Warm-ups are not practiced in every school of yoga, but they are considered an important part of fitness; thus, those practicing for this reason will want to incorporate a warm-up sequence into their daily practice. A nice way to warm up is to start with “easy” poses that resemble more complex poses in order to build the intensity of a particular kind of move. Another is to move dynamically in and out of poses. Depending on what follows, this opening sequence uses both techniques.
After whatever opening meditation is desired, come to hands and knees on the mat. (It’s okay to add a blanket under the knees for extra padding.) Make sure that the knees are hip distance apart, and be sure to visually check this; women especially often think that their hips are larger than they actually are. Position the hands underneath the shoulders, with the forefinger pointing straight ahead. This means that the inner elbows will be turned towards the front of the mat. Stay here for a moment and grip the mat with the tips of the fingers. Make sure that the shoulders are secure inside the shoulder socket.
On an inhale, bring the chest forward to ‘smile’ at the facing wall. Note that this feels different from simply flexing the back; the intention is come into a small backbend while at the same time keeping the spine straight. This is Cow, or Bitilasana position. On an exhale, round the back and come into Cat, or Marjaryasana. Repeat this sequence with the breath twice of three times. Move slowly, with precision and focus.
The next step is to add on. Inhale into Bitilasana. Exhale into Marjaryasana and then continue moving backwards into Child’s Pose, or Balasana. Note that the hips are probably fairly high at this point in the practice; one of the reasons for this warm-up is to begin to stretch those muscles before performing more strenuous positions. Inhale and exhale in Balasana before repeating the three movements with the breath.
At this point, it is nice to continue the vinyasa (sequence) by alternating Balasana with Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Dog. To do so, exhale out of Bitilasana into Marjaryasana and then curl the toes before pushing up into Downward Dog. Keep the knees bent and pedal the feet for this first Dog; the current joke in studio class is that this is called “walking your dog.” Then settle into the pose. Take an inhale and exhale. Then inhale to drop the knees and come through table position back into Cow.
It’s nice to repeat this complete vinyasa three or four times, using the breath as pacing. One can then move from the last Downward Dog into Standing Forward Bend, or Uttanasana, and then roll up into Tadasana. This puts the body into position for moving into Sun Salutations or any other standing pose.
Here is a list of the poses used in this vinyasa:
1: Table-Top Position
2. Cow Pose
3. Cat Pose
4. Child’s Pose
5. Downward Dog
6. Standing Forward Bench
7. Mountain Pose
Enjoy your practice!