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Rachel Berryman guiding a yoga class through their warming up sequence

Making a yoga sequence? Don’t forget the warming up

If you’re designing a yoga sequence, you probably want to make it flow gracefully and beautifully. But what about the warming up? Before you get lost in the beauty, make sure you have a decent warming up in there as well.

I do a lot of classes around the world and at the yoga Teacher Training Course of Sampoorna all students have to teach a class of 50 minutes for their exam. What I’ve noticed the last few months is that a lot of teachers don’t do a warming up.

Run around the shala

Don’t worry. I’m not asking you to make your students run around the shala 25 times before class. (Although that is actually what we did at my first yoga school.)  But you do want them to warm-up. If correct this warming up is part of the sequence you have created for them and consists of a lot of dynamic movements to create heat in the muscles. What muscles precisely depends on the poses you have incorporated in your flow. If you want to work towards arm balances, like grasshopper, you probably want to warm up wrists, shoulders, core. If you work towards a deep back bend like upward bow, you want to warm up and open up hips, back muscles, iliopsoas and core.

A lot of classes ‘start’ straight away, without this essential warming up. Teacher make their students do a standing split as fourth of fifth pose. Even for flexible people this isn’t safe. Why not? Let’s take a closer look at what is actually happening in a warming up, when you slowly increase the intensity and amount of movement.

Effects of a warming up

  • The temperature increases within muscles that are used during a warming up. A warmed up muscle can contract more forcefully and relaxes more quickly. This enhances speed and strength and decreases the risk of overstretching a muscle.
  • The body temperature increases as well. This improves muscle elasticity, also reducing the risk of strains and pulls.
  • Blood vessels expend (dilate). This makes it easier for the heart to pump blood around.
  • You start to sweat. This is a sign the body is getting rid of excessive heat that is created by your muscles.
  • Blood temperature increases as it travels through the muscles. When the temperature of the blood rises it can’t bind a lot of oxygen anymore. This means a slightly greater volume of oxygen is made available to the working muscles, enhancing endurance and performance.
  • The range of motion around a joint is increased.
  • The body increases its production of various hormones that are responsible for regulating energy production. During the warming up the hormones make sure that there are more carbohydrates and there is more fat available for energy production.
  • The warming up brings your sympathetic nervous system in action: ready to react on and do everything you demand from your body.

Duration warming up·

There is a lot of research done on the ideal duration for a warming up. Too short doesn’t prepare the body for the job it has to do. Too long only makes the body tired. At this moments scientists think that between 15 and 20 minutes is the best duration for a warming up.

Sun salutations can do the trick for you. If you have an Ashtanga background you are probably use to spend about 15 minutes on your Sun Salutation A and B. If your not a fan of Sun salutations you can choose or create your own variations of it. For me that is one of the most fun things to do and one of the most essential parts of the sequences I make.

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