It’s no secret that stretching is good for you, but there’s a difference between passive and active stretching, and each type provides its own variety of health-enhancing benefits.

Whether you stretch first thing in the morning, use it as a dynamic warm-up before your workouts, a recovery tool after intense exercise, or as a way to wind down before bed, you can best benefit from different types of stretch in each of them. these instances. This is what you need to know.

Passive Stretch

Woman stretching on a ledge in a park.

Karla Tafra

Passive stretching is a type of stretching that includes holding positions for longer periods of time. You can do this without props, or help further intensify the stretch by using blocks, straps, bolsters, or another prop.

Holding the positions for more than a minute helps you relax into the stretch, which helps your muscle fibers lengthen naturally. Sometimes you have gravity working with you to help you increase your flexibility and other times it’s more about improving blood flow to a certain area and allowing it to relax and open up.

In addition to helping improve your flexibility and increase your range of motion, passive stretching can even help build muscle and improve the overall function of your muscle fibers. Passive stretching can also help you relax and activate your rest and digest mode, sending signals to your nervous system that it’s time to rest and relax.

examples of passive stretching

Woman doing legs up wall pose in front of a lake.

Karla Tafra

Anyone can easily do some of the best examples of passive stretching, whether you’re new to stretching or someone who can’t imagine finishing your day without your stretching routine.

  1. legs on the wall

A simple passive stretch that begins by lying on your back and bringing your hips as close to the wall as possible. Raise your legs vertically up the wall and relax your spine. Let your arms drop to your sides and relax your head and neck. Take a deep breath and feel your body relax with each passing exhalation. Your lower back should be flat on the floor, allowing your spine to fully decompress. Stay for at least five minutes.

yoga mat

The perfect mat for passive stretching.

2. Pigeon pose

Woman doing a pigeon pose in front of a castle.

Karla Tafra

One of the best passive stretches for the hamstrings and hips, Pigeon Pose provides many benefits when held for a longer period of time. Start in a plank position and bring your right knee under your chest, diagonally to the right. Relax your hips on the floor so that your left hip touches your right heel. Bring your upper body over your legs and relax your head. Make sure that both hips are in line and that one is not lower than the other. Stay for at least two full minutes and breathe as you stretch.

3. Standing forward fold with legs wide

Woman doing a wide-legged forward fold.

Karla Tafra

Start in a standing position and spread your stance so that it is twice the width of your hips. Open your arms out to the sides and take a deep breath. As you exhale, rotate your hips and slowly begin to bend over your legs with a straight spine. Place your palms on the ground just between your feet and relax your upper body. Let your upper body hang over your legs, feeling gravity pull you down and create a space between your vertebrae. Stay for at least a minute but try to aim for two.

yoga booster

Supports your yoga poses and helps you stretch.

Active stretching

Woman doing upward facing dog on a tree trunk facing the sea.

Karla Tafra

Active stretching, on the other hand, is the usual type of stretching that everyone always teaches you to do after your workouts or even as dynamic options to include in your warm-up. They include lengthening as well as tightening muscles to improve flexibility, strengthen tendons and connective tissues, and increase mobility.

While passive stretching only focuses on relaxation and removes any resistance, active stretching uses resistance from opposing muscles to create the stretch. These muscles are called agonists and antagonists, and they use each other to lengthen and strengthen muscle fibers. These stretches are held for 10 to 15 seconds and typically do not include support or external force.

examples of active stretching

You probably know some of the best examples of active stretching, but here are some tips to make sure you’re doing them right.

  1. runner’s lunge

Woman doing a runner's lunge in front of a lake.

Karla Tafra

One of the most popular leg stretching exercises is the runner’s lunge. Start in a plank position and bring your right foot between your palms. Push your foot firmly into the floor and straighten your left leg, coming up on the ball of your left foot. Engage your left hamstring and lift your kneecap, feeling your entire spine lengthen from the top of your head to your heel.

Push your palms toward the floor and look straight ahead, sending your shoulders down and back and opening your chest. Stay active in your stretch and use your inhalations to lengthen your spine and your exhalations to deepen the stretch. Stay for 10 to 15 seconds, then switch legs.

2. Plank up

Woman doing an upward plank in front of a lake.

Karla Tafra

A great way to stretch the front of your body while supporting your back, pushups are an example of an active stretch that improves flexibility in your chest, hip flexors, shoulders, and core.

Start in a seated position, with your legs stretched out in front of you. Place your palms behind your seat, fingers facing forward. Bend your knees slightly and use the strength of your palms and feet to push yourself off the ground and lift your hips. Inhale and stretch from head to toe and hold for 10-15 seconds. If you want to further increase your active stretch, raise one knee at a time.

3. Side lunge stretch

Woman stretching on side lunge

Karla Tafra

Stretching into a low side lunge opens up your hips and helps improve range of motion. Start standing and spread your stance wide, double the width of your hips. Inhale and as you exhale, bend your left knee and lower your hips into a squat position. Keep your right leg straight and your quads active.

Stay here for at least 10-15 seconds before switching sides. Make sure your bent knee stays open during your active stretch and actively try to keep it from sinking. Take a deep breath and feel your hips open with each exhalation.

Now that you know the difference between passive and active stretching, start with this combination of passive stretching exercises for tired legs and really feel the benefits of holding the poses longer.