When most people hear “warm-up”, they imagine some sort of cardio exercise for a few minutes before weight-lifting or a little bit of walking or light jogging before their run. However, the idea that a good warm-up routine goes beyond simply raising our body temperature is finally starting to become mainstream. Fitness experts suggest incorporating mobility work and dynamic (not to be confused with ballistic!) stretches to better prepare our bodies for the upcoming workout. One such expert that puts great emphasis on a proper warm-up is Core Performance’s Mark Verstegen. I respect the principles he promotes, but the exercises he uses are not my cup of tea – still, if you’re interested in learning more, click here.
Bearing in mind the elements of a good warm-up, I’d like to offer some suggestions on using Yoga to build a routine that:
- increases body temperature
- lubricates the joints
- activates the muscles, especially the core
- engages mental focus
Spending a few minutes in either Sukhasana or Tadasana, setting a goal for your workout, and then moving with the breath as you proceed with the warm-up will help focus your mind to the task at hand.
Just about any vinyasa will create internal heat, so all you need to do is pick the poses that will best activate your core, and keep moving to “oil” the joints. A few poses and flows to consider incorporating to your routine are:
- Cat (on all fours or standing) and Half-Moon to “wake up” the spine
- Plank or Bridge to statically engage the core
- Reclined Leg Raises (maybe even as far as Shoulderstand or Plow after a few rounds if you’re up for it) or Warrior III to dynamically engage the core
- Vinyasa flow (Plank, Chaturanga, Up Dog, Down Dog) mostly for the upper body, but in fact for just about everything, especially if you intersperse with lunges (low, high, Crescent Moon, etc.)
- Warrior flow (Warrior II to Extended Side Angle, back to Warrior II, then to Exalted Warrior) for the lower body and the spine
If you don’t feel confident in creating your own sequence, you can always do Sun Salutations. If you’re short on time, Sage Rountree talks you through an efficient Balance and Bowing flow for warming up (her other podcasts contain just as excellent short routines, so be sure to check them out).
Those of us who’re saddled with injuries need to spend some time on them during the warm-up – a little TLC goes a long way when it comes to better performance (or just normal function for many people, myself included). One resource that has proven invaluable to me in this is Kimberly Fowler’s No OM Zone. Although the book has received many flaming reviews for its irreverent tone, I still feel it has a lot to offer. The author dedicates a chapter to each body part (e.g. neck, chest, hips) and suggests several poses and a sequence targeting each area. If the slant of the book bothers you, just ignore it and draw from it what can actually be of use to you.
Even if you’re as fit as a fiddle, you have much to gain from adding mobility work to your warm-up. A yogic approach would be to use Pawanmuktasana (series of asanas aimed specifically at lubricating the joints). Bernie Clark has both the upper and the lower body series up on his site – the former in particular is awesome to use when taking breaks from computer/typing work.
If you use Yoga in your warm-up, I’d love to hear about your routine.