Imagine holding a ball of clay. It’s damp to the touch, cool, heavy for its size. Press your fingers into the surface. They leave a slight indentation. Press again and again. The outer layer begins to soften from the warmth of your palms. The surface glides with the motion of your fingers. Your hands grow tired but you keep working. The middle layer softens but the inner core remains solid. You dig in to reach the center, pulling the ball into new shapes. The clay is pliable, ready to be molded.
It’s the same with warming up our bodies in yoga, where we start with gentle poses before diving into more dynamic ones. With class sequencing the basic rule is to warm up for five minutes in an hour-long class. A personal practice allows for much more flexibility and the freedom to decide how long you want to warm up on any given day. Which is, in my humble opinion, absolutely essential.
A proper warm up is a very personal process.
Most adults have developed some level of compression in their bodies, either from an active or an inactive lifestyle, or simply from the continuous gravitational pull of the planet. Yoga helps to realign our bodies into a state of balanced, expanded strength.
Think about your normal routine: which “postures” do you spend most of your time in? Sitting, standing, sleeping, and any number of repetitive movements all create imprints on your body-memory. Stress patterns (physical and emotional) are another factor, as well the effects of diet and lifestyle. Sam the carpenter would do well to warm up in a way that is very different than Susie the weekend-warrior-waterskiier. While Sam might need to warm up for forty five minutes, Susie’s ready to dive in at the ten minute mark. No matter what our level of experience may be we all have our own unique learning curve.
One other thing about the importance of warming up – consistency is KEY. Even five minutes a day is going to make a huge difference. What doesn’t amount to much is dabbling here and there. It’s like the clay ball analogy; if you stop working the ball loses its malleability. Starting over is okay, but when you decide to gain some traction you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make.
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