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How to Warm Up and Cool Down in Mind-Body Workouts

You’ve probably heard about warming up before you start an activity. Do 3 to 5 minutes of low-intensity activity that engages the muscles you will be using and allows the tissue to soften and your body core temperature to rise slightly so that you can challenge your muscles and body more fully. The cooldown is just the opposite, going from higher intensity to lower level activity.

In traditional exercise, that usually means moving through space in some way using large muscle groups — like cycling before you lift weights, or walking before you start your run.

Mind-body exercises are all a little different in their warm-ups. You usually have little or no large-muscle movements through space because with many mind-body exercises you focus inwardly and are meditative, which leads to softer movement. So big, high-level movements just don’t quite fit a smooth Yoga session.

Some aerobic mind-body methods encourage light activity that moves through space. But this movement resembles soft, low-impact moves rather than large intense ones. Mind-body warm-ups usually start with less demanding movements. Warm-up movements get your body’s fluids and oxygen moving to the right places to prepare your body for the main exercises.

Your blood moves into the muscles and makes them softer and more pliable, which helps decrease the chance of injury, and your synovial fluid (a lubricating fluid in your joints) increases so your joints can move without grinding or otherwise harming the bone.

If a movement, such as a full-stretch posture in Yoga, calls for a cold start, avoid pushing that stretch to your limit. Keep your movements moderate until you start to feel a little warm, then you can start pushing yourself more — if that feels right.

The same applies for the cool-down. You don’t actually get cooler. But you do move more slowly, press less hard, and let your mind settle down. You need to walk away from a mind-body workout feeling peaceful; not in pain or stressed out.

A warm-up is just as much for your mind as it is for your body. So make sure you have enough time to tune out the day and bring your mind into the moment so you can fully enjoy what you’re about to do.

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