3 Power Yoga Standing Warm-Ups

By Larry Payne, Georg Feuerstein, Sherri Baptiste, Doug Swenson, Stephan Bodian, LaReine Chabut, Therese Iknoian

Power Yoga standing warm-ups are every bit as invigorating and useful as the floor-based models. Those explained here help limber up your body to give you more freedom of movement and stability. And these warm-ups also help heat up your body’s “engine” to keep it running strongly and smoothly.

Spinning with the windmill

In the windmill, you swing the upper part of your body, down, around, and up, moving in a circular motion like a windmill. You can get some real mental relaxation in this exercise if you imagine that you’re a windmill turning softly in the breeze of a warm summer’s day.

The windmill helps to open the upper part of your body with gentle, flowing stretches. The spine is flexed and stimulated as you stretch the muscles of your back, stomach, and chest. This exercise brings a fresh supply of oxygenated blood to the brain, leaving you refreshed and invigorated.

Make like Don Quixote and chase windmills, using these steps:

  1. Begin in a standing position with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart.

  2. On an inhalation, raise your arms to reach up and over your head and expand your chest.

  3. As you exhale, move your outstretched arms and torso down and to the left in a circular motion.

  4. On an inhalation, lift your arms and torso up and to the right to complete the circle.

    At the end of this exercise, you end up where you started, with your arms stretched over your head.

  5. Repeat Steps 1 through 4, circling your arms and torso in the opposite direction and performing two repetitions in each direction.

    To get the most out of this exercise, make sure to time your movement with your breath.

    [Credit: Photograph by Raul Marroquin]

    Credit: Photograph by Raul Marroquin

Going into the deep lunge

The deep lunge (sirsangusthasana) creates great strength in your legs and, at the same time, opens and expands your chest. This exercise also increases the mobility of your ankles and helps release tension from your neck. You’ll notice that this posture gives you a sense of strength and self-confidence as your balance improves.

You can easily see where this pose gets its name; in Sanskrit, sirsa means “head” and angustha relates to your big toe.

Lunge into this warm-up by following these steps:

  1. Start from a standing position with your legs firmly planted slightly more than shoulder-width apart.

  2. Place your arms behind your back, interlock your fingers, and turn your left foot to the left.

  3. Lift your arms up and behind you on an inhalation, expand your chest, and then exhale as you bend your left knee down, lowering your head and torso toward the toes of your left foot.

    Try to keep your back straight, shoulders back, fingers interlaced, and arms lifted off your back. If you’re a beginner, you can rest your torso on your left thigh.

    Listen to your body. If this stretch is very painful or just too much for you, you can just lower your nose toward your knee. This modification puts less strain on your back and legs.

    [Credit: Photograph by Raul Marroquin]

    Credit: Photograph by Raul Marroquin
  4. Hold this position for 3 complete breaths, and then lift up to the center on an inhalation.

  5. Repeat Steps 1 through 4, lunging to the right.

Expanding the toe touch

This exercise expands your chest and stretches your arm and leg muscles. This simple warm-up is excellent for toning and strengthening your back, as well as warming up your body.

Reach for your toes, not the stars, following these steps:

  1. Start in the expanded mountain posture.

    Stand up straight, with your shoulders back and your feet about 4 feet apart. Turn your toes slightly inward and heels outward, grounding yourself into the earth. Then rest your arms by your sides and relax.

  2. Bend your left elbow, and place your hand on your hip; inhale as you lift your right arm up straight over your right shoulder.

  3. Exhale, and lower your right arm as you fold forward at your waist, trying to touch your left toes with your right hand.

    If you aren’t very flexible, bend your knees slightly. If you’re more flexible, keep your legs straight.

  4. Inhale, and come to a standing position as you lift your arm over your right shoulder and stretch toward the ceiling.

  5. Repeat Steps 1 through 4 five times, and then lower your arms to your sides and return to the expanded mountain pose in Step 1.

  6. Repeat Steps 1 through 5, lifting your left arm and touching your right toes.