Yoga Warm-Up Sequence for Beginners (For Your Entire Body)
When you’re new to any type of physical exercise, it is important to warm your body up to prevent any injuries. The same is true for yoga asanas (poses). A simple warm up will allow your body to open up and prepare it for your yoga practice. This is especially important when you’re a beginner learning the foundations of the practice, as it can ensure that your practice is a safe one.
This simple yoga warmup is a great way to start your practice, and is a particularly good starting point before starting any type of other yoga stretches. It is broken down by body part and ensures that all of the main injury points are warmed-up before you begin any yoga sequence.
YOGA WARMUP SEQUENCE FOR BEGINNERS PART 1
This warm-up sequence was designed with the beginner in mind and is a great start to any yoga asana practice.
First, start by sitting comfortably on the floor with your shoulders down and relaxed. If you are having trouble sitting comfortably on the floor, sit on a folded blanket.
Start by slowly breathing in and out, making sure that your head is in a neutral position. Then inhale and exhale and turn your head to the right. Inhale and bring your head back to the centre, exhale and turn it to the left. Inhale and bring it back to the centre again. Do this three times.
From the same sitting position, inhale and exhale and bring your head up so that you are looking at the ceiling. Inhale and bring it down so your chin is at your chest. Repeat this two more times.
Now inhale and exhale and tilt your head to the left. Inhale and bring it back to the centre, exhale and tilt it to the right. Do this three times.
Inhale and make sure your head/neck is neutral in the centre and then exhale and bring your chin down. Inhale and move your head up and around in a circular motion two times. Then reverse the direction for another two times. Do not do this if you have cervical spine or neck injuries.
From the same comfortable sitting position, inhale and bring your shoulders up and exhale and bring them down. Do this warmup three times.
Next is a shoulder rotation to open up the chest and shoulders. Put your fingers on your shoulders, keeping your elbows down. Then inhale and lift your elbows forward and up, exhale and rotate them back and down. Repeat two times, for a total of three times. Then reverse and do it the opposite way, bringing your elbows from behind around and up on the inhale, and forward and down on the exhale. Also do this three times.
Now raise your left hand and bend your elbow so that your hand is behind your back. Hold your left elbow with your right hand and push on it so that you feel a stretch in your left tricep. Then pull your elbow to the right to get a further stretch in the tricep and down the side of your left upper arm. Repeat on the right arm.
From the same comfortable sitting position, interlock your fingers. Inhale and extend them in front of you and up, with your palms facing out. On the exhale bring them down in front of you. Do this three times. This should be avoided if you have high blood pressure.
Bring your hands in front of you and walk them forward as far as you can go to stretch your spine. Use your hands to stretch your lower back, then walk your hands and spine back up to sitting.
Now place your hands on either side of your left knee. Walk your hands forward to stretch out the right side of your back. Walk your hands back up to sitting and do the same on the other side, stretching out the left side of your back.
Next is a simple twist of the spine to stretch it and warm it up. Place your right hand on your left knee and your left hand behind you. Make sure that your back is straight. Inhale and open up your chest, exhale and twist to the left as far as you can. Be sure that you keep your left shoulder down away from your ear. Hold here for two breaths. Then repeat on the right side.
You will now do a lateral stretch for your sides. You are still sitting comfortably as before. Bring your left elbow and forearm on to the floor beside you. If your right sit bone is coming up then put a block or a folded blanket under your arm. Inhale and bring your right arm up, exhale and bring it over to the left side. Don’t drop your head. Keep it in line with your neck and spine. If you can, press your right knee down. Repeat on the other side.
Stand up straight in tadasana or samasthiti (mountain pose). Then bring your feet around three feet apart. Inhale and bring your arms straight out to your sides, parallel to the floor. Exhale and go down, folding to the left side and bringing your left hand down – similar to trikonasana. Your right hand is up towards the ceiling. Inhale and come back up, exhale and fold to the right side. Do this yoga warmup three times.
Now bring your feet hip-width apart and put your hands to your hips. Move your hips around in a circular motion three times. Then go the opposite way three more times. Bring your feet further apart and do it again.
Stand straight in tadasana with your feet around two inches apart and put your hands on your hips. Press one foot up so you are on your toes, keeping the other foot down. Then alternate and do it with the other foot. Do each side ten times. Make sure that your heels don’t touch the floor.
Now do the same thing again but at a faster speed. This will warmup the ankles as well as help you work on your balance. Again, do this ten times on each foot. Finally, bring both up together so you are standing on your toes, then bring them both down. Do this ten times, but on the last one hold it for two or three breaths.
YOGA WARMUP SEQUENCE FOR BEGINNERS PART 2
This yoga warmup is more about warming up the energy channels within your body, which is an important aspect of yoga. It also concentrates more on the breathe, and on warming up from the base of your body (soles of your feet) to the top of your head.
Sit comfortably with your back straight and your eyes gently closed. Bring your arms straight up on the inhale, and down beside you on the exhale. At the same time, you will be breathing through your chest (thoracic breathing). You can read more about how to do thoracic breathing here. Do this 15 times, then relax. Repeat 15 more times and rest. Then do it again for 15 breaths.
Now calm your breath to connect it with your body. Stay in the seated position with your eyes closed and turn your palms up. Take a long inhale and raise your hands up, exhale and bring them down to your knees with your palms turned down. Breathe for 15 breaths and then repeat two more times. Make sure you are taking slow, soft breaths.
2. Strengthening the Base
The base is the bottom and the arches of your feet. Start in tadasana, with your feet hip-width apart and your hands to your hips. Inhale and lift your heels up off of the floor, exhale and bring your heels down and your toes up. Do this for 15 breaths, rest and repeat two times.
3. Strengthening the Legs
Stay standing and put a block between your inner thighs. Roll your thighs in and squeeze the block to strengthen your inner thighs. Now pull your thighs up to work your quads. Bring your hands to your hips and bend your knees. Stretch your arms up and hold here in utkatasana (chair pose) for 30 seconds. Make sure that your shoulders are down away from your ears. Do this three times.
4. Strengthening the Core
Now lie on your back with your arms at your sides. Make sure that the natural curve in your spin is down to protect your lower back and engage your abdominal muscles. The easiest way to do this is to do the same movement as you would if you were trying to zip up a tight pair of jeans.
Inhale and bring your arms above your head. Exhale and bring your arms, head, shoulders and legs up. Inhale and go down, exhale and come back up. Do this 10 to 15 times. Rest and repeat two more times. If you have a bad neck, keep your head and shoulders down, and only move your arms and legs.
Bring your knees to your side and slowly push yourself up.
5. Strengthening the Lower Back
Lie on your stomach with your feet together, arms at your sides and your forehead down. Inhale and lift your head, arms and legs up like in salabhasana. Then exhale and bring everything down. Do this 10 times, rest and do two repetitions. If you find this difficult, it’s easier to bring your arms up above your head.
Now go to a table top position (on your hands and knees). Make sure that your wrists are directly underneath your shoulders and that your fingers are spread with your middle fingers facing forward. Now you will do bitilasana (cow pose) and marjaryasana (cat pose) to stretch and strengthen the entire back.
Inhale and bring your spine down, and your chin and chest up. Make sure your shoulders are back. Exhale and curl your spine, bringing it as high as you can while lowering your head down. Do this 10 times, rest and do two more times.
6. Strengthening the Back
Sit with your legs open and your toes flexed up. Inhale and bring your arms to your sides. Exhale and bring your left arm to your right foot and bring your right hand behind you towards your left hip. Inhale and come up, exhale and do the other side. Do this 10 times on each side.
Remain sitting with your legs open and your toes flexed. Inhale and bring your arms out to your sides. On the exhale put your right hand on your left thigh and extend your left arm up and over towards your right foot. You should be stretching to the side, not to the front. Do each side 10 times.
7. Strengthening the Shoulders
Come up on to your knees. If this hurts your knees put a rolled blanket underneath them. Take a strap and wrap it around one hand, leaving around two feet unwrapped. Hold the end with the other hand, with your arms extended out in front of you. Inhale and bring your arms up, exhale and bring them back as far as you can, rolling your shoulders back. Inhale and bring them up, exhale and bring them forward again. Do this yoga warmup 15 times.
8. Strengthening the Neck
Now sit on your heels if you can. If you want, you can put a blanket between your heels and your sit bones. If you can’t sit on your heels then stay on your knees. Interlock your fingers behind your head and push them forward against it. At the same time, push your head back. Hold here for 10 to 15 seconds. Release the pressure and rest, then repeat one more time.
Now inhale and bring your left are up and over the top of your head to your right ear. Exhale and pull your neck to the left. Hold it here for 10 to 15 seconds. Now do the other side. Do this once more on each side.
Now bring your arms down. Close your eyes and relax your shoulders and arms. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Breathe like this for as long as you would like and then start your yoga practice.
Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, Yoganonymous, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga International, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali) and Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur).