Warming up is a key part of a successful yoga practice. As with all forms of working out, warming up the muscles gradually prepares them for the hard work they are about to do. It is the best way, along with cooling down, and listening to your body, to avoid exercise-related injuries.
What is meant by warming up?
A warm-up is a session which takes place prior to doing any exercise, such as yoga. The goals is to warm up the physical temperature of the muscle through stretches and range of motion exercises to increase flexibility and ease stiffness so the muscles will be ready for the demands of more strenuous movements.
What is the best way to warm up?
Most people are familiar with warm ups using static stretching, such as bending down to touch the toes, or hamstring and calf stretches. A new trend is dynamic stretching, warming up through movement. The movements are designed to increase circulation, raise muscle and body temperature, and bring the heart rate up. Stretching, low-impact calisthenics, range of motion exercises in the arms, and leg lifts and lunges can warm up all the muscles in the body so you will be ready for the yoga poses you are about to do.
Yoga breath work and some of the easier poses can help warm up the muscles as well. For example, begin by standing tall, Mountain pose, then do a brief series of sun salutations from one to three times. There are many variations of sun salutations, but all will include standing, inverted and floor poses.
The effects of warming-up
Once you’ve warmed up, your muscles will be ready for any yoga pose, including the more demanding ones. The raised heart rate that results from warming up will increase blood flow to the muscles so they can perform at their best, and in turn support the joints, to keep them strong, healthy and stable.
How long should a warm up be?
The more intense the activity, the longer you should spend warming up. For yoga, you will usually only need a few minutes, as compared with running, for instance, when a 20 minute warm up will give the body enough time to adjust to the increased level of activity.
If you’re practicing yoga at home, don’t forget to factor in a warm up and a cool down period before and after your poses, to stay injury free.