Top 5 Warm-up Poses

Just as with any common exercise, such as running or cycling, it is very important to warm-up the body before beginning a yoga practice.  It is especially important to warm-up the spine. Ideally, a yoga practice would begin with some gentle flexion (forward folding) and extension (back-bending) of the spine. Spinal flexion and extension should always come before lateral or side-bending movements.  With that in mind, I have listed 5 gentle poses that are great for practicing throughout the day or for warming up before a longer practice.

  1. Cow pose. Cow pose, when combined with cat pose, below, is a great way to start your warm-up.  Cow pose is an example of gentle spinal extension. Your spine arches as your belly drops towards the ground and you look forward.  The pose can be combined with a deep inhalation.
  2. Cat pose. Cat pose can be performed with cow pose.  It is an example of gentle spinal flexion. After you inhale to cow pose, you can slowly exhale and begin rounding the back towards the ceiling and dropping the head.
  3. Puppy pose.  Keeping with the animal trend, it’s puppy pose! This pose prepares the body for

    downward-facing dog by stretching the shoulders and sides of the body, as well as creating space in the spine. The hands press firmly into the ground and the navel pulls in towards the spine to activate the abdominal muscles so that you are not leaving all of your weight to fall into the back.  Make sure your hips stay just over your knees, not back towards your ankles.

  4. Downward-facing dog.  We all know this pose! Downward facing dog continues to warm-up the

    shoulders, abdomen and spine, and begins to warm-up the backs of the legs too. It can be beneficial when moving from puppy to downward-facing dog, to start with the knees bent. The hamstrings are probably tight and need to move a little before coming into the full pose. So, begin with bent knees, then start to peddle the legs or “walk the dog” to further warm-up the hamstrings. When you feel ready, you can straighten the legs and reach the heels towards the ground. However, if your hamstrings still feel tight after a bit of movement, remain in the bent-legs downward dog.

  5. Shallow lunges.  Our final warm-up pose is a shallow lunge. A shallow lunge will help to create more

    heat in the body, preparing you for the rest of your practice, and it will also begin to activate the front of the leg, particularly the hip flexors. It is important to gently stretch the hip-flexors before jumping into a rigorous practice, so do not sink very low in these lunges at first. Try to do a couple of lunges on each side. You can even transition to downward-dog between sides!