Even a person who has not done much yoga knows it involves a lot of stretching. When done right, it can greatly improve your flexibility and overall health. Many people perform basic stretches as part of their warm-up and cool-down routines, but is that the same as yoga?
Yoga is not the same as dynamic stretching because its goals are different. Yoga focuses on breathing while performing poses for strengthening the whole body. Also, the poses incorporate all three planes of our body. In contrast, dynamic stretching is typically used to warm up before working out.
People who don’t know much about yoga often confuse it with dynamic stretching. In this article, we will explore more in detail so that you understand how they are different. You might even decide to include both in your warm-up routines.
What Is Dynamic Stretching?
The traditional way that athletes warm up - stretching shoulders, side, and hamstrings - are static stretches. Athletes hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds and then relax the muscles, and this is often repeated several times. Meanwhile, the rest of their body is still.
Static stretching does not provide the necessary temperature increases. So it is often recommended as a cool down after physical activity.
A dynamic stretch, on the other hand, includes both movement and stretching. The purpose is two-fold: to stretch the muscles and to prepare athletes by imitating the movements they will be doing when they perform. For example, basketball stretching might include athletes throwing and passing a ball as they stretch.
You should include dynamic stretching in any exercise routine. This is because it increases the temperature of muscles and tendons. Also, research has shown that these connective tissues respond better to potential injuries when they are warm.
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ll know it includes plenty of stretches that incorporate movement. So, how is it different from dynamic stretching?
How Is Yoga Different From Dynamic Stretching?
A common misconception is that yoga is another form of stretching. Most people learned stretching routines in PE classes, but few of us learned anything about yoga. Perhaps that is part of the reason people associate yoga with stretching.
The goal of dynamic stretching is to prepare you for physical activity, but that is not yoga's goal. Instead, yoga focuses on the following:
A primary focus is strengthening the core or center of the body. This includes your diaphragm, stomach, back, and pelvic muscles. A strong core is needed to balance yourself and align yourself properly.
Yoga also focuses on breathing, often called “the breath.” Movement in yoga is always linked to breathing. This involves breathing in when contracting muscles and breathing out when relaxing muscles.
As you can see, stretches are essential to yoga, but their goal is different. Does that mean athletes shouldn’t do yoga? Let’s find out.
Examples of Dynamic Stretches for Physical Activities
Dynamic stretches exist for practically any physical activity. These representative examples show the variety of stretches and how they may be used to aid your performance.
Torso twists are great for those participating in throwing sports like baseball, tennis, and hockey.
- Stand with your feet in line with your shoulders.
- Bend your arms 90-degrees and keep them by your side.
- Twist your torso side to side, making sure to keep your feet flat on the ground.
- The goal is to stretch the muscles in your back, not see how far you can twist.
Leg swings are ideal for an activity that includes running.
- Start by standing on one leg.
- Swing your other leg to the front and then the back.
- Keep your abdominal muscles tight so that you do not arch your back.
- Move your leg slowly, or else you will be off-balance.
You should feel the stretch in your calves and hips.
A walking lunge is helpful for almost any activity.
- Stand with your feet in line with your shoulders and hands on your hips.
- Step forward and lunge.
- Keep the knee on your back leg from touching the ground.
- Your front knee should not go past your toes.
- Repeat by pushing your back leg up and lunging forward with it.
It can be difficult to keep yourself balanced while doing dynamic stretches like the leg swing and walking lunge. This is where yoga helps. The focus on the core and greater body awareness lead to increased balance.
Two Final Differences Between Yoga and Dynamic Stretches
The first difference between yoga and dynamic stretches is the precision required in yoga. For example, to do the Warrior Two pose correctly, your hands, neck, chest, hips, and legs must be placed correctly. Yoga uses the whole body while occasionally combining stretches to create a unique, fully engaged pose. Stretching typically focuses on one body part per activity.
The second difference is that yoga deliberately focuses on the fact our bodies are three-dimensional. The three dimensions yoga instructors call planes are ways to divide our bodies. They are known as follows:
- The sagittal plane divides our bodies into left and right.
- The coronal plane is the division of our front and back.
- The transverse plane divides our body into top and bottom.
Viewing your body from this perspective allows you to channel your focus much easier and more efficiently. It might be helpful to think of each plane as a line. For example, the sagittal is a vertical line that divides us into left and right.
A yoga instructor will include poses to stretch muscles and achieve balance in all three planes. The same might happen in dynamic stretches, but only through deliberate planning. Usually, this is by someone who has practised yoga or, at minimum, is familiar with the three planes.
Yoga is a Whole Workout
Perhaps a bonus difference or addition to the second point is that yoga is often a life-long practice with classes, instructors, and more. There aren’t too many people who pay to go to a stretching class, but yoga has an entire community based on progress.
Whether you’re incorporating spiritual behaviours, exercise, and or a combination of them into your yoga routine, there’s no denying the differences between it and traditional stretching. Dynamic stretching is a build-up to walking, weight lifting, cycling, and more, but yoga is the warm-up and whole workout all in one.
Note: Stretching and yoga can work together, and you don’t have to separate your yoga and stretching routines. Many people find yoga to be an in-depth, physically demanding form of stretching because it engages the whole body. Progressing through new and more challenging poses will improve your body’s flexibility at a quick rate and higher capacity than dynamic stretching without yoga.
Stretching or performing yoga poses requires dedication. It’s challenging to get friends and family in on the fun, but it’s more than worth it. If you’re interested in teaching your students or children how to stretch more often, read on.
Are Dynamic Stretches Good for Beginners and Kids?
Dynamic stretches can be safe for beginners and kids, but they should follow these guidelines:
- Start with some coaching. This could be a physical education teacher at school or a trainer at the gym.
- Begin slowly. Do not risk injury by thinking you need to keep up with others.
- Keep the focus on the stretches. These are warm-ups to loosen up the muscles, not contests.
In general, you should look to add dynamic stretching to warm-up routines for workouts as well as before any other physical activity. Yoga, however, includes far more than stretches and acts as both the warm-up and workout.