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some TERMS

  • STRESS - The force applied to tissues. 

  • STRETCH -  The elongation of tissues under stress.  

  • FLEXIBILITY - The range of motion in a joint / group of joints or the ability to move joints effectively through a complete ROM. 

  • RANGE OF MOTION - The full movement potential of a joint.

  • MOBILITY - The ease with which a joint can move through its ROM

  • HYPERMOBILITY - Flexibility beyond the ‘norm’. 

  • DANGEROUS HYPERMOBILITY - Flexibility beyond where the joint’s tissue can provide stability. 

  • STABILITY - Enduring and resistant to sudden change, but functionally able to adjust to movement. 

  • STRENGTH - The ability to carry out work against a resistance. The maximal force you can apply against a load.

WHAT are we

doing ?


Stress is the force we apply to our tissues and stretch is the resulting elongation. Lots of tissues can stretch, some more than others but for many yoga students, the intention is not to stretch but to strengthen. They need more stability in their joints not less. When a joint is stable, it is supported, steady, resistant to sudden change, but functionally able to adjust to movement. To build this stability, they still need to stress the tissues but not to the point of stretching. When under compression, the bones act as if they are bonded together the joint itself can be stiffened and muscles can stabilise a joint through co-contraction/ engagement which brings about a return in strength development. Thus there is a neurological (thinking) component to stability. Stability is never static, we address building stability in a functional dynamic way because we are constantly moving through life. Stretching isn’t the same as mobilising. When we mobilise our joints, we make them move. Stretching a muscle doesn’t necessarily mobilise a joint, many static stretches don’t result in a joint moving. We can define mobility as the ability to move fluidly with ease and coordination. There is also a neurological component to mobility. Close to the idea of mobility is flexibility. Flexibility can be defined as the pain-free range of motion of a joint or a series of joints. It’s how much we can move whereas mobility is how well we can move. Applying a stress can result in a stretch, which can build flexibility. If we go too far we can become hyper mobile. Hypermobility can be considered flexibility beyond a normal range of motion often due to genetic factors, disease, injury or accidents as well as excessive stretching. A person maybe clinically diagnosed hypermobile but still perfectly healthy with joints no more problematic than a normal persons. However, If a hypermobile persons joints were unstable it could be dangerous. The question becomes, what is the intention of this persons yoga? They are already hypermobile so do they need more mobility? Probably not. In most cases they need to develop or continue to build stability but this doesn’t have to come with reduced range of motion. Many hypermobile people can keep what they have and build strength in the joints. Others will be well advised to reduce their range of motion. It depends on the individual not the diagnosis. 



Dynamic flexibility is the ability to perform dynamic movements of the muscles to bring a limb through its full range of motion in the joints. Static active flexibility is the ability to assume and maintain extended positions internally by yourself. For example, lifting the leg and keeping it high without any external support (other than from your own leg muscles). Static passive flexibility is the ability to assume extended positions and then maintain them using only your weight, the support of your limbs, or some other prop (such as a strap or chair). The ability to maintain the position does not come solely from your muscles, as it does with static-active flexibility.




  • Ballistic stretching. 

  • Dynamic stretching.

  • Active stretching.

  • Passive (or relaxed) stretching.

  • Static stretching.

  • Isometric stretching.

  • PNF stretching.




Stressing tissue initially reduces its tolerance level (micro traumas) Once we release the stress the tissues recover and become stronger and the tissues tolerance level increases above what it was before. If we apply to much stress or for too long, or do not allow enough rest between stresses, then we are in danger. ‘The last straw effect’ Chronic stress leads to fragility. Acute stress followed by rest builds anti-fragility. 


Elastic vs Plastic :


Generally, muscles are elastic, which means that after the stress ends, they return to their original length, while fascialigaments and tendons are plastic, which means they won’t stretch very much at all; but if the stress exceeds the ability of the material to resist stretching, they will remain stretched. This is a generalisation, and it doesn’t work for all levels of stress. If a small amount of stress is applied to fascia: ligaments (and tendons) can be considered elastic. As long as the strain does not exceed 4–10% the ligament or tendon will elastically return to its original length.


When a static stress is applied to a plastic material like a ligament or tendon, over time the length of this tissue will increase slowly. This is known as creep. The material will remodel itself to accommodate the stress. If the stress continues for too long, fatigue will set in and the structure may fail, but if the stress ceases before that critical time, the resulting elongation is maintained. The result is that the ligament or tendon may increase its length, and thus the range of motion of a joint may increase slightly, but the tissue is temporarily weaker. Over time, the body will restrengthen the tissues.


Our more elastic tissues, do better with more active forms of yoga, rhythmic and repetitive stresses. 


Our more plastic tissues, prefer slow or static styles of yoga, with long held, tensile and compressive stresses. To strengthen and thicken a joint capsule safely, and to improve its range of motion its best to stress without any load when relaxed.

  • When a joint is bearing a load - stiffen the joint (which may reduce its range of motion)

  • When trying to enhance a joints range of motion, do so when it is not bearing load.

  • When moving a joint under load it is essential to develop neuromuscular coordination and healthy movement patterns - this is called ‘proper technique’.


One of the reasons we engage our muscles in an active class is to prevent the dynamic stresses of the poses from damaging our joints and cartilage. If you are constantly moving the body and relying upon your ligaments to restrain your range of movement, rather than use your muscles to control how far you go, then you do risk damage ‘last straw effect’ This does not mean that a longer held static stress to the same ligaments is not healthy. How you exercise your tissues make a big difference to them and all tissues need to be stressed. 

What are we doing
Flexibility Stretch
stressing tissue
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