6 of the Best Warm-Up Poses for Yoga (with Sequences!) to Increase Flexibility and Prevent Injury

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Gemma Clarke

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Warm-Up Poses for Yoga

Do you remember when you attended a yoga class and pushed yourself straight into some of the deep stretches and felt that little twitch in your hamstring? Or perhaps you got a cramp in your calf muscle or risked a tear in your shoulder muscles?

Warming up before a yoga class can prevent these common injuries and give you peace of mind when you are moving your body.

Here, we will explore common warm up yoga poses that you can do to warm up and how to incorporate them into your yoga practices.

We will also look at the benefits of a yoga warm up and at the end of this article, there is an online yoga sequence that you can follow to ensure that you warm up properly, but also enjoy the warm up along the way!

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How to warm up before your yoga practice?

It is recommended to arrive at your yoga class around 10 to 15 minutes before the class starts so that you can roll out your mat and prepare your body for a deep and stretchy practice. Arriving early not only allows you to be relaxed and calm when you step onto your mat, but it also provides an extra few minutes of time for you to move through some essential warm up exercises.

When you first get onto your mat, take a few breaths to arrive fully in the present moment and then move through a quick warm up sequence that feels good for your body. We have some suggestions for you below!

Yoga warm up poses will start generating heat in your body and increasing the blood flow to your muscles so that you can prepare your major muscle groups before the class begins. Regular yoga can be physically demanding, so your body will be very grateful when you take these few extra mindful moments to move through some gentle stretches.

Now let’s look at the range of benefits of warming up before your next yoga practice:

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Benefits of warming up before your yoga practices

If you warm up before a yoga session, you will not only increase the flexibility of your physical body during the yoga practice, but you will also be preventing simple injuries. Here are some of the great benefits of having a yoga warm up routine:

  • Increased blood circulation increases the body temperature to prepare the muscles for movement.
  • Increased range of motion and flexibility in the muscles and joints.
  • Reduced risk of injury during your yoga practices.
  • Opens up the body to reach deeper poses.
  • Gives you a few minutes to take a few deep breaths and to melt away stress and tension that has built up over your day.
  • Prepares your mind and encourages mental strength for the practice and focus ahead of you.
  • Provides you with the time to set an intention for your yoga session.
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Warm-up yoga poses

Let’s get into the yoga warm up poses that will prepare your body for a beautiful practice. Moving through a few different yoga poses in your warm up sequence will help to stretch many different parts of your body and provide a holistic yoga warm up experience.

1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

The favorite pose of most yogis is the beloved child’s pose. This stretch gets into your hips, while at the same time, it helps by lengthening your spine. It gives you the chance to slowly bring your attention to your body and start off slowly, just like a deeply nourishing yin yoga session (you know, the really slow moving practice).

In a warm up yoga routine, it is great to start in child’s pose for at least three deep breaths. Then, you can progress and begin to make your way to downward-facing dog.

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2. Downward-facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Whether you are coming from child’s pose, or from a seated position with your legs crossed, you will have to start to make your way onto your hands and feet. Then, to progress to downward-facing dog, send your hips up to the sky. Activate your upper body by pressing into your hands and sending energy from your fingertips all the way up to your hips.

You can choose to have one straight leg and one bent, as you “walk your dog” and stretch into the back of your hamstrings and calf muscles. This will also help you to get some warm-up action in the ankle joint.

To deepen this stretch, imagine that your feet and hands are pushing the mat apart in the opposite direction, while your core muscles are pulling your mat together at the center. This will really strengthen your body and your mind!

Another option to warm up here is to take the right foot in between the hands while leaving the left foot at the back of your mat. This is a low lunge position which is great for warming up the hips and hip flexors before any kind of physical activity. Make sure you do your low lunge on both sides to even out the body.

Then, if you are ready for more movement in the spine, it’s time to move onto your cat pose and cow pose.

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Cat-Cow Stretch (Bidalasana)

No yoga session is complete without a cat-cow stretch as part of the yoga warm-up. This pose is like throwing another fire log on to keep your entire body warm and to keep up the blood circulation strong throughout your back. It is one of the great yoga warm up poses as it can be really energizing and activating in the body.

Cat-cow pose awakens the energy of your spine and creates space as it stretches in and around the shoulder blades. If you use this pose as a yoga warm up, you can imagine leading each movement with your heart space as you open and close the shoulder blades. Think of this as being guided by love.

By bringing the chest forward, you invite a slight stretch into the core muscles, as well as across the front of your rib cage and shoulders. By curling the chest in, you lengthen the spine and the back of the neck.

Try to synchronize your body movements to match your deep breaths and create a flowing yoga warm up sequence.

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Creating a yoga warm up sequence flow: Child’s pose –> Cat cow stretch –> Downward facing dog:

To put these three poses together for a full spinal yoga warm up, try this sequence:

Start in a kneeling position on all fours (hands and knees) and then send your hips back to your heels as you take an exhale, finding child’s pose. On your inhale, rise up to all fours, drop your belly and open your chest in cow pose.

Then, exhale to find downward facing dog, sending your hips high to the sky. Stay for a breath in here with the knees bent slightly to relieve tension in the lower back. Then exhale to drop your knees back to the ground and send your hips back into child’s pose. Breath here for one cycle of inhale and exhale.

Repeat this combination of yoga warm up poses from the top three to five times. This warm up sequence creates a beautiful stretch and opening routine for the spine.

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Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)

A sun salutation is another wonderful set of poses that are a great choice for a warm-up routine for the entire body. Doing a few rounds of these yoga warm up poses will set your entire body up for a great practice.

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Here is the order of the poses used in a Sun Salutation:

  • Start standing in mountain pose (tadasana), slowly inhale to take your hands over your head.
  • Exhale to fold forward, reaching your hands to the ground, imagine bringing the crown of your head to touch your big toes.
  • Inhale for a half-way lift bringing your fingertips to your shins.
  • Exhale to plant your hands on the floor and step back into a plank position. You can pause here for a breath in, building core strength. Then exhale to lower either all the way to the floor or halfway down for a chaturunga.
  • On your inhale, open your chest with a baby cobra or full upward facing dog.
  • Exhale to come back through plank and find downward facing dog.
  • Walk both feet forward to the top of your mat and inhale for a halfway lift.
  • Exhale fold forward once again, lenghtening through the hamstrings and backs fo the legs.
  • Then inhale to bring your arms forward and up over your head. Then exhale as you return to mountain pose with your hands by your side.

There are many variations of sun salutations, so try out a few stretches and variations with the right and left side of your body to see what feels good for you. This could mean incorporating a side stretch, or holding a lunge position, just anything that helps you to explore the range of motion in your own body.

As you move through the sun salutations, you can also step a different leg forward each cycle to even out the stretch in both the left leg and right leg. Creating balance in the body will also create balance in the mind and spirit. You may even progress to jumping your feet forward, preparing and warming up for some yoga inversions later on in the practice!

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Hero Pose (Virasana)

If you are going into a deep hip opening practice, then you may like to warm up with a few deep breaths in Hero Pose (Virasana). To do this pose, bend your knees and sit your hips down between your feet. With your knees pointing forward, you may stay here with a straight spine reaching toward the sky, or you may choose to lower your spine down onto the floor behind you.

This is one of the more advanced warm up yoga poses, as it is quite strong on the knees, hips and legs. Only attempt this if you have a strong yoga practice.

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Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)

Another wonderful hip opening yoga warm up is some movement through Goddess Pose, also known as horse stance, or in Sanskrit, Utkata Konasana.

To come into Goddess Pose, take your feet out wide, with your toes pointing outward and heels facing in towards your hips. This is one of the best yoga warm up poses for the hips and inner thighs as it will provide a lengthening and stretch through these areas of the body. If you want to build strength, you can find a little pulse up and down in the legs, which will create warmth instantly in the body.

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If you want to add in the shoulders and spine to this stretch too, start by connecting your left hand with your left knee and your right hand with your right knee. You may use the hands here to keep pushing the knees wide, stretching deeping through the inner thighs.

For a deeper variation again, lean your torso forward and drop your right arm and right shoulder down into the center. Try to keep the right arm straight but you can bend the left elbow to take some of the tension off the body. Then come back to your center for a breath, with both arms straight, before repeating on the left side with your left arm and left shoulder dropping down into the center.

This not only gets deeper into the hips but also creates a beautiful stretch through the spine and shoulder girdle, to prepare your whole body for the twists and turns that are yet to come!

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Putting it all together. A warm-up yoga routine for any yoga practice:

If you are ready to warm up your body, try to combine a few basic poses in a yoga flow yourself or follow some classes from a range of yoga teachers online.

Yoga with Kassandra does a great 10-minute, pre-workout or morning yoga practice that you can follow along with here:

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a yoga warm-up?

A yoga warm up is a series of poses that can be performed before a yoga class to warm up the major muscle groups in the body and to prepare the ligaments and joints for stretches.

Why do I need to warm up before yoga?

Warming up before yoga will help to prevent injuries, increase flexibility and provide time for reflection on how your body is feeling before you dive deep into a practice. It is also a great time to set an intention for your practice ahead and to reflect on why you showed up on your mat today.

What are the best yoga poses to do to warm up?

Some great poses to warm up with are child’s pose, downward dog, goddess pose, and sun salutations. This combination will give the body a holistic stretch. Look through this article for some ways to put these poses together into a flowing yoga warm up routine!

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About Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke is a certified and experienced yoga & meditation instructor. She has been practicing meditation since 2014 and teaching since 2018. Gemma specializes in yoga and mindfulness for emotional wellbeing, and she has taught in Thailand, Cambodia, and the UK. Gemma is passionate about sharing her expertise and experience with meditation to inspire others to live more mindfully, becoming happier, healthier, and calmer. Follow me: Instagram | LinkedIn

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