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Just Stretching?!?!

When most people think about yoga, their perception tends to be " oh its just a lot of stretching." Many people tend to join yoga thinking the only benefit they will get is increased flexibility. Generally, when people join my classes with these perceptions I like to ask them at the end, "so do you feel like yoga is just about flexibility?" It gives me a subtle joy when they exhaustingly tell me no and that they feel exhausted from all the strength my flows take. None the less, that perception is still there, and you do in fact, become more flexible practicing yoga regularly. But why is yoga different, what exactly are the components of yoga and stretching that make yoga a major benefit to your work out routine? To answer this, we must dive into what "stretching" really is, and how we can use it to our benefit in yoga.

First, we need to understand that there are many types of stretching, and not all are created equal when using it as an fitness benefit. One style of stretching, that will not be fully discussed here, as the research is scanty on it at best, is ballistic stretching. Although we wont be covering, its still worth mentioning that it exists. This is your "bouncing" stretches while reaching for your toes.

The next style, and one of the most utilized (unfortunately) forms of stretching, is passive stretching. This is your classic "reach and hold for 30 seconds" style of stretching. This style has been highly used in the rehabilitation world, recently though in the strength and conditioning world, it is a highly debated topic as to its benefit. Here at Namaste Beaches, we tend to lean away from the static form, and hopefully by the end of this post you'll understand a bit more as to why.

Another type of stretching is dynamic stretching. This is widely utilized in athletics as a warm up routine, think of "butt kickers" and what not. This is also the generic form of stretching used in basic yoga flows, not as much in power or vinyasa flows.

Next is one of my favorites, PNF, or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. This is putting a muscle on stretch and then adding a small amount of isometric muscle contraction. Think of a quad stretch, and you gently push your foot into your hands. This is highly used in rehabilitative medicine, but can be utilized in yoga regularly and is great for increasing strength and flexibility simultaneously!

Lastly, and a specialty of yoga (and Namaste Beaches) is eccentric stretching/strengthening. Whether this is considered "stretching" or not is up for debate still in the medical world. But research shows that eccentric strengthening in both the rehabilitation setting and strength/conditioning setting is a great way to gain strength, along with increasing range of motion. Essentially in this method you are putting a load (whether its weights or your body) on a muscle at its most elongated position.

Why is this method listed? and why is it important? Because this is what power yoga is all about, and what we specialize here at the Beaches. Training your muscles, and your joints, to be as strong as they possibly can, in their full range of motion!

For athletes, weekend warriors, weight lifters, this is incredibly important. A baseball pitcher needs full shoulder range of motion, but not decreasing strength (which static stretching has been shown to do). For a weight lifter it means getting into an over head squat with out compromising mechanics.

Properly adding yoga to your routine, whether its a short warm up, or an intense power flow, can accomplish flexibility, BUT it will also make you stronger in these new depths! So next time you consider yoga, and think "eh its just stretching." Maybe you will think again, and join us here at The Namaste Beaches to show you a whole new world of stretching!!!!

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