Often times we come to yoga to get our stretch on and even though you will stretch it is not the most important thing. Strengthening is a tiny bit more important and I hope explain the benefits of strength in this article to help you understand what we do and why in our classes a little more.
Strength can bring balance back to the body such as; if we have injuries it may be because we are weak in some area. A weakness may have occurred before-hand that may have led to the injury. So, in our classes we focus on strength like downward dog, table (it builds upper body strength) and/or leg strengthening like tree or standing postures. These strength building poses prepare us for the deeper stretches that we will do towards the end of the class and ensure that we will be safe to do them. Also when we build the muscle up it supports the skeletal system and that helps the bones as well as the joints which can be very beneficial for pain and arthritis. If we build strength it builds integrity in the body which can lead to stability.
As for flexibility, it is important to stretch as we see animals do in nature like dogs (up dog), they stretch to alleviate the tightness that has come into the body from being inactive like resting or sleeping. Most people like to stretch to wake the body up and it feels good. It improves the circulation and creates a supple body. We want to stretch because it alleviates soreness and the strengthening is more challenging and so sometimes we are only interested in the stretch part of the class. If you are an athlete your focus should be on the relaxation parts and flexibility as you have been working on the strength already but if your only exercise is yoga your focus should be on a well-rounded class that has strength in it.
There are times we may stretch more than strengthen like a yin class or restorative but ultimately, we want to balance the body out in every class. In our classes at Akasha we want to ensure that the body has been honored in a way that creates harmony by doing both strength and flexibility. Hope that helps you understand yoga better as well as picking the right class for you.