Difference between yoga and stretching
Yoga vs stretching:
Exercise is essential for the healthy function of the human body and different cultures practice exercise in different ways that is unique to their own lifestyles, food and traditions. Some even opt to combine exercise with spirituality and meditation and this type of exercise not only give the body the much needed exertion that is needed, it also provides the mind with the relaxation that it so deserves. Two such forms of relaxing exercises are yoga and stretching which are extremely popular in the world today.
What is yoga?
The term ‘yoga’ is a Sanskrit word of which the literal meaning is “yoke”, or “the act of yoking or harnessing”, as derived from the root yuj. Yoga is defined as a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline which has its origins in ancient India. The aim of practicing yoga is attaining a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility which includes meditating upon the Hindu concept of divinity or Brahman. The word ‘yoga’ is referred to one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy and is basically based upon Yoga Sutras of Patanjali which has been discussed in many Hindu, Jain and Buddhist texts. The ultimate goal of yoga is to improve health with the aim of attaining Moksha which is liberation from all worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and death.
What is stretching?
Stretching is a physical exercise where muscles in the body are deliberately stretched with the aim of toning the muscles as well as improving their elasticity. This enables a human extreme flexibility, range of motion, strength in muscles and muscle control. Although stretching as an action is an intrinsic movement which is done by animals and humans alike involuntarily, stretching as an exercise is performed with the aim of attaining physical fitness. However, if done incorrectly, stretching can prove to be quite dangerous as incorrect positions in stretching can prove to be ineffective or detrimental, even to the point of causing permanent damage to the tendons, ligaments and muscle fiber.
What is the difference between stretching and yoga?
Both stretching and yoga are two forms of exercise which have proved to be quite beneficial for toning muscles, increasing flexibility and elasticity of muscles. However, yoga and stretching cannot be put in to the same category as they are based on very different principles and function in very different ways. Let us see how.
The history of yoga dates back to the Indus valley civilization to around 3300 – 1700 BC from where certain types of seals with figures resembling meditating poses were discovered. It was however later on developed by the Brahmans around 900 – 500 BC as a part of their rituals and their lifestyle. Stretching, however, is a more recent development of exercise which has been introduced to suit the busy lifestyles of people. Stretching has no wide background as yoga nor a long and a meaningful history to boast of.
Although yoga does practice stretching, stretching cannot be called as yoga. Yoga is not only a form of exercise, it is also a lifestyle. Stretching makes up an integral part of it and yet, it is only a small particle of the bigger picture. The ultimate goal of yoga is to attain Moksha by gaining physical and mental well being. The ultimate goal of stretching, however, is to attain flexibility of body. Yoga includes meditation which is an indication that yoga concentrates, not only on the physical body, but also on spirituality. It seeks to attain serenity in being and a practitioner of yoga may find him or herself to be more calm and collected during stressful situations, experiencing better moods and energy as long time benefits of yoga. Yoga contemplates on the very center of being and focuses on awakening the chakras which are said to be the centers of spiritual awakening. Stretching does not have such a spiritual and a meditational aspect to it. A practitioner of stretching may only experience lightness of being and flexibility whereas he or she will not be awakened spiritually. Therefore, yoga is a religious and a spiritual practice which is also a lifestyle choice whereas stretching does not have such a base.
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