4 Yoga Warm Up Postures for Mind-Body Workouts - dummies

4 Yoga Warm Up Postures for Mind-Body Workouts

By Therese Iknoian

Warm-up postures in Yoga are about gently telling your body that you’re going to be moving more in your mind-body workout. You can do some warm-up postures during a session, too, but in a mind-body session, you probably want to do them with a bit more intensity or push the stretch a bit farther.

Take these as gently as you need to as you begin to move. You’re warming up your sides, waist, hips, upper back, arms, and shoulders, as well as your neck. Use the warm-up to help you begin to focus and breathe mindfully.

Warm up Posture #1: Side Stretch

The Side Stretch, appropriately enough, works your sides. Try Side Stretch during your warm-up or stretching sections.

  1. Stand tall with your feet about hip-width apart and your arms hanging comfortably at your sides.

  2. Lift your right arm out to your side and straight up, turning the palm up as it goes higher than your shoulder and reaches overhead.

  3. Let your left arm hang palm-down against your thigh.

    If you feel any neck, spine, or low back tension, you can widen your stance, bend your knees, and rest your left hand on your hip or thigh to take pressure off your lower back. Also, modify the stretch so you are only stretching upward and not to the side.

  4. Turn your head to look down over your left shoulder and reach your right arm up and out, rather than over and down.

  5. If you are comfortable with that, also turn your head so you are looking into your right arm.

    If you feel any neck tension, continue to face front and relax.

  6. Return to the start position and repeat on the opposite side.

What to avoid:

  • Tension in your neck

  • Hiking your shoulder up to your ears

  • Sinking in your back

Warm up Posture #2: Cat and Cow

You may also hear this called a Cat and Dog stretch. Choose whichever name suits your animal fancy! This yoga pose helps massage and warm up your back muscles, as well as wake up your abdominals. Try Cat and Cow during your warm-up phase.

This is a particularly nice yoga posture for pregnant women because it can help relieve low back pain. Just don’t force your lower back to move beyond your comfort zone and do consult with your physician to be sure it is suitable for you.

  1. In an all-fours position, place your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Even though you are kneeling, think “tall” by lengthening your spine and keeping your neck strong and not drooping down.

  2. Inhale, then exhale and round your back up like a mad Halloween cat. Allow your head to drop and your tailbone to pull underneath you. Pull your abdominal muscles in.

  3. Inhale and arch your back like an old gray mare, lengthening your neck so you look slightly upward.

    If this hurts your neck, keep your head neutral — facing the floor.

  4. Repeat this in a flowing pattern several times, allowing the breath to continue its pattern.

What to avoid:

  • Letting your abdominals just hang there

  • Over-extending your back when you arch it

  • Compressing your neck when you look up

Warm up Posture #3: Knee to Chest

You warm up your hips and hip flexors, gluteals, and hamstrings with this yoga warm-up. Try Knee to Chest during your warm-up or posture-pacing sections.

  1. Lie on your back, keeping good alignment and focus.

  2. Bend both knees so that your feet are on the floor.

  3. Lift your right knee to your chest, grasping either your shin or behind your knee.

    If you are lying comfortably with your hips firmly on the floor, you can begin to straighten your left leg away from you. If your neck, back, or hips start to peel off the floor, stop and return to the position that keeps you aligned. If you’re flexible, you may be able to extend the leg completely.

  4. Hold this position and breathe comfortably for a minute, then return the right leg to the floor and repeat on the opposite side.

What to avoid:

  • Lifting your hips off the floor

  • Dropping your head back

  • Holding your breath

Warm up Posture #4: Lying Hamstring Stretch

You can do this yoga stretch as a continuation of the preceding Knee to Chest posture. You get a good stretch of your hamstrings in the back of your lifted leg, and of your hip flexors in the front of your support leg. Try Lying Hamstring Stretch during your warm-up or stretching sections.

  1. Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet on the floor. Your arms remain at your sides for now.

  2. Raise your right knee to your chest, grasp the back of your thigh with both hands, and lift your foot toward the ceiling, holding your foot in whatever position is comfortable.

    You should be able to straighten the leg that you’re lifting overhead. If not, lower it slightly. If this is comfortable, you can slide your hands to where you can hold your shin, ankle, or even foot. You can also try flexing your foot, so the sole is facing toward the ceiling, for a deeper stretch.

    If you are much more flexible, you can also try this posture with an extended bottom leg. But only if your hips don’t curl up off the floor. You must be able to keep your spine long and your buttocks down.

  3. Hold this position and breathe comfortably for a minute, focusing on the muscles that are working, then lower the leg and repeat on the other side after a short rest with both knees to chest.

What to avoid:

  • Lifting your buttocks up off the floor

  • Bending your leg that’s up

  • Reaching forward with your shoulders