Most of my regular yoga students may well be familiar with the style of warm up I lead in a yoga class. My own practice usually includes the same postures, and depending on the nature of the class, I have learned to vary how the warm up sequence can be delivered, with some new additions, and others only used on occasion. Sometimes I encourage students to move in ways that I learned from my dance experience, incorporating soft, gentle, easy positions I have taken from different styles of movement.
The main postures I use for my warm up are:
Childs Pose (Balasana): stretching the spine and becoming in tune with breath;
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): stretching whole body backside; deepens bhanda awareness;
Plank Pose (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana): strengthen legs, core centre and arms;
Baby Cobra Pose & Cobra (Bhungasana): warms up spine, opens chest, strengthens core centre.
My warm up is the most important part of the practice for me. It brings me in tune with my breath and body. It’s like the appetizer before the entrée. It’s the lead into the bigger – if not always necessarily better – serving. It’s the most precious time on my yoga mat, setting the mood lighting for what is to come.
I like to be kind to my hamstrings, my back and my breath, allowing them space to enjoy their starter before throwing them into dynamic shapes. All too often, one of my dislikes of going to other yoga classes is being thrown into Uttanasana (standing forward bend) as the first move, and shortly thereafter feeling like my hamstrings are about to rip in two.
I may get away with folding into this standing forward bend in the warmer, summer months; however, with the hint of winter and the cold weather now setting in, I would not even consider forcing my body into that pose at the start of my practice; at most, I’d fold down with knees bent, and keeping them that way for quite a while.
When I do get the opportunity to participate in other yoga classes and workshops, I arrive a few minutes earlier, giving myself enough time to warm up in the way that my body prefers, just in case the class begins in a way that is counterproductive.
Om Peace, peace, peace,