga vs. regular stretching:
Sucirandhrasana vs. lying glute stretch
The sucirandhrasana in yoga is the equivalent of a lying glute stretch.
- Lie on your back. Bend both knees and push the soles of your feet into the ground.
- Next, extend your left leg straight up.
- Inhale as you rest your left ankle above your right knee.
- Exhale and gently press your left knee away from your torso.
- Then deeply inhale, and you lift your right foot off the floor, bringing your right knee toward your chest. Wrap your hands around your right thigh.
- Exhale as you slowly pull your right quad closer to your chest. This will open and stretch your left hip.
- Hold this position as you breathe deeply and slowly bring your body back to the beginning position.
- Repeat the posture on your other leg.
Malasana vs. squat stretch
The squat is another common movement we can examine in yoga vs. regular stretching. In yoga, you do the malasana like this:
- Stand up tall, keeping your feet the width of your yoga mat.
- Then gently bend your knees and sit back into a deep squat position.
- Let your knees open slightly.
- Inhale as you place your arms inside of your knees. Bend your elbows and bring your hands together in a prayer position.
- Next, move your hands to your heart center and exhale. Keep your forearms parallel to the ground. And allow your elbows to put slight pressure on your legs to open your knees a little wider.
- Breathe deeply as you move your hips toward the ground. Relax your shoulders as you press them away from your ears.
- Hold this position for five deep breaths and then slowly straighten your legs to go back to the starting pose.
Anjaneyasana vs. low lunge stretch
The next movement we can look at as we talk about yoga vs. regular stretching is the low lunge stretch and anjaneyasana. You’ve probably done a runner’s lunge before. Anjaneyasana stretches out the legs and hips in the same way.
- Start with your feet wide facing one side, and bend your front knee into a low lunge. Then let your back knee lower to the ground.
- Your front knee should remain directly above your ankle.
- Inhale slowly as you lift your arms over your head, lining them up with your ears.
- Then exhale as you lean into and deepen the lunge. Let your hip move closer to the ground.
- Inhale and realign your front knee above your ankle. Then slowly stand up.
- Repeat on the other leg.
Paschimottanasana vs. seated forward stretch for the hamstrings
The final example of yoga vs. regular stretching we’re looking at today is paschimottanasana and the forward bend hamstring stretch. If you were doing regular stretching, you would just sit on the floor and reach for your toes. Here’s how you do that same stretch in yoga:
- Start seated with your legs extended. Bring your arms out to the side, then reach up toward the ceiling.
- Take a deep inhale and lengthen your spine.
- Then slowly stretch forward as you exhale and hinge at the hips.
- Every time you inhale, try to stretch your spine further.
- Your goal is to deepen your forward bend every time that you exhale. Instead of aiming your nose to your knees, you should focus on resting your belly on your thighs, keeping the spine long.
- Keep your neck in a neutral position. Don’t drop it down entirely, and don’t look up. Instead, your head should be a natural extension of your spine.
- Once you reach your maximum stretch, grab your ankles, toes, or shins and try to relax into the posture and breathe deeply. Your feet should stay flexed.
It All Comes Down to This
Both yoga and regular stretching lengthen the muscles and increase mobility. But yoga does so much more. It offers more health benefits, and it gives you a body-mind-spirit connection. It has a meditation component to it too.
And on top of that, it builds strength and improves balance. Regular stretching can’t do that.
Most yoga newbies are surprised at how challenging it is and how great it makes them feel.
I highly recommend it if you’ve never tried it before. Your age and fitness level don’t matter. You don’t have to be uber flexible to do it either. In fact, if you’re not flexible, you need it even more.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your yoga mat, and let’s get started!
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Last update on 2021-08-02 at 18:51 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API