In most systems of physical culture, gymnastics, etc., the muscles are brought into play during contraction and strengthened. During most asanas the emphasis is on stretching the muscles. The muscles cannot stretch themselves because their mode of action is through contraction. In asanas the muscles are stretched by assuming various body positions which will automatically apply an elongation to particular muscles. A muscle can be slowly and gradually stretched by practice, so that it can eventually extend well beyond its normal limitations. This elongation squeezes out stagnant blood and allows it to be replaced by pure oxygenated blood when the muscle resumes its normal shape.
To stretch the muscles it is important that they are fully relaxed. If your muscles are tense they will automatically resist any attempt made to stretch them. This relaxation of the muscles can be developed with practice as you systematically gain control over them.
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