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Natural Awakenings South Central Pennsylvania

Stop Stretching!

Apr 30, 2011 08:55PM ● By Shani Stevenson

Yoga teachers often hear students say, “I just need a good stretch.” However, what most of us really crave is engagement, not stretching. Figuratively over-stretched and disengaged in a multitude of ways, we need to cultivate better ways to flow with the ever-changing interconnectedness of our daily lives.

When we step onto our yoga mats, we may be setting ourselves up for injuries and exhaustion if we continue a pattern of over-stretching. When we hyper-extend our muscles, we don’t gain any real flexibility. Instead, we end up stretching ourselves right out of our sockets and collapsing into an overextended state of being. This creates more instability and damage to our joints.

In yoga, it’s better to think “engagement and elongation,” instead of “stretch.” This means creating the sensation of becoming more rooted, drawing muscle towards bone and sucking hips and arms into their sockets—a huge shift for many who have been practicing in an organic, free-flow way. In time, emphasizing engagement and elongation will help us gain strength, stability and endurance, and we will generally feel better.

Shani Stevenson, a 500-hour experienced registered yoga teacher, owns Flow Together Yoga Center, 418 Bridge St., New Cumberland. For information, call 717-774-1820 or visit