While yoga is a fantastic exercise regimen on it’s own, it can also be a great way to warm-up for any type of workout. Yoga is gentle on the body and the perfect way to loosen up and prep for whatever your plans. Perhaps you are making your way to your favorite studio class and want to make sure you are fully warmed-up and ready to go before dropping in. Maybe a swim, hike, or run is on the agenda. Even if you are just setting the mood for a busy day ahead, yoga is an excellent way to warm-up your body and mind.
Doing these simple yoga sequences before your planned workout can make all the difference with endurance, flexibility, and injury prevention. These simple routines will get your blood moving and warm up your muscles so you are ready to take on the next challenge. Yoga also focuses your intentions and can calm any present mental tensions. This gives you clarity during your session to focus on your health and exercise goals. Start with the whole body warm-up and add in the any of the focused poses if you need extra help in a certain area.
The Whole Body Sequence
Use this whole body sequence to open, stretch, and release the whole body prior to starting your workout. This practice engages muscles and joints from head to toe and prepares the mind for a quality exercise session. Start with this sequence, then add on areas where you may need more attention.
Mountain PoseBegin in mountain pose. Stand tall with your feet together, shoulders back, neck straight, and chin tucked slightly. Hang your arms by your side, shoulders down, with palms facing in front of you. Engage your thigh muscles, lift your knee caps, and image a straight line connecting your pelvis to the top of your head. Take a few full breaths here.
From mountain pose, breath in and lift your arms above your head. Point your fingertips to the sky.
Take a deep breath in. On the exhale, swoop your arms to your sides, bend slowly downward, and come into forward ford position. Touch your toes, shins, or knees, depending on what is comfortable for your body. Take a few breaths here in forward fold.
1. Gently seat yourself on the ground. Choose either a comfortable position with your legs crossed, or bend your legs under and sit on your feet for hero pose.
2. Hero pose may be difficult for those with knee problems, but is a great way to stretch the muscles of the legs and the ankle joints. With your thighs perpendicular to the floor and inner knees touching, slide your feet out to the sides of your hips and keep them flat against the floor.
3. On an exhale, sit back but lean your torso slightly forward.
1. Front-Back: While seated, we will activate and stretch the neck muscles. First, slowly bring your chin to your chest, feel the stretch in your neck. Then slowly back up to a neutral position and then back to look up at the sky. Repeat 5-8 times.
2. Side-side: Next, with your neck in a neutral position, turn your head to look to your left, stop, and take a breath in. Then exhale and turn your neck slowly to the right side. Repeat 5-8 times.
3. Left-Right: Return your neck to the center, and stretch your right ear to your right shoulder. Take a breath in, then return to center and repeat on the left side. Repeat 5-8 times.
4. Rolling: Bring your chin to your chest, then in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion, roll your neck gently and slowly in circles. Take your time to feel where you have constraint or tension. Repeat 5-8 times, then reverse your direction for 5-8 rounds.
From hero pose or seated, stretch the arms out in front of you, reach for the ground, and bend into child’s pose. Open your shoulder joints and extend your fingers. Feel the stretch in the lower back, breath into this space. Take 3-5 slow breaths here.
1. Rise up to rest on your knees, hip width apart, and place palms firmly on the ground, underneath your shoulders to come to a tabletop position.
2. Exhale slowly and fully, and roll your back to the sky, tuck your chin to your chest to come to cat.
3. Inhale slowly and arch your back, bringing your navel to the ground, lift the head high to look at the sky.
4. Repeat cat and cow 5-8 times.
Return to a seated position and bring your feet into center and touch the soles together. Clasp your hands around your feet, raise the knees up, then lower to the ground. Repeat this motion, up and down like a butterfly’s wings, for 5 breath cycles.
Seated Forward Bend
Still seated, stretch your leg out in front of you. Take a deep breath in and raise the hands overhead, then on the exhale, lower the torso and arms to collapse over your legs. If you can, grasp the foot or toe, or rest your hands on the legs. Breathe deep, full breaths here, and with each inhale, lift the torso up and with each exhale, stretch the body and arms further towards the feet.
Neck And Shoulder Sequence
The neck and shoulders are easily injured and can often be a source of pain or weakness. Stress and lifestyle also affect the neck and shoulders, as many people spend hours a day driving, typing, or using their cell phones. These actions can put tension in the shoulder girdle and cause neck stiffness. To increase your flexibility and prevent tightness and soreness post-workout, add in this neck and shoulder sequence, in addition to the whole body routine.
Begin seated in lotus pose or standing in mountain pose. Either individually or together, lift and roll the shoulders back, in a circular fashion, fully opening the shoulder joint. You may hear or feel cracks and crunches, these are the tension points in the fascia of the girdle. As you continue to work on this area, you will notice less of this. Repeat 10-15 times, then roll the opposite way.
Thread the Needle Pose
1. Start on all fours, in a tabletop position with your arms underneath your shoulders.
2. Lift the right arm and slid it under your left arm, as though you were threading a needle.
3. Turn your head to the left and rest it, your right arm and shoulder on the ground. Stay here for a few breath cycles, then draw the arm back up to tabletop position.
4. Repeat with the left side.
Half Spinal Twist Pose
1. This is an excellent pose for many parts of the body. It opens the spine, hips, and stimulates your internal organs. But for our purposes, it is a great stretch for the neck and shoulders.
2. Start in a seated position on the floor, with your legs straight in front of you. Bend your knees and rest the feet on the floor. Slide your left leg under the bent right knee.
3. Let the left leg rest on the floor beneath the right leg and twist your torso to the right.
4. Place your left elbow on the outside of the right knee, and your right arm down to your side by your right hip. Breathe in, lift your chest and head up, then deepen your stretch with each exhale. Repeat for 5-8 breath cycles.
5. Repeat this pose on the opposite side, placing your left foot on the outside of the right knee, the right elbow to the left knee, and the left hand to the left hip.
Hip And Glute Sequence
So many of our movements start in the hips and glutes, and having a strong base here will prevent injuries in the low back, knees, and ankles down the road. That being said, because we rely on our hip girdle for so much of our movement, it can get injured easily. Prolonged sitting will stretch out and weaken the glutes, and will put strain on the hip joint and sciatic nerves. Use this sequence to strengthen the glutes and further open the hip girdle for full movement during your workout.
Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
1. While seated, spread your legs out to each side creating a V-shape. Breathe in and lift your arms overhead.
2. On the exhale, slowly bend your chest down to the ground, stretching your arms ahead of you. Place your palms face-down and reach forward with every out-breath.
3. Rest here for 5-8 breath cycles. You may raise up and bend to each leg with a few breaths on each side for extra stretch.
Half Spinal Twist Pose
1. Just as this pose was useful in opening the neck and shoulders, it is incredibly useful for the hips and glutes as well.
2. Sit with your back straight and your legs straight out in front of you. Bend the right leg and place your foot on the outside of the left knee.
3. Twist your torso and place your left elbow on the outside of the right knee, and your right arm down to your side by your right hip. Breathe in, lift your chest and head up, then deepen your stretch with each exhale. Repeat for 5-8 breath cycles.
4. Repeat this pose on the opposite side, placing your left foot on the outside of the right knee, the right elbow to the left knee, and the left hand to the left hip.
1. Lay face-down on your mat, legs straight out behind you, hip-width apart with the tops of your feet pressing into the floor.
2. With arms at your sides, bring your elbows up to rest below your shoulders and forearms extend outward in front of you.
3. Take a breath in and lift your head and chest off the floor , engaging your mid and low back, glutes, and thighs.
4. Hold this position for up to 10 breath cycles. To complete, exhale and slowly lower your chest and head back to the mat.
Knee Sequenceneck Rotations
The knee joint is incredibly important for our mobility and flexibility. The valuable hinge is easily tweaked or injured when not warmed up properly and can lead to very long recovery times. Taking the time to warm up and strengthen the knee is a game changer and will keep you active late into life.
1. While mountain pose is a seemingly simplistic pose, it can be used to directly strengthen the knees.
2. Stand tall with the base of your big toes together and heels apart.
3. Gently rock on the balls of your feet to find a firm position where you are distributing weight evenly across the feet.
4. Engage your thigh muscles and lift the knee caps.
5. Hang your arms by your side, palms facing to the front, and draw the shoulder blades in slightly to open the chest.
Standing Forward Bend
1. From mountain pose, breathe in and lift your arms up along your sides, overhead, fingers pointing up towards the sky.
2. Stay here for one breath cycle, then on an exhale, slowly bend forward to bring your chin to your chest and arms down to touch your feet or shins.
3. Engage your thighs and lift the knee caps to maintain stability throughout the bend.
4. Rest here for three breaths, then slowly inhale and lift back up, one vertebrae at a time. Repeat 3-5 times.
1. Starting from mountain pose, breathe in and lift your arms up along your sides to above your head and point your fingers to the sky.
2. On an exhale, bend the knees and lower your torso so that your thighs are parallel with the ground. The thighs should be parallel to each other as well.
3. Direct the tailbone down to the floor, keep the arms raised and the shoulders lowered and the shoulder blades back.
4. Rest here for 30 seconds to a minute, or as long as is comfortable.
Foot & Ankle Sequence
Both strength and flexibility are important for maintaining health and preventing injuries to the ankles and feet. Strains here can effect the entire lower body and back so preventing these issues is key to a healthy exercise routine.
1. Start in a seated position, with legs extended out in front of you and the tailbone firmly on the ground.
2. Rest your arms by your side, with your palms placed firmly on the ground by your thighs, or rest them on top of the thighs.
3. Start with the right ankle. Point the toes, then extended the foot back towards you. Repeat 10 times.
4. Make clockwise rotations with the ankle joint. Start will small circles, then increase the range of your rotations. Continue for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then repeat counter-clockwise.
5. Repeat with the left ankle.
1. Hero pose can be a great way to gently stretch the foot and ankle.
2. Kneel on the ground and rest thighs perpendicular to the floor.
3. Connect the inner knees, but slide the feet out to the sides of the hips.
4. Rest the feet flat on the ground, stretching the ankle and foot.
5. Sit back and draw the torso forward.
1. While this pose will stretch the muscles of the entire leg, it can give a great stretch to the foot and ankle.
2. Start in a low lunge position, with the right leg forward, foot extended with toes pointing towards the ceiling and the left knee bent.
3. Curl the left toes under the foot and stretch the sole of the foot while deepening the stretch of the right leg.
4. Rest here for 30 seconds.
5. Repeat with the opposite side.
From head to toe, these yoga sequences are meant to help you open, stretch, release, strengthen, and prepare for any workout or deeper yoga practice. Use these sequences to best suit your specific needs, whether that’s delving into a full-body comprehensive warm-up or targeting your trouble areas. The best medicine is prevention – so take your time and warm-up right with a few minutes of yoga.