Flexibility is a crucial aspect of overall physical fitness, contributing to injury prevention, improved posture, and enhanced athletic performance.
Both approaches are widely practiced and have their own unique advantages. However, depending on your own circumstances, your current level of flexibility, time constraint and personal motivation one method might be more suited to you than the other.
Assisted stretching, as the name suggests, involves the assistance of a partner or a professional to help you perform stretches.
The practitioner applies gentle pressure to your body, encouraging deeper stretches than might be possible on your own.
Assisted stretching comes in several forms, including PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation), AIS (Active Isolated Stretching), dynamic stretching, ballistic stretching, and Thai Massage, all of which aim to increase flexibility and range of motion.
Since 1999, at Stretch Asia, we have specialized in Active Isolated Stretching (AIS), as, in our experience, AIS is the most effective form of assisted stretching available.
Benefits of Assisted Stretching
- Targeted Stretching: With the help of a knowledgeable partner or professional, assisted stretching allows for specific targeting of muscle groups and joints. This can be particularly beneficial if you are recovering from an injury or looking to improve flexibility in a particular area. With Active Isolated Stretching, the practitioner identifies the specific muscles to be stretched and isolates them using precise localized movements. The targeted stretching of Active Isolated Stretching offers faster and lasting results and is particularly well suited for people who are looking for faster improvement of their flexibility without risk of overstretching.
- Increased and Controlled Stretch Intensity: Assisted stretching enables a deeper stretch than you might be able to achieve on your own. This is because your partner or Stretch Therapist can apply gentle pressure, encouraging the muscles to relax and lengthen further. In Active Isolated Stretching (AIS), your Stretch Therapist stretches your muscles and connective tissue (fascia) to your natural end range of motion, and moves beyond to the point of light irritation. Releasing the pressure on the tissues being stretched at the point of light irritation helps prevent the reversal contractions of the tissue triggered by the stretch reflex. Intentional prolonged violation of the stretch reflex may result in soreness from overstretching or scar tissue from tissue tearing.
- Improved Muscle Relaxation: The hands-on approach of assisted stretching can help you relax your muscles more effectively, resulting in greater flexibility gains. Active Isolated Stretching follows the principle of Inhibition, a reaction of a muscle or muscle group with is neurologically signaled to relax while the opposite side (agonist) muscles receive nerve signal to contract. Reciprocal Inhibition is what make it easier for the relaxed muscle to lengthen. Reciprocal inhibition is one of the 5 principles that make AIS stand apart from other forms of assisted stretching .
- Customization: Assisted stretching sessions can be tailored to your individual needs, making it suitable for people with varying levels of flexibility and specific goals. Even the most inflexible bodies will benefit greatly from assisted stretching sessions, more so, when the controlled method ensure maximum safety.
Yoga is an ancient practice originating in India that combines physical postures, breath control, and meditation. There are various styles of yoga, such as Hatha, Vinyasa, and Ashtanga, each with their own emphasis on different aspects of the practice.
Yoga has long been recognized for its numerous physical and mental benefits, including increased flexibility. Yoga has become extremely popular in the past 15 years, as a way to increase flexibility. Yoga, however, may not be suitable for everyone.
Benefits of Yoga
- Whole-Body Approach: Yoga postures are designed to work on the entire body, promoting flexibility, strength, and balance. This holistic approach ensures that all muscle groups and joints are addressed, leading to overall improvements in flexibility.
- Mind-Body Connection: Yoga emphasizes the connection between the mind and body, using breath control and meditation techniques to enhance focus and relaxation. This can help individuals become more aware of their bodies and better understand their own flexibility limitations.
- Progression: Yoga offers a wide range of postures, allowing practitioners to progress at their own pace. As flexibility improves, individuals can challenge themselves with more advanced postures, ensuring ongoing development.
- Accessibility: Yoga can be practiced by people of all ages and fitness levels. There are numerous modifications available for each pose, making yoga a suitable option for beginners and experienced practitioners alike. Yoga can be practiced pretty much everywhere, alone or in groups. However, many experience frustration and embarrassment when lack of flexibility limits their practice and hinder their sense of achievement, when they cannot perform as well as other more flexible people in the class.
Both assisted stretching and yoga offer unique benefits for improving flexibility.
Assisted stretching practiced in a controlled setting, with an experienced practitioner provides targeted, deep stretches with customization based on individual needs, making it a great option for those with specific goals or limitations.
On the other hand, yoga's whole-body approach and emphasis on the mind-body connection make it an accessible and holistic practice that can help improve overall flexibility and well-being.
Ultimately, you should consider your own needs, limitations, both financial and physical, preferences, and ultimate goals when choosing between assisted stretching and yoga.
It is also worth noting that these practices are not mutually exclusive; combining assisted stretching and yoga in a regular routine can lead to optimal flexibility gains and increased healthspan.