Hands up if you’ve paddled out, jumped on your bike, nipped out for a run or picked up a dumbbell at a funny angle, and tweaked a muscle. Doh! And how many of those times had you skipped your warm-up? One of the benefits of a consistent yoga practice is that you're generally more supple and focussed but even yogis need to warm up. So here is a new yoga-inspired warm-up I just put together. It is designed to cover all the bases.
What is the point of a warm-up?
The two main objectives of a warm-up are to improve your performance—power, speed, agility and reaction time, and decrease your risk of injury. Yoga is especially well-suited to the job because of its focus on breath and mindfulness (a fancy word for paying attention).
Quick side note: save static stretching for your cool-down, as it has been shown to down-regulate the central nervous system, reducing power and athletic performance.
Objectives for your warm-up
- Bring your mind into focus.
- Engage your central nervous system.
- Pump blood and oxygen to the muscles.
- Increase heart rate, respiratory rate and core body temperature.
- Access full range of motion at each of the major joints.
- Activate sleepy muscles.
- Release tension in tight muscles.
- Tune in neuromuscular communication so that your muscles are primed to contract and relax faster.
- Bring your attention to your body and postural alignment.
- Reduce your risk of injury.
- Decrease recovery time.
Where attention goes, energy flows
I've broken this warm-up into 4 parts: focus the mind, mobilise the joints, activate the muscles and move dynamically. If you like the structure, feel free to experiment with different poses depending on how you feel and what activity you are warming up for. You should warm-up for around 10-15 minutes.
Warm-up pro tips
- Hydrate properly.
- If you have a tendency to cramp, try supplementing with a chelated form of magnesium.
- Warm up barefoot to activate the muscles in your feet that are sometimes referred to as the second core.
- Take a tip from Arnie and have your mind inside the muscle that you’re warming up.
- Pay attention to your particular tight spots.
- Don't overdo it and burn off too much steam.
- Make sure you've covered the major muscles and movements that you're going be using in your workout.
- Trust your intuition. Do you feel adequately warmed up and loose or should you do a little more? This isn't maths. There is no precise formula.
“A quiet mind is a powerful mind.” Jim Afremow
Sit comfortably with your spine straight for 4 rounds of Box Breathing. Inhale through your nose for the count of 5, hold your breath for 5, exhale out your nose for 5, and hold the breath out for 5. Focus on the sensations of the breath at your nostrils.
Carefully circle each of your joints in turn, 4-6 times in either direction—fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck (half circles), hips, knees and ankles. Breathe in and out through your nose and really tune into the movements, trying to make them as smooth as possible.
Move your spine into extension and flexion with 4-6 rounds of Cat-Cow, then bend it from side to side—looking over your right and left shoulders, 4-6 times on each side, twist your spine in Thread The Needle and draw circles with your hips, 4-6 times in each direction.
Notice if you have any sticky points in your spine—especially in the thoracic.
Lift and lower your hips 6-8 times—squeezing your glutes at the top of the pose. Inhale to lift and exhale to lower. Use your glutes to power the movement.
Reach your right arm forward and your left leg back, then bring your elbow in to touch your knee. Inhale as you reach and exhale as you curl in. Repeat 4-6 times on each side, moving with your breath and engaging your abs.
Dynamic Side Planks
Hold Side Plank for 30 seconds to a minute on each side. Bonus points if you can lift and lower your top leg 4-6 times to activate the glutes. Check that your bottom shoulder is in a safe, stable position, especially if you have a shoulder injury.
Walk The Dog
Walk out your feet in Downward Dog to warm up your calves, hamstrings and shoulders. Take long, slow breaths—in and out through your nose.
Inhale in Downward Dog. Exhale, step your left foot in between your hands, sweep your left hand up to the sky. Inhale back to Downward Dog. Exhale, step your right foot forward, sweep your right hand up to the sky. Repeat 4-6 times on each side to open up your hips and loosen up the upper body.
Let me know if you have any questions and please share your warm-up tips and tricks with the fam.