Are warm up poses for yoga needed at all? The quick answer is generally yes. It all depends on your body, but I teach my students to do warm up exercises before jumping into their yoga practice.

Before jumping straight in to your yoga routine, it’s important to start with a warm up to prevent injury. Warm ups can help you prepare for the workout ahead as well,  warm up your joints & muscles so you can ease into yoga. Read on for more info on why warm ups are important, how to do them, and five warm up poses to take your yoga to the next level.

Don’t ditch the warm ups

Young and elderly woman warming up

Warming up is very important before you start any exercise, especially yoga. Warming up is stretching and light or slow exercise to prepare your muscles, mind, and body for the exercise to follow. It is called “warming up,” because you are “warming up” your temperature, and gradually increasing your heart rate, as well as easing in to exercising.

Warm ups help with so many things and they are vital to do before you exercise. Warm ups can help you:

  • Mentally prepare. Getting in the right frame of mind can help you control your breathing better, focus your energy, and give it your all. A warm up is a good way to get in the zone.
  • Physically prepare. Exercise can be a lot of work and it is not super easy on stiff joints and muscles. Lightly warming-up before a workout can help your muscles and joints become more flexible, increase elasticity, and prepare for the rigorous exercise ahead.
  • Prevent injury. Warm ups help get your blood flowing and loosen your joints, and help reduce the risk of rips or tears or any other harmful injury that may occur during exercise. Warm ups also help you not have as much muscle soreness after the workout.

Warm-ups are very important before any type of exercise.

How long should you warm up

Elderly couple warming up

Warm ups can be done in the morning as a way to wake your body up and start of the day off right, or for a few minutes right before you exercise.

A pretty general guideline is to warm up for 5-15 minutes before your workout, but the exact time will depend on a couple factors. First, how active have you been throughout the day, and second, how intense is your workout going to be?

The first factor- how active you have been before you started exercising, is important because if you have been pretty active before you started the warm up then your body might be more ready for the workout, and you may not need as long of a warm up. But if you have been sedentary before you start exercising your muscles and body might need a little bit longer to loosen up and prepare.

The second factor comes in to play depending on your level of intensity in the actual workout after the warm up. If you are doing something really intense, like a HIIT workout or Vinyasa or power yoga, you may need to warm up for longer than usual to help your body and mind fully prepare, whereas if you aren’t doing as intense of a workout, you may not need a long warm up session.

5 warm up poses

Here are 5 great warm up poses to kick start your yoga session. (They can also work as a warm up before another type of exercise as well.) These five are general warm up poses, but if you are doing yoga to target a specific area in your body you can find many warm up poses to help with that as well.

1. Sun Salutation

Sun Salutation

Sun Salutation, or “Surya Namaskar,” is a yoga sequence or series of poses, that is very good for your entire body and a perfect start to your day or your yoga routine. Sun salutations help you gain strength, open up the chest, shoulders, and hamstrings, and will help you release tension, and increase flexibility, and tone.

2. Cat/Cow Stretch

The cat/cow pose, or “Bitilasana Marjaryasana,” is a good warm up pose because it focuses the mind, improves coordination, and helps blood circulation.

3. Eye of the Needle Pose

The eye of the needle pose (also known as “Sucirandhrasana,”)  is a lying down pose that helps open up the hips and relieves stress and stiffness in the lower back. It is a great warm up pose because it gently stretches and opens up the lower body, relieves back pain, and helps prepare your body for harder poses to come.

4. Triangle Pose

Jen of Let's Practice Yoga doing the triangle pose

Triangle pose, also known as Utthita Trikonasanais great to open up your chest and shoulders, and strengthen and stretches the legs, hamstrings, groin and hips. It also helps develop balance and stability.

5. Child’s Pose

Child’s pose, or Bālāsana, is really great for a cool down pose, but can also work well for a warm up. It gently stretches the ankles, hips, and thighs, and promotes blood circulation. It also helps you relax, destress, and prepare for harder poses ahead.

Getting the most out of your warm ups

Remember, a warm up is supposed to be a slow and gradual warm up. Similar to how you wouldn’t want to immediately start driving  your car in freezing temperatures with out giving it some time to warm up, you want to give your body time to prepare and ease in to exercise.

Some things you can do to get the most out of your warm up are to

  • Slowly raise your heart rate. (Get your blood pumping but at a gradual pace.)
  • Turning up the temperature in the room can help warm you up easier
  • Focus on dynamic warm ups- get moving.
  • Focus on your breathing.

A word on cool-downs

Elderly people doing cool down

Just like warming up is important to prepare your mind and body for exercise, cooling down is also very important as well.

Cooling down helps you regulate your heart rate and blood flow, preventing injury, and helps your body relax and get rid of stress. Immediately stopping an exercise without cooling down and letting your heart rate slowly go back to normal may cause dizziness, you to be lightheaded, and muscle cramps.

As essential as warm ups are to a exercise session, cool downs are an important aspect as well.

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