“Why do I feel tighter following my yoga class, but never after my pilates class?” Twice in the past month I’ve been asked this question! The question came from two clients who had many similarities: experienced female practitioners of yoga and pilates with average range of motion yet often report “feeling tight.”
I haven’t witnessed these clients in their yoga classes, nor do I know anything of the yoga teacher’s style or goals for their class. All I can offer is my expert guess of what is happening for these two ladies.
When I teach Pilates or Restorative Exercise, the focus is on slow and controlled dynamic movements at your end ranges, with special attention on form and joint position. To some this feels more like a slow strength class than a stretch class, but students are pleasantly surprised to see their end ranges increase as the class goes on. Because students use their own strength and control to find their end range, students are safeguarded from overstretching. When doing passive stretching, like when you use your arm, a yoga strap, or gravity to cause a stretching sensation, it’s easier to inadvertently overstretch. At its worst, overstretching can cause a muscle strain or tear. In lesser amounts, overstretching can cause a rebound effect, making your body feel tighter and/or weaker than it did before. That’s what I think was happening to these ladies after their yoga classes.
To avoid overstretching in a group class, I recommend decreasing the amount of stretch sensation when performing passive stretches. So on a scale from 0 to 10, keep the sensation in the 5 or 6 range. The other attributes of yoga - focusing on your breath while performing gentle movements in a calming atmosphere for an hour can collectively regulate your nervous system for positive results…..including relieving your body from the feeling of tightness…. without the rebound effect the following day.