The difference between Stressing tissues & Stretching tissues

To stress something is to bear a load on it, stress is the degree of pressure applied – this we can do to our tissues.

Tissues are often subjected to stress but no movement occurs. There is no shortening or lengthening of the tissues. 

Stretching occurs when the stress loaded is in excess of the tissues normal length, overcoming the tissues internal resistance. Stretch is the potential of the elongation of the tissue in response to the stress placed. Movement occurs.

All tissues need stress. If our tissues are not stressed it would lead to atrophy and fragility, However too much stress leads to tissue degeneration. The balance lies in the middle to maintain strong and healthy tissues. Depending on the amount of stress and the type of tissue will dictate whether it regains it’s normal resting length. Some types of tissues like muscles can be stretched and regain their shape due to their elastic nature, but even these tissues can be overstretched resulting in injury.

In Yin Yoga we aim to stress the joints rather than stretch them. This is why we really need to know the difference.


Some tissues in joints have a poor blood supply like connective tissues. We do not want to stretch these connective tissues as they will not regain their shape resulting in joint instability. By safely stressing joints and not stretching them, we can help joints remain healthy and increase their range of movement (ROM).

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