I am very particular about my class warm-ups, and take them very serious too! I’d like to share more about them with you, the basics are the same for every age and every style class, to help you learn more about the importance of warming-up before exercise – it might change your whole perspective!
My goals in warming-up are:
- It is safer, preventing injury, when you are able to feel your body as you move and strengthen. This enables you to stop yourself before you “go too far” in a stretch, for example.
- Getting centered in your body enables a deeper learning! If you can feel what your body feels like in a certain movement or pose then it not only trains your muscles and your brain faster, it also informs them of the connective pathways involved in those positions. You gain an anatomical understanding of the most natural way to move.
- Body awareness also teaches you to know your body and be best equipped to experience it when it’s healthy, stiff, sick, weak, etc., and then take steps to correct it. It is educational to see the differences in the body each day and see how the body feels at the beginning of class to see how it improves by the end.
- Additionally, grounding helps train the nervous system to relax and prepares the brain to learn. And it helps the nervous student to relax into a situation.
- Getting embodied also helps to de-stress!
There are countless ways to bring grounding to students. I love to introduce multiple ways to help build each student’s toolbox with methods that their individuality responds to.
Second, to release tension. Oh boy this is a big one. The body’s energies, breath/blood/electromagnetics/nerves, cannot flow in areas where there is tension. Tension by definition is the attempt for the body to NOT feel something – pain of some kind or another (including emotional). If there is no flow, then movement and health do not occur. Additionally if tension is present it puts a huge strain on alignment also which constricts mobility, expression, and oxygen flow. So in warm-ups we do exercises that invite the muscles/fascia to release and that encourage fluidity in the joints. Not only, then, is this healthy, but it reminds the body of the natural connections (which we work with in the next step) and how to move optimally/efficiently. This is necessary before any learning can occur and any bodily exercise takes place – to make sure your neurons and muscles can carry out the actions you request!
Releasing tension also allows us to FEEL – which is the key to health. And let us not forget that tension release brings heat to the body which gently prepares it for more intense physical exercise to come.
Third, to introduce fundamentals. Fundamentals are: breath work, core work, alignment, the body’s lines of connection, and movement development. This is what your body needs training in – internal support, reminders of how it was designed, and reminders of how simple moving can be. This is typically done through phrasework, Pilates-type exercises, imagery work and/or movement routine. This part of the warm-up is fun, flowing and imaginative – I use this opportunity to turn on the creativity button as we move into the next stage of work.
After that, which can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour as necessary or time allows, we are ready! We’ve checked in with ourselves and centered on the present, we released excess stress and brought in heat, and we’ve trained in what we want the body to know about itself. We then jump into skill building, creative sharing, or personal exploration depending on the work of focus. I do not believe any valuable learning will occur, nor that it is healthy/safe, without going through these steps.
A note on stretching. Stretching for me is two-fold: to wake up the body’s energy system and to encourage fascia release. I don’t believe stretching has anyq other positive benefit beyond this (which is plenty!). Stagnant stretching is harsh on the tendons and can cause tightening. Excessive flexion in one area leads to excess tension elsewhere thus reducing joint mobility and health. In my classes we work to build balanced muscles, in pairs, and release fascia, in the fundamentals portion and near the end of class with yoga. I like yoga because it works with the breath, balances muscle groups, and hits at the body/mind/spirit all at once. I stretch this way at the end because it helps instill/integrate what was learned that day when the body is definitely receptive yet ready to gently come from up to down. It is a great transition for closing meditation and the return to self.
Now that you know more about my warm-up philosophies I hope you can identify how they may be different from what you have experienced in a way that makes wonderful sense – and perhaps worth trying out! Contact me to talk more about this or see what is available for you.