What are your go-to poses right after you step onto your mat? I like to warm up with a “gooey” Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose). By gooey, I mean that I warm up with lots of movement. I mobilize all my joints, including those in my arms and legs and all my vertebral joints. I stretch both sides of my body, but I don’t worry about stretching symmetrically from one side to the other. The point is to check in with my body and listen to what it needs on a given day. Because it’s so easy to stretch almost everything in Dog Pose, it’s my favorite yoga warmup pose.
Especially if you practice first thing in the morning, your body needs to ease into yoga practice. Warming up is essential, and it feels good too. After a night of relative immobility, the fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles) forms a layer of what anatomist Gil Hedley calls “fuzz.” (See his great video on the fuzz here.)
Fuzz, tiny fibers that connect muscles to each other, forms on the sliding surfaces between your muscles. This is a natural process that happens whenever we are immobile for a period of time. However, the fuzz inhibits the muscles’ ability to slide against each other, instead causing them to adhere to each other.
Stretching and movement melt the fuzz, allowing our muscles to slide over one another again. This is why we’re usually more flexible in the afternoon than we are in the morning. Our bodies have had a chance to move around and melt at least some of the fuzz. If we don’t make a point to move and stretch on a given day, the fuzz starts to thicken, making it harder to dissolve when we do decide to practice.
For this reason, even if you can’t do a full-on yoga practice, it’s a good idea to practice a yoga warmup pose (or two or three). This will keep the fuzz at bay so that when you do make time for formal practice, your muscles will be more amenable to it.
3 Yoga Warmup Poses to Break Up the Fuzz
In addition to Dog Pose, there are a few other poses that make great yoga warmup poses if you don’t have time for a full-on practice. You might want to have a yoga mat and yoga strap handy. Here are three of my favorites:
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose): As I mentioned, Dog Pose is a great all-over stretch. When you practice it as a fuzz-busting pose, move through all your joints, and stay in motion. Don’t worry about form. Think about when your dog or cat does this pose. They do what feels good, not what they think looks good. I like to practice a Half-Dog Pose with my hands on the kitchen counter while I’m waiting for my tea water to boil in the morning.
- Talasana (Palm Tree Pose): Talasana zeroes in on the sides of the body. While you can stretch your sides to an extent in Downward Facing Dog Pose, Talasana stretches the entire lateral line of the body, from the outsides of the feet to the hands. Feel free to move around in this pose as well. Explore twisting in Talasana. Using a yoga strap between the hands in this pose allows your chest to expand more easily.
- Urdva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose): Urdva Hastasana focuses on axial extension, but you can add a backbending element to it as well. Experiment with different hand positions—palms together, yoga strap between the hands, fingers clasped with palms facing upward.
This is a nice, well-rounded fuzz-busting practice for first thing in the morning. It can stand on its own or be a warmup for the rest of your regular yoga practice.