Great Warm-up Routines and Ideas for Yoga
Do you have any great warm up routines or ideas to share? I got so accustomed to using the Energization Exercises at The Expanding Light for warming up, I have forgotten some of the wonderful other stretches and postures to use.
San Antonio, Texas
My favorite warm-up:
From a seated position raise the arms overhead and stretch toward the ceiling while pushing the pelvis towards the floor. Take care not to arch the back; consciously pull the tail in. Hold for about 30 seconds. Do a side stretch to the left for 30 seconds and then come back to center. Do a side stretch to the right for 30 sec and then come back to center.
Watch the breath throughout the pose. (This is the equivalent of a sitting moon pose.) My students really like this; it is very centering. One student even said she did it at the pool before swimming to help get centered and prepare her breathing for swimming.
I think you're on the right track with the Energization Exercises for warm-ups. They are good to incorporate into your class. I always make sure that I warm up the wrists and ankles, as they are used often and forgotten most often in many postures: rotate ankles inward and outward (as in the opening of Energization); rotate wrists in the same way; you may also lengthen the forearms and wrists by holding your arm straight out, turning the fingers down, palm away from you, then gently (using the other hand) pulling the fingers of the extended hand toward you, lengthening through the wrist and forearm. Then, turn the palm toward you and again pull the fingers toward you... repeat the sequence on the other side.
Bluffton, South Carolina
I like to start my students by centering in corpse. I have them first become aware of their breath and just notice how they are breathing. Then we do full yogic breath. Then I have them let their breath return to normal and bring their awareness into their body.
I ask them to notice where their skin touches the floor, where their fingers touch each other, where their skin touches their clothes, etc. Then I have them bring their awareness into their mind and begin to notice their thoughts and allow them to float away (you can use visualizations such as clouds floating in the sky). Then I tell them that if they begin to follow a thought or become attached to it, simply to notice it and gently bring the mind back to the breath and the present moment.
I tell them that this is what you want to do in your asanas: to become fully present.
Then I begin with hamstring stretches. I have found that this is a problem area for many people and by stretching and lengthening the hamstrings it makes almost all the asanas easier and also helps protect the back. I really emphasize breathing in all the warm ups so that it begins to become normal to breathe that way, and they can begin to see how the breath allows them to bring energy into the pose and allows them to release and relax into the asana.
Next I might do some pelvic tilts. I usually use Circle of Joy for a warm up and some shoulders rolls. Then some easy neck exercises (e.g., looking left and right, drawing figure eights or circles with the nose). I try to do cat-cow each time and have them visualize a stream of energy such as light or a white pearl moving up the spine as they inhale into cow and the energy moving back down as they exhale into cat.
You can add some leg-raises with this. I like to teach downward dog after cat cow. I have them stop in cow and notice where their shoulders and shoulder blades are and then to try to have that same feeling in Downward Facing Dog. Also wrist rolls are a good warm up before you do Downward Facing Dog.
All authors are graduates of Ananda Yoga Teacher Training.