A common misconception about yoga is that it’s all a bunch of “stretching”.
When speaking with athletes and coaches, I often receive questions along the lines of “what yoga stretches do you know for [insert physical ailment]?” or “how are yoga stretches different than regular stretches?”.
These are fair questions. Stretching is a major factor in common yoga classes and a lot of people get into yoga as a means to “get more flexible”. We’re also conditioned to think that stretching and yoga are synonymous due to the way yoga is commonly portrayed in the media.
As fair as these questions are, they reduce yoga to a single physical act. Considering yoga and stretching as essentially the same thing is like saying soccer and kicking are equivalent. At the end of the day, isn’t soccer just a bunch of kicking? To the person who hasn’t spent a lot of time watching or playing soccer, “kicking” pretty much sums it up.
But, of course, kicking is just one of the physical aspects of soccer. Taken a step further, physical aspects are just one part of the greater whole of the experience. What about the the psychological demands the sport plays on the athlete? Or, the community that grows around the sport?
So, when I receive questions about “yoga stretches”, I have a difficult time giving a straight answer. The best response I’ve come up with is this: do yoga.
What’s the best yoga stretch for tight hamstrings? Do yoga.
How are yoga stretches different from regular stretches? Do yoga.
Even though it seems dismissive, the act of doing and experiencing yoga will answer these questions better than words.