STIFF VERSUS WEAK
When its difficult to perform an asana it’s not just that we’re stiff and need to gain more flexibility. This is true, but its not an appropriate viewpoint when addressing how the body moves. Certain muscles are stiff and cannot lengthen properly, yes, but the opposing muscles that can open us up are often not strong enough to help open and stretch the muscles were seeking to open.
Consider the tight and close upper chest. Your chest is tight because your upper back is weak and stiff.
If the middle upper back isn’t strong enough to keep the shoulder blades in a paper position on the back, the top chest will sink causing the upper traps to rise and the back the neck to pain. The head will also fall forward in front of the spine, again causing more undue strain not he upper back and neck. Commonly this is due to poor posture, and the body will benefit from yoga postures to strengthen the posture of the back, like Shalabasana and its variations and some core exercises. In many cases
Through adhesions in the fascia, scar tissue, or trigger points, the muscle looses it ability to contract all the way or release fully. For the body to move properly, we want healthy muscles that will contract and relax/release fully. In our bodies there are some general sticky areas that are preventing us from opening up with ease or stabilizing us when needed.
A stretch simply won’t fix it.
I like to get to the root of the issue when I practice. So take steps to strengthen and correct posture and properly exercise the lungs, that way I’ll tend to have better posture throughout the day and less neck pain. This way, I don’t need to spend most of my practice chasing the pain, and instead get to go right into the deeper layers of Asana, Pranayama, and eventually meditation.
So while stretching is important, it is just as important to strengthen the opposing muscles groups that help to hold us in proper alignment, on and off the mat.