Passive Stretching - Overstretching our tissues?
In the yoga community, there's discussion about the veracity of passive stretching. In Yin Yoga, we are dictated to hold poses for an elongated period of time with asanas held for 45 seconds to 2 minutes. Each pose engages muscles to promote the release of synovial fluid into joints and connective tissues which promotes flexibility and recovery. Ninety percent of poses are seated and held longer to penetrate deeper tissues of the body. The science behind this practice is focused on our connective tissue by improving circulation and balancing our internal organs (and flow of prana).
This practice has unfortunately received a lot of negative messaging in recent years including the idea that holding these stretches may be damaging our muscle tissues/fibers and even our nervous systems. This type of mentality is making us believe that this 'healthy' practice is doing us more harm than good. In reality, our connective (tensile) tissues are meant to be stretched and benefit from receiving tensile loads. These tissues thrive when put under mechanical stress such as prolonged stretching. We may not realize it, but we are constantly putting our tissues in lengthened positions...even when we sleep!
Active stretching is becoming more of a staple in the yoga community which is still highly beneficial for us. This does NOT mean that passive stretching is inherently injurious. In fact, these two do not have to be mutually exclusive. It can be GOOD for our bodies to get a healthy mix of dynamic and static stretching for variety. Also, there is never a one-size-fits-all-approach in fitness. What may work very well for one person, can procure different results in another. Namaste!