The Stretching Obsession

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Most people still think Yoga is about flexibility measured by your ability to touch your toes or assume some other bodily position. While being flexible might be useful, there is little evidence proving that flexibility alone makes us healthier. Yoga is much more expansive than all the boxes that people have put it in, even yoga teachers.


So why are so many yogi’s obsessed with stretching? When yoga made its way to the west, Yogi’s often publicly demonstrated their super human flexibility and ever since, yoga has been tethered to the notion that yoga is about flexibility. In today’s highly visual market place, yoga practitioners are obsessed with stretching and marketing it to others and calling it yoga.


For someone who has never attended a yoga class, the thought of going into a room with 20 other in-shape people wearing sports attire and stretching together is less than inviting. Many of my guy friends would never attend a yoga class like this. Instead they do their own Yoga at home where they can be intimate and free with their own body. Yoga for this reason was traditionally taught one to one, so that a caring teacher could help tailor a practice based on your age, body type, health condition and culture or religious belief’s. It was never really intended for a one size fits all application, because we all have different needs.


One of my mentors was a former athlete. He had never been flexible, but he really wanted to be. He was excited to tell me that he was now doing yoga. He said he was taking a course, but he dreaded doing it because it was so painful. I said respectfully: “you’re not doing Yoga, you’re stretching.” Stretching is a fraction of an overall yoga practice, a fraction I say.


Here’s why:


1. Yoga is not painful. The right Yoga for you is an enjoyable, accepting, nurturing, loving experience and not more of the same thing that our current culture conditions us to believe. That we have to suffer through something to attain something on the other side. That we have to get to some better place. That we need to be good at yoga. That we aren’t good enough where we are now. That we have to strive and stretch our way into some better reality. “Yoga practice is only the participation in our given reality.” When we practice actual Yoga, the ancient spiritual practice of Yoga, we naturally unveil and tap into source energy. This is a quiet place where the mind and heart drop into alignment. Here, we get to spend time with the extraordinary intelligence that creates worlds and that has created us.


2. The truth is, flexibility is simply a byproduct of yoga. Most yoga nowadays, in my opinion, is overly focused on the physical, often perpetuated by instructors who’ve crossed over from the fitness and fashion industries. Today, yoga has been so standardized and duplicated that it has lost the essence and purpose of why we’re doing a yoga practice in the first place. When you truly understand and experience the full impact of this spiritual practice you might also see how it is the hope for humanity.


3. Yoga practice is a very personal endeavor. It is the practice of intimacy with self, body and breath. A yoga practice must be molded to the individual, rather than the individual molded to some set of standards or postures. Doing your own daily Yoga practice is empowering, life changing and one of the best things that you can do for yourself, your family and the planet.


Therefore, “stretching” is a lousy, worn out way to describe the physical aspect of Yoga. For the novice, stretching is thought of as painful, which, if you’re new to manipulating muscle and connective tissue, it probably is painful, but actual real Yoga is not painful, it’s beautiful, no matter how flexible or bendy you are. The only thing we need to stretch, is the truth about Yoga!

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