Yoga Warm-Up: 16 Poses & Exercises To Help You Warm Up Before Yoga

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Yoga warm-up prepares the body physically and mentally so it can adapt to the further changes going to occur in the body. Before yoga, our body remains in a less active state, which needs to be transformed in order to perform various Yoga asanas better.

The breathing during the Yoga warm-up wakes up the prana or makes it more aware to work upon the body in further changes.

What are the benefits of warming up before yoga?

The practitioners can experience the following benefits by warming up before the Yoga session.

  1. Enhance blood flow to the muscles – Warm-up exercises before yoga enhance blood flow 1 into the muscles. It helps muscles to fulfill the need at the physical level before proceeding into the yoga practice.
  2. Heightens Awareness – As we begin to move our body parts in a certain direction, the muscular movements direct blood to deliver ample oxygen to the brain. It makes the practitioner more attentive and focused during the Yoga practice.
  3. Loosen up Muscles – Warm-up yoga stretches raises the blood circulation and makes the muscle contract and relax frequently as long as the practitioner warms up 2. This makes muscles follow the movements more softly.
  4. Makes body flexible – It is essential to achieve decent flexibility 3 before jumping into the yoga asanas practice. So, warming up yoga helps in allowing some room to extends body movements.
  5. Reduces the chances of Injury – Without warm-up yoga practitioners become prone to the injuries like a hamstring strain, muscle strain, tearing of muscles, etc 4. So, it’s better to go through warm-up yoga prior to the yoga asanas session.

Yoga Warm-up Exercises

You can try the following yoga warm-up exercises that cover a wide range of movements of different parts of the body. Together, these exercises can help prepare your muscles for most of your yoga session.

The sequence is crafted especially keeping beginner body stiffness in mind. One should use this approach to settle themselves well in further Yoga practice.

1. Shoulder Warm up

shoulder warm up yoga
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Shoulder acts as foundational support in numbers of balancing yoga asanas. So, it is important to have a strong and flexible base structure that helps in the safe practice of further yoga practice.

Shoulder Socket Rotation

shoulder shocket rotation
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  • Begin by standing straight, bend your hand from the elbow, and place them on your shoulders.
  • Now keeping fingers on your shoulder, slowly inhale while opening your chest – rotate your hands in the clockwise direction (up and back).
  • With exhale, rotate your hands in the anticlockwise direction (down and forward).
  • Do 5 rounds of rotation in both directions.
  • Now, bring your hands beside the hips and breathe slowly to relax.

This warm-up exercise is a traditional yoga pose in Ashtanga yoga called skandh Chakra.

Alternate Up and Down hands movement

one forwards and one backwards
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  • Stand erect and raise your hands up to shoulder level. Then inhale to take your right hand up above the right shoulder and left hand down beside the hip. Make sure both remain straight.
  • Now, exhale to bring your left hand up above the left shoulder and take your right hand down beside the hip.
  • Perform this sequence 5 to 10 times and then bring both hands down beside the hips. Then breathe slowly and deeply to relax.

2. Neck Warm up

neck warm up yoga
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The neck is one of the most important body parts when it comes to the practice of yoga. Neck warm-up helps to lengthen back neck muscle and release any tension in it.

A dull, rigid, and immobilized neck might become a hurdle or kind of discouraging to perform asana where the neck plays a key role, For example, in cobra pose, bridge pose, etc.

Neck Rotation

neck rotation
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  • Stand straight with legs hips distance apart and stabilize your shoulder to look in the front direction.
  • Remain calm and then begin to rotate your head in a clockwise direction. After resting for a minute, go for an anti-clockwise round.
  • As completes the practice bring your head in an equilibrium position and breathe slowly and deeply until your vision stabilizes. Then relax.

Side Tilt

neck side tilt
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  • Come into a standing erect posture or one can practice by sitting in any comfortable posture.
  • Perform a few gentle inhale and exhale before you begin to move your neck in either direction.
  • Now, proceed with a semi-rotation of the head to the right side of your body. Your chin would be in the vicinity of your left shoulder here.
  • And then, inhale to bring it back in the center. Furthermore, Exhale to tilt head in the right to perform another semi-rotation of the head near the right shoulder.
  • And then return to the center to inhale. This will complete the one cycle of your Neck movement and then relax.

Neck Forward and Backward Tilt

neck forward-backward
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This can be done while you’re seated cross-legged or on your feet. Keep your moves slow and smooth.

  • Straight your back, head, shoulder aligned.
  • Inhale, tilt your chin up upside in a way that your chin faces the ceiling. Remain here for 10 seconds.
  • Relax, and slowly come to starting position.
  • From here, exhale down your chin towards your chest. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds. Feel the gentle stretch in the upper back.
  • Do this exercise 5 times in both directions.

3. Spinal Warm-up

spine warm up
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Spinal warm-up before yoga is a very must to remove the stiffness and improves flexion movements in different yoga poses.

The spine is what makes us stand straight and it is also responsible for bending forward and backward in various Yoga asanas. This is the reason to consider this body part in the Warm-up yoga sequence.

Walking Hand in Table top pose

tabletop pose hands forward
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  • Begin by coming into the tabletop pose. Your knees placed hip-distance apart and your hands are under the shoulder. The upper part of the feet resting on the floor and sole facing the ceiling.
  • Now, inhale and walk your hand forward, extend your torso forward while balancing the upper body on both hands and the lower body on the knees. Here, engage your shoulder blade and arch back. Feel the gentle stretch from the back of the neck to the tailbone.
  • After resting for some time, walk your hand back to the initial position of the hand to exhale. You can also uplift your back to counter the inward aching and then relax.

Superman Twist

superman Twist
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  • Lie down on your abdomen, legs straight resting on the floor. Bend your elbows and bring your hands up by your ears.
  • With an inhalation, raise your arms, chest, and legs off the floor. Hold this position.
  • While holding, twist your torso to the right side, raising your elbow upwards. Feel the gentle contraction at the same time twisting in your back muscles.
  • Return to start position and repeat on the left side.

4. Ankle Warm-up

ankle warm up dandasana
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The ankle movements help in the adjustment of the base of the asana. Ankle is a joint that connects the foot to the leg, it is also responsible for the transfer of force require to firm the posture. Hence, the mobilized ankle is necessary for longer practices and this can be possible by performing a Warm-up Yoga prior to the Yoga session.

Ankle Rotation

ankle rotation
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  • Begin by coming into the Dandasana, your hands beside your hips and feet straight. Your back should be erect and shoulder relaxed.
  • Separate the legs by about a foot. Keep them straight.
  • Bring your focus on both foot ankle. Start rotating feet from the ankles together in opposite directions. Here, try to rotate feet externally to the full extent so the sides of the feet touch the floor.
  • Rotate from the sides to the forward, then backward (For example, right foot in the clockwise direction and left foot in an anticlockwise direction).
  • Do five times in one direction then reverse the rotation direction of both feet.

Bending Ankle Up and Down

ankle bending
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  • Again come into starting dandasana position. Focus your awareness on the feet.
  • Now, inhale and bend your right foot in a forward direction from the ankle joint. Try to stretch from your toes to touch the floor.
  • Exhale, bend your foot backward from the ankle joint.
  • Hold your foot in each stretch for a few seconds. Do it 5 rounds.
  • Repeat the process on the left foot for equal rounds.
  • Then follow the same instructions, both legs at one time – 10 times.

5. Hips Stretching

hips stretching
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Hips being the transitioning muscle portion helps in setting up a balance in various asanas. Therefore, warm-up yoga helps in flexibility and mobility of the hips, which further assists in powerful movements while advanced asanas.

Hip circles

hip circles
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  • Come into a standing tadasana position and keep your feet with a minimum of 2 to 3 feet distance between them.
  • Now, place your hand on your hips and inhale to rotate it in a clockwise direction. Then come to the center position along with an exhale.
  • After that, inhale and rotate your hips in an anti-clockwise direction. Then return to the center with an exhale. Now, breathe and relax.

Child’s Pose

child pose
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  • Begin by kneeling on the floor where your knees are hip-distance apart and toes of the feet touching each other behind the body.
  • Now, exhale to bend forward in a manner that your head lies between the knees and extends your arms on either side of your torso.
  • Remain there for few seconds and then come back along with an inhale and then relax.

Poses to warm up before yoga

Apart from the normal exercises mentioned above, poses are great warm-up exercises on their own. A few basic poses can help you open your body before a yoga session begins.

Standing yoga warm-up poses

Standing yoga poses are best to warm up the upper body. try these poses below:

1. Palm tree pose

palm tree pose
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Begin standing tall on your mat and stretch the arms overhead interlocking the hands, palm facing up. You can further look upwards if there is no pain or discomfort adding the neck stretch.

This basic stretching pose activates the arms, shoulders, neck, and upper back muscles and leaves energetic effects to prepare the upper body for advanced poses.

2. Swaying palm tree pose

swaying palm tree pose
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From stretching the arms and back in the palm tree pose, bend sideways at the waist to feel the stretch on the abdominal region and side body.

It also stretches the chest and psoas muscles and acts as a gentle but active warm-up pose.

3. Standing wind release pose

Releasing the arms by the sides, lift your left leg bending the left knee. Interlocking the fingers wrap your hands around the shins to pull the knee closer to the chest and press the thighs into the abdomen.

Practicing ‘standing wind release pose’ comes in handy to prepare the lower body as well along with the neck, shoulders, arms, core, and upper back.

4. Standing quad stretch pose

After performing wind releasing pose on both the legs, come back to the normal standing position. Lift one foot, take it back towards the hip and extend the arm to grab the ankle for support. Slowly move your foot further back to stretch the quadriceps. You can use wall support or rope support to balance here.

This is also a gentle for warming up the quadriceps along with ankle, toes, and feet. Repeat it on both the legs giving 15-60 seconds on each leg.

5. Half forward bend

half forward bend
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Lowering the legs again carry on with the standing warm-up poses by placing the hands on the back and pushing the hips back to lean forward at the hips.

Maintaining the back integrity, extend the spine forward until the torso becomes parallel to the floor. Holding this pose for a good 30 seconds provides deep stretches and activates the hamstrings and low back for further advanced poses.

Seated yoga warm-up pose

Add some variation to your warm-up sequence by assuming some basic seated stretching poses. Come in one end of your mat, ground yourself by sitting on the floor extending the legs in front, and keeping the spine straight.

1. Fire Log Pose

fire log pose (agnistambhasana)
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Begin to assume this pose by bending one of your outstretched legs while sitting to place the corresponding foot over the other knee. Keeping the other leg straight on the floor extend the arms by the side and press the palm on the floor to ground the knee.

You can add rotations to your folded leg’s ankle. Practicing this pose on both the legs warms up the knee, ankles, and also opens up the hamstrings and hips to practice any advanced yoga practice.

2. Cradle Pose Straight Leg

After finishing warming up both the legs with Firelog Pose, lift the folded leg wrapping your arms around it hooking the foot and knee in the elbows’ crook.

Press lifted thigh and shin towards the chest keeping the alternate leg straight on the floor. Exhale deeply feeling the stretch in the hamstrings and gluteus maximus.

3. Eagle arm pose

eagle arm pose
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Well, you have almost given your back a good stretch while standing but the center portion of the back might yet not have got all. For this, after cradling your legs fold them into an easy pose and bring your arms forward at the shoulder level bending the elbows.

Now, cross the right elbow over the left elbow’s crook, and tangling the forearms try to join the palms or back of the hands in front of you. It will warm up the shoulder blades as well as the back.

Supine yoga warm-up poses

Now it’s time to give some rest to be gentle on the back, so try a few more gentle stretches lying on your back to proceed further on the warm-up sequence.

1. Pelvic tilt

It is a gentle movement that can relieve any stiffness in the lower back and prepares it for poses that might be challenging otherwise.

While lying down in a supine position, bend your knees and extend the arms by the sides of the body with palms facing down. Pressing your back against the floor, subtly, push your pelvis towards your face and then release back.

2. Eye of the needle pose

eye of the needle pose
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Continuing from a supine position with bent knees, lift your right leg to place the right foot over the right thigh. Stay here for a few breaths and then lift your left foot drawing the left knee towards you grabbing the left thigh with your hands.

It is an excellent hip-opener and provides flexibility in and around the lower back and hamstrings.

3. Happy baby pose

happy baby pose (ananda balasana)
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Another pose for relaxing the back while opening the chest, shoulders, hips, inner thighs, and groin is the ‘happy baby pose‘.

Stretching both the legs in the previous pose, bring the knees to your chest keeping the hips on the floor, and let your soles facing the ceiling. Extending your arms grab the outside of the feet or big toes.

Staying here breathe deeply, you can also roll side-to-side on your back. After a few moments, your can try to lift your back by exhaling and dragging your legs to the floor with a swift move.

4. Cat-cow stretch

Cat-cow-pose
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Any warm-up sequence is incomplete with this basic stretch to warm up the entire spine, shoulders, chest, and abdomen.

Come to your all fours to bring the back to a tabletop position. Inhale pressing your palms on the floor and drawing your shoulders away from shoulders, sink the belly to the floor and look up to open the chest forward.

While exhaling curve your spine and bring your chin to your chest looking into the navel. This completes one round of cat-cow stretch.

Prone Yoga Warm-up Poses

You can end your warm-up sequence with these stretches lying into the prone position. These stretches along with warming up the core, hips, and back prepare the mind as well for further poses.

1. Child’s pose

child pose or balasana
Image Source: Shutterstock

From all fours, drop your buttocks onto your heels and stretching the arms forward bring your head to the floor between the arms. Feel the calm in this stretch focusing on the breath.

Child’s pose warm up activates the shoulders, lower back, hips, and knees while stretching the core, biceps, and triceps’ muscles.

2. Cobra pose

cobra pose bikram yoga
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Get up from child’s pose by lifting the hips and taking the pelvis forward along with stretching legs backward. As the shoulders come over the wrists, inhale to look up opening the chest and stretching the core muscles.

Experience the deep stretch on the lower back shoulders, and neck holding cobra pose.

3. One-legged bow pose

After getting energized in the cobra pose, lie down on your belly. From there, bend one of your knees to bring your foot to your hips, and extending the corresponding arm back grab the ankles for better support.

Feeling the stretch on both thighs, knee, and feet with this pose, take a few breaths and then come up to all fours once again.

4. Down-dog Pose

downward dog pose for back pain
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This is the last stretch to finish your warm-up series and begin the ultimate yoga session you are aiming for.

From the basic tabletop position, curl your toes in and pressing the palms on the floor lift your hips to the ceiling straightening the legs and arms bringing the heels to the floor.

Simultaneously, lower your head between the arms assuming an inverted V-pose. Pedal your heels up and down or just feel the stretch for a while. Then, walking the feet towards the hands you can lift your fully charged and warmed up for further yogic practices.

Conclusion

Apart from the activation of the gross body which participates in yoga practices, there a is micro-body residing at a subtler level in all of us called ‘Prana Body’. Slow movements synchronized with the breath in warm-up activates the prana body and slowly prepares body for yoga or exercise.

Yoga Warm up FAQs

Q1. How long you should warm up before yoga?

In normal yoga sessions where poses’ intensity is comparably low, 6 to 7 minutes of warm up is enough. However, before dynamic yoga practices like vinyasa or sun salutation, you should warm up for 15 minutes at least.

Q2. Like warm-up, does stretches should be done to cool down the body after yoga?

Yes, gentle stretches after yoga helps your muscles to recover and ensures that no hidden strain remain in it.

 

References

  1. Regulation of Increased Blood Flow (Hyperemia) to Muscles During Exercise: A Hierarchy of Competing Physiological Needs https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4551211/
  2. Effect of Attitude toward Warm-Ups on Motor Performance https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10671188.1965.10614659
  3. The effect of warm-ups with stretching on the isokinetic moments of collegiate men https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5833972/
  4. A Systematic Review into the Efficacy of Static Stretching as Part of a Warm-Up for the Prevention of Exercise-Related Injury https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15438620802310784

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