In the average yoga class, a stretch is held for 5 breaths but is this enough to see results? When we stretch, our brain relays a message to the central nervous system to contract the muscles to keep them from being injured. It takes about a minute for this response to wear off. Until then, the body prevents you from doing your deepest version of the pose. So is 5 breaths really enough? Yes and No.
I have always heard that 5 breaths equal 30 seconds. To test this, I timed my own breath 3 times and came up with an average of 40 seconds. I was sitting in a comfortable position so it is safe to say that in a yoga class while performing challenging poses and moving quickly, it would be about 30 seconds.
So holding one posture for 30 seconds is not enough. How do we overcome this?
Ways To Make Sure You Hold the Stretch Long Enough to Get the Benefit
Repetition- Do the same posture more then once. If you back out a few breaths and go back in, the contraction reflex will stop
Doing the Same Posture But In a Different Way- When you come to the floor in Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series, there are 4 (3 depending on who taught you) different forward folds back to back but with different hand positions. You release that, do a straight leg table top and then proceed to do a boat load of other forward folds that are just slightly different from the ones before. These small changes work the body in a slightly different way while compounding the effects of the hamstring stretch which results in the back of the legs being worked long enough to see benefit.
This principle can be used in any type of yoga practice. Try doing 2-3 different versions of the same pose with a small break in between to get the most benefit. You can also do the same posture but make it more challenging every time by going a little deeper or reaching a little further.
Long Holds-Hold the posture for longer then 1 minute
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