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Stretching Can be Tricky and Sticky

There are so many stretching techniques for improving flexibility that it may cause confusion about which to execute and what works best for your body. I have summoned up a few basic and primary techniques to help clarify. Most likely if you are practicing yoga you have done all these techniques before, but it is helpful to understand the reasons behind them.

Static Stretching:

This is the most common type of stretching. It is achieved by extending the targeted muscle to its end range and holding it for some time. This can be done actively or passively. We do this in our yoga classes all the time. For example, if you want to stretch your front chest muscles an active way is a cobra or locust pose because the back muscles are contracting(agonist's muscle) and this allows the front muscles to stretch (antagonist's muscle). Lying down over a bolster that supports your back and allows your chest to open and stretch is a passive way to lengthen the muscles.

Dynamic Stretching:

Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching requires the use of continuous movement patterns. In our yoga practice, our Sun Salutations are a perfect example of this technique.

Ballistic Stretching:

This style of stretching is not typical on the yoga mat. This uses bouncing as a form of dynamic stretching.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF):

This is a little more complicated technique for stretching. It is the technique of holding and relaxing the muscle for a set time. For example, in a seated forward fold (paschimottasana) where we are attempting to lengthen our posterior chain of muscles specifically in this pose the hamstrings, you can try this: press the heels down into the earth as if to drag towards you, do this activity for 10 seconds give or take, then relax the effort and rest for 20-30 seconds. You can repeat this a few times to improve the length of the muscle slightly. This technique sends a neurological message to the targeted muscle to clear out resistance. This is also known as reciprocal inhibition.

Understanding your body's needs, especially if you are healing from an injury is important. The latest research suggests that static stretch

offers the greatest mobility gains, if you are looking for long-term changes in your ROM (Range of motion) I pride myself on educating my students on the why and how of our yoga practice. I do suggest that mixing up your activities/stretching for optimal fascia health is vital and that frequency is more important than duration. I hope this summary helped and I will see you on the mat to practice these stretching techniques.


Rachel xo

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