Try a simple warm-up to promote safe practice and healthy joints.
On cold winter mornings, warming up your joints is an invigorating way to wake up and start your day. San Francisco Bay Area yoga teacher David Moreno teaches a series of joint exercises that can be used as part of your morning or pre-practice stretching routine. Though most warm-ups emphasize major muscle groups, Moreno says focusing on the joints can be an effective way to energize the body and ensure a safe practice or workout. It's also good for the long-term health of your joints. "When you move your joints through the full range of motion, it increases circulation and lubricates the entire joint," he says.
Moreno suggests a practice adapted from a longer sequence taught by Swami Satyananda of the Bihar School of Yoga. Practice slowly, repeating each movement eight times, and take slow, deep breaths as you go.
- Knees: Sit in Dandasana with your sitting bones on a folded blanket. Bend your left knee in toward the chest, clasping your hands behind the thigh. Make large circles with your left lower leg, straightening the leg at the top of the circle, if you can. Repeat on the second side.
- Elbows and Shoulders: Sit cross-legged with your fingertips on your shoulders. Rotate your elbows through the full range of motion: Raise the upper arms to your ears (elbows pointing toward the ceiling), then circle forward and try to touch the elbows in front of your chest, then bring them back down to the side ribs, and finally bring them back up to shoulder height.
- Ankles: Sit in Dandasana with your sitting bones on a folded blanket. Rotate both feet in unison, first clockwise and then counterclockwise. Next, separate the legs about a block's distance apart, and rotate your feet in opposite directions, bringing big toes to touch as they come toward each other. Finish by flexing and pointing both feet 8 times.
- Wrists: Stretch your arms out in front of the body at shoulder level. Bend your hands backward from the wrists as if pressing your palms against a wall, fingers pointing upward. Then, fold the hands forward from the wrists so that the fingers curl in toward your chest. To finish, make your hands into fists, and rotate wrists in both directions.
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