Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not Sanskrit for stretching. It actually means to join or unite, and it is a combined spiritual, mental, and physical practice. Assuredly, most yoga poses do focus on flexibility and strength to varying degrees, however, each pose involves different muscle groups functioning in different ways which are intended to develop awareness in both the physical and mental realm. The pose influences the mind as well as the body, including the circulatory system (blood pressure), the endocrine system (hormones) the digestive system, and many others that make up our functioning body. One of the goals of yoga is to create flexibility while simultaneously building strength, which takes into account tension, relaxation, and compression as I discussed in part II of this Stop Mindless Stretching series.
Proper alignment of the poses is crucial. Without knowing how your body moves, and how it is supposed to move, you will never create the stillness to practice meditation and breath control, a key aspect of yoga and known as ‘pranayama’. Yoga poses are intended to be mindful, not mindless. When performed properly, they are definitely not mindless stretches!