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Two Layers of Stretch

When working a joint, you must decide on whether to work muscle or bone. You can strengthen the muscles that stabilize the joint or stretch the ligaments to increase range of motion.

By Paul Grilley

Both layers of tissue need to be kept healthy, so yogis should practice the postures both ways. Yang Yoga is the effort to keep the muscles tensed and engaged. Yin Yoga is the relaxed stressing of the joints.

It is possible to overdue the stretching of muscle or ligaments, but as long as a yogi moves slowly and with little force, the chance of real injury is slight.

Paul Grilley has been studying and teaching yoga since 1979. His special interest in anatomy. He teaches regular workshops on physical and energetic anatomy. Paul lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife Suzee.

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Reader Comments


I am so glad to see this posted!! It is unfortunate the other posted does not understand what Paul is articulating, and is correct in certain systems - you don't want to destabilize. It is meant to be a slight, steady light ,stretch that stimulates the body to grow longer tissue. if this is overdone then injury can occur, but if done properly, then range of motion is increases as the body does regenerate all tissues according to demands placed on them.


I am a bit surprised to see an article in this journal advocating "stretching ligments". In fact, the only situation in which you should stretch ligaments is after a period of immobilization of a joint (such as in a cast).
Ligaments are critical for joint stability. For example, if you stretch the cruciate ligaments of the knee in Janu Sirsasana C, you can create instabilty of the knee. If you lose stability of the knee, you lose congruency of the joint and can damage the cartilage. This can lead to arthritis.
Ligaments have very little capacity to return to their native shape, once stretched. Accordingly, you should not stretch them! Mobility of the joints should be gained through lengthening the muscular stabilizers--both the contractile elements and the fascial covering of the muscles.

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