Yoga has a reputation of being a gentle workout that’s easy on the body and makes your muscles feel longer and more flexible. While this is generally true, yoga can also feel a lot like strength training sometimes (ever held warrior one pose for like a minute straight?)—which is why it’s not at all uncommon to feel sore post-flowing. That can lead you to wonder: Should you be stretching after yoga?
“Yoga is stretching, but there’s definitely a strength and postural component to it,” says Josh Glass, DC, an Atlanta-based sports chiropractor. “It’s an activity that’s stressing your body.” This happens through isometric holds, essentially: He explains that most poses involve stretching and lengthening at least one muscle group while another muscle or group of muscles contracts. “Say you’re doing warrior one, which means you’re stretching your hip flexors but also really contracting your glutes and quads to stay there,” says Dr. Glass. “That’s a really long isometric contraction, and if you’re not used to it, you’re stressing your muscles and they can feel tight or sore afterward.”
Of course, there are many different types of yoga, some that feel more like a strength workout, and some that feel like more of a stretching sesh. “An example of a longer-hold type of practice is yin yoga,” says Lara Heimann, PT, yoga instructor and physical therapist. But all of them can make your muscles tight, which is why Dr. Glass says that you should stretch after practicing—at least, a little bit. If you’re doing a type of yoga that holds positions for long periods of time, you might be more likely to need a counter stretch or two before you wrap your flow.
“Recovery is whatever you do from when you finish one athletic event until the next one, and yoga is an athletic event,” says Dr. Glass. “Done correctly, stretching is always beneficial to your muscles that need it. And if they feel tight or sore, giving some individual attention to the ones that need it can be a great compliment to yoga.” Heimann agrees, noting that you should approach your movements with a healthy balance between strength and flexibility—so don’t be afraid to stretch if you’re tight after a flow, because you might really need it.
Try adding this yoga for flexibility flow into your routine: