Yoga stretching is a more targeted and exact approach to stretching, because it emphasizes both the breathing and the positioning of the body. With emphasis on breathing, it's possible to focus directly on the body part being stretched and then to be able to "breathe into" the stretch, in order to stretch more deeply. By emphasizing proper form, it's less likely you will overstretch and cause harm to the muscles. Proper preparation is key to strengthening muscle and yoga stretching can make the road there both safer and more comfortable by putting the emphasis on paying attention to your breath and form.
Yoga stretching has been shown to stretch muscles to get you ready to exercise, protect you by helping you maintain proper breathing and all important form while exercising. This allows your muscles to release the tension that builds up during exercise, which ultimately allows your muscles to relax after working out. This final relaxation stage is vitally important because the time between workouts is when your muscles repair and strengthen themselves.
Stretching is vital before beginning exercise, because it warms up the muscle and prepares it for the coming strength training. Muscles settle into positions they are accustomed to so that when we do something different, the muscle can actually feel tight and can tear if we do anything too quickly. Yoga stretching can be as gentle or as vigorous as you need it to be, to prepare for your strength training.
Yoga stretching elongates the muscles gently and progressively, thereby preparing them to safely lift weights or do weight bearing exercises. Yoga also helps you focus on your breathing. This is important because holding your breath is the worst enemy of proper exercise technique. It's also the most common mistake that even experienced athletes make, so proper breathing can't be overemphasized.
Stretching after you finish strength training is equally important because it helps the muscles let go of the tension the exercise has built up during the session. That tension is necessary to build your muscles, but a constantly clenched muscle is likely to cramp and hurt.
An added benefit is that yoga stretching provides complete relaxation for all of your muscles, including those that you may not realize may be holding tension from your strength training. For instance, when you lift weights, your facial muscles will tense whether you are conscious of it or not. This makes yoga stretching even more beneficial, because a brief set of yoga moves can relax your muscles from head to toe.
Yoga stretching and strength training are not mutually exclusive, but in fact have been proven to work well together to make an effective partnership in your quest for flexibility, strength and good health. In order for muscles to strengthen, they must be ready for the work required to build that strength. Yoga stretching lengthens muscle to prepare it for a safe and successful strength training session.