While yoga and stretching are both great for your body, they’re actually very different practices!
Both are a relief if your muscles feel tight and beneficial for your back and posture, helping prevent serious issues…
But yoga is just so much more than stretching.
Want to find out why? Keep on reading!
1) Yoga is a full-body workout you weren’t expecting
Once you start practicing yoga, you’ll realize how much exercise it is.
You’ll get into the flow of different postures, and this doesn’t only mean you’ll exercise your entire body. It will also help with your general focus, and your breathing will become a lot better.
Do you know why this happens? Because you’ll be doing cardio without even knowing.
Trust me, I was a panting mess in my first yoga class, but it got much easier for time.
As a bonus, I discovered that improved breathing helped me boost a lot of other cardio workouts I line, like having a nice morning run, enjoying a beautiful hike on my day off, and even enrolling in that Zumba class I’ve been postponing for a while!
Stretching, as a general rule, doesn’t focus on cardio.
2) It’s much more than stretching
Stretching is an excellent pre- and post-workout activity. Focusing on different muscle groups can reduce your body’s recovery time and prevent injury.
For example, if you’ve been lifting weights on chest day, you can focus your stretching session on that group of muscles instead of your entire body.
If you’re like me, a person who ditched stretching altogether, you might feel like your muscles are losing range of movement.
That’s why it’s important to stretch!
Yoga, on the other hand, helps you become aware of your body and all its possibilities. You’ll gain strength, balance, and even peace of mind.
While stretching is a big part of yoga, a regular session involves other components such as breathwork, mind relaxation, or even meditation!
3) Yoga helps you to get to know yourself
Everyone can try yoga and stretching exercises. I’ll go as far as saying we should all make it part of our routines.
Both activities have different practice levels, but it’s even more true for yoga workouts.
Have you ever seen extremely difficult postures?
Those can take years of training to master, and that’s why teachers know all the ways to adapt them to your strength and skill level.
Practicing yoga consistently, you’ll get to know yourself and your body better: how long can you hold a posture without giving up?
How much did you improve since the first time you’ve tried this strange asana?
Treating your yoga practice as a journal of your mood, motivation, and determination will help you understand how you approach difficulties in other areas of your life and improve that if you need it!
4) You’re building flexibility and mobility at the same time
Mobility isn’t the same as flexibility, although they’re very similar.
Simply put, you can have tight biceps but good shoulder mobility, super flexible legs, but terrible hip mobility.
The good thing is that it can get a lot better with a little practice every day.
Dynamic stretching is a great way to improve your range of movement, and static stretching– the kind you can do after working out– is excellent for developing flexibility.
Yoga, on the other hand, does both at the same time.
5) Yoga helps to balance it all out
If you’re anything like me and you’ve practiced yoga, you probably noticed a lot of improvement in your balance.
For example, now I can put on my shoes while standing… something I couldn’t do before.
Why does this happen? While you change asanas, you have to keep your body balanced.
This is a skill that you develop in class, but that helps in everyday tasks, like:
- Picking something off the floor;
- Reaching tall shelves;
- Going downstairs.
Did you know that even athletes benefit from regular yoga practice? It helps them to improve balance and overall performance.
You already know my personal experience, but if you still have doubts, this research suggests that many people noticed an improvement in balance after a few yoga classes.
Older people can also experience the benefits of yoga, especially if they’re less mobile or after an injury. Balance helps them prevent falls and recover faster.
Compared to regular stretching, yoga involves a lot more balancing and breathing techniques.
6) Your sleep improves
Sleeping hygiene is vital for your mental health and your body.
Insomnia and other sleeping disorders can wreak havoc in a person’s life, but yoga can improve the situation.
When people practice regularly, they can fall asleep faster and stay asleep for a longer time.
The yoga practice that helps the most is called yoga Nidra, which focuses on relaxation techniques.
This is something you’ll unlikely to achieve while stretching only.
7) You become more confident and self-approving
Body image issues and low self-esteem can get challenging, especially for teenagers and young adults.
However, practicing yoga can improve our self-perception and reduce self-esteem problems.
The ability to focus and relax our mind also helps with anxiety, depression, and other mental health illnesses, which are, unfortunately, widely spread among teens.
I don’t know about you, but when I started my yoga classes, I felt empowered by the small success I achieved with regular practice.
That’s why I can relate to this statement and be living proof that yoga does help with self-esteem.
8) Even your bones become healthier!
How so? Two words: isometric contractions.
In other words – our muscles are fully engaged while our posture doesn’t change its position.
Think about the plank pose– Kumbhakasana, as it’s called in Sanskrit. You’re pushing up, engaging your legs, abs, and arms. You stay in that position, meaning you don’t move, but your muscles have to keep up.
Isometric exercises like planking can increase bone density, especially if your joints are involved and flexed.
Only 12 minutes of yoga daily can help improve issues like osteopenia and osteoporosis.
However, you must consult with a doctor priorly to the practice if you have bone density issues.
9) Your posture improves daily
Plenty of work positions have us sitting down and hunching the entire day, and technology doesn’t make it any better.
If you think about it, when was the last time you adjusted your posture to avoid looking down at your phone?
When you start practicing yoga, you be more aware of your posture during your daily activities and avoid the ones that have you screaming for a massage after a few hours.
Besides, in class, you get a chance to release tight muscles, like the ones in the neck and shoulders.
While stretching helps to release tension too, it rarely makes you as aware of your posture as yoga, which is a much more demanding practice.
10) Yoga benefits your mental health
Mindfulness seems like a new, innovative concept, but if you dig a little deeper than the surface, you’ll discover it’s mostly yoga and meditation.
Through breathing techniques, yoga teaches you to be more mindful and aware of yourself and your surroundings.
Breathing and holding poses simultaneously can be incredibly healing for your mind.
So much so that you probably won’t notice how much better your body feels until after a few classes.
Why does it happen? That’s because of the calming and stress-relieving effects that you experience as a result of your yoga practice.
11) It also helps you to avoid burnout
Burnout is a growing concern. It’s not normal to be completely exhausted and get even sick because of how mentally tired you feel.
One of the recent studies proved that practicing yoga has helped a lot of hospice workers through the COVID-19 pandemic. What did it improve? Their interoceptive awareness.
You might be asking yourself: what in the heavens does this mean?
To put it simply, it’s the ability to recognize and answer your body’s needs, like sleep, eating, and rest.
So, when they were practicing yoga, they also gained a valuable skill to “listen” to their bodies better and understand its signals.
12) Yoga boosts your immune system
I lived through this myself. After getting sick, my immune system was decimated, and I spent weeks trying to recover, only to catch every little bug around.
Yoga can help tremendously with this problem.
Of course, the research is ongoing, but some studies link regular yoga practices with a great immune system.
On one hand, yoga helps to fight inflammation, and on the other, it enhances cell-mediated immunity.
13) It helps you to build strength and not only flexibility
Some yoga poses, like the warrior and the chair, require you to be able to lift and hold your body weight. This is, at its core, a strength-building exercise.
It can be a challenge when you first begin because you involve your entire body in the class. On the other hand, stretching doesn’t usually go that far.
14) Practicing yoga positively affects more serious health conditions
A review of yoga and cardiovascular disease published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology indicates that practicing yoga may help reduce heart problems.
Furthermore, another study found that different yoga reduced inflammation markers in several chronic conditions.
While stretching is a very beneficial practice too, it isn’t considered a practice that may help with more serious issues, while yoga certainly does!
15) Yoga can improve your quality of life
Okay, but what exactly does “quality of life” mean?
Let’s go to the definition that the World Health Organization gives: “a quality of life is an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and about their goals, expectations, standards, and concerns”.
Learning opportunities, health, relationships, and creativity altogether can affect your quality of life.
Researchers agree that a high quality of life can help people live longer and enjoy their life more even if they get injured or have a chronic illness.
A 2019 meta-analysis shows promising potential for yoga to improve the quality of life in people with chronic pain.
Isn’t it great?
16) Yoga isn’t just exercise; it’s a way of life
Yeah, it sounds cliché, but it’s the truth.
Yoga goes beyond stretching because it’s a philosophy, a practice that lives with you and doesn’t stay on the mat.
The western world fails to understand how deeply rooted this practice is. Your mind benefits as much as your body when you practice yoga.
This might be the main difference between stretching and yoga, making me pick the latter as my favorite practice.
What’s the purpose of yoga?
We know that stretching benefits your body, which is good. Yoga, on the other hand, goes above and beyond. It can help you with the following things:
- Balancing and managing emotions;
- Mental clarity and anxiety-inducing patterns of thought;
- Inner self-awareness and the will to put yourself out there.
- Having restful nights of sleep;
- Getting more energy and strength;
- Becoming better at managing stressful situations;
- Finding inner peace;
- Improving immune system;
- Getting more range of movement.
Yoga is a perfect practice for you if you want to achieve goals that mix mental health and fitness.
What about stretching?
Stretching differs from yoga in the following things:
- It uses static postures;
- Dynamic movements;
- Equipment to help with it all.
It can also help with circulation, and physical performance, reduce the risk of injury or stiffness and improve your range of motion.
You start by working out the areas that need it most.
What are the goals of stretching?
Stretching can help with these things:
- Injury rehabilitation;
- Fulfilling flexibility goals;
- Improving your performance in sports or athletics;
- Treating especially problematic areas, like torso or back problems.
- Managing painful feeling in your muscles;
- Loosening achy joints;
- Improving blood circulation in the entire body;
- Increasing energy in general.
These exercises are especially useful before and after training and workouts.
What are the similarities between yoga and stretching?
Since many people believe they’re practically the same thing, let’s look at the actual similarities between these two beneficial practices.
Range of motion, posture, and flexibility: These two practices are great if you want to improve these areas of your body.
If you’ve been suffering from tightness and pain around your shoulders, neck, and lower back, yoga and stretching will have pretty much the same effect for you.
Sports performance: When you know your muscles’ power, you improve your athletic practice. Yoga and stretching can both help with that.
Healthy sleep and digestion: Your parasympathetic nervous system is activated through both of these practices, helping you sleep better and improving digestion.
Pain management and relief: For people suffering from chronic pain, these two practices can help them manage their symptoms and get relief.
Good circulation: Getting the blood flowing through your entire body is great for muscle health. Stretching and yoga let more blood flow through your muscles and joints.
What about the differences?
Equipment: All yoga needs are a few props, like blocks and bolsters, and a yoga mat.
Stretching is even easier than that because you can do it on almost any surface you have around. Sitting down, standing, and lying down are equally good moments to stretch.
Of course, you can use some props if you need them, like bands for your hamstrings.
Yoga is all about poses while stretching is all about exercising: When you stretch, the goal is to lengthen the muscle to the max. You push until you’re a bit uncomfortable, and that helps alleviate the tension.
On the other hand, yoga is all about different postures, and none of them is the same thing as stretching.
What’s even more interesting is that yoga changes pose at different paces, according to your needs. You can hold positions for minutes or seconds at a time.
What does this mean? Simply put, yoga can be quite a workout, but it can also be a relaxing practice, depending on circumstances, your goals, and energy levels.
Different ways to practice it: Yoga and stretching have different ways of being practiced. In the case of stretching, there are static stretching and dynamic stretching.
Yoga, on the other hand, goes a bit further into this and has at least five different varieties: yin, vinyasa, Hatha, ashtanga, flow, and more.
Yoga and breathing go hand in hand: There’s simply no way to do yoga without breathing techniques. It’s essential to the practice.
Your breathing might change from long, deep breaths to quick ones, depending on what you want to achieve at the moment.
In stretching, following specific breathing patterns while practicing isn’t so imporant.
They have different goals: This is the one thing you have to take into consideration.
Yoga involves the mind and the body, and you can practice it to build strength, improve your balance and perfect your posture.
Stretching can have more medical reasons behind the practice, like injury recovery and range of motion improvement.
Did you enjoy learning about the differences between stretching and yoga?
I hope you found an answer to the question about which practice to enroll in and why yoga is much more than stretching!
Enjoy your practice!