For some people (including me), the “warm-up” part of a yoga or movement class can be the most interesting and satisfying part. In it, I like to explore movement patterns and mobility in creative and gentle ways. These movements help me settle into an awareness of my body that I can call on later, or simply enjoy for its own sake.
Sometimes the warm up serves a specific purpose, such as to initiate a practice of movements that might appear later under different, more intense conditions. The range of motion, load, coordination, and balance might become more challenging. The warm up can prepare us for this challenge further into class by familiarizing us with the moves in a more accessible manner.
For example, the warm-up can be more specifically designed to prepare for a particular “peak pose”. It might include component parts of the peak similar to how component ingredients comprise a recipe. The parts get combined, and through their combination are transformed into something completely different.
However, sometimes the warm-up is the practice itself.
However you like to warm up for your yoga practices, a foam yoga block can be a great tool. It doesn’t add a lot of load, it’s versitile (as you’ll see below) and it’s usually readily available—most practitioners have one (even if they’re practicing at home or online).
Below are clips from a gentle yoga class in my Virtual Studio. To me, gentle yoga is a class where you warm up the entire class for the sake of moving your body in low demand, feel good ways. This also means that, to me, gentle yoga does not automatically mean passive.
Here are 6 creative, active ways to warm up with a block.
Standing isometric rotation (block to head). Notice how feedback from the block awakens the movement of your spine from head to tail by activating muscles on the side of your neck.
Now take that first move done standing, and bring it into side angle pose. Now we get the hips involved, too!
Here the block provides feedback on the position of your pelvis as you hinge back to child’s pose. Notice if the work in your upper back feels more active while you attempt to keep the block level and balanced on your sacrum.
Observe how you move with more attention and perhaps also core support while crawling to squat with a block balanced on your upper back.
Ready for a whole body warm up with the “basketblock dribble”? Weave the block in and out from between your legs like an NBA star. This is harder than it looks and feels as good as it looks, too!
Put your head down on a block in forward fold and watch how your energy unfolds with that extra support.