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The Importance of the Warm up Phase in Yoga and Pilates

Joint Lubrication

At low load. Near the floor. We can ask for a quality and range of motion in the joint that might be less accessible or easeful at a greater load.

Joint Movement Assessment

This is an opportunity to sense and assess the joint range.

Letting the movement happen and assessing where that movement is easeful or not. What the surrounding tissues feel like. What the whole body feels like in the movement. What the breath and even the nervous system feels like with the movement.

Does the tissue feel stuck, sore, dry, pinched, acidic, constricted?

Or does it feel warm, fluid, gliding, expansive, contained without stickiness?

Joint Movement Education and Motor Control

This is also an opportunity to educate the joint. To tell it what to do. My habitual pattern may favour one motion in the joint over another. But the joint has the ability to perform more diverse movements than my habitual ones. So, at low load I should explore these. Take shoulder circles- I may favour protraction and depression, in a joint exploration I note this, then I educate the elevation and retraction to be as easeful and fluid as my preferred movements.

In warm up we have both open chain and closed chain moves. Open chain educates the tissue of the body part that is moving to create the movement. Closed chain keeps that body part anchored while the adjacent structures move around it, still creating the same movement at the joint.

Both need attention. The former as a neuromuscular event and the latter as a real life event.

Local Preparation for Challenging Global Movements

Returning to my shoulder actions and my assessment that elevation and retraction are not my more easeful movements. My dominant pattern is depression and protraction (most peoples are). My new favourite pose is Wild Thing, which I know from experiencing it is a little rough on my shoulders. Why? Wild thing requires elevation and retraction of the scapula of the supporting arm.

The open chain movements will help, but as the requirement is that the rib-cage glides under the scapula in wild thing – not the other way round- it is beneficial for me to have also educated this move at a low load closed chain movement. (mermaid glide). If the tissue is stuck in its habitual then it may take some time for this education.

How long?

That depends on . . .

  1. Age

  2. Previous education

  3. Anatomy

  4. Pathology

  5. Hydration

  6. Personality

  7. Prior learning

  8. Injury

  9. Opinion on the validity of the exercise

Rehydration in the ECM

Glide-ability: The rib cage needs to slide under the scapula for wild thing, which is not a simple shoulder joint(s) event. This action is allowed by multiple fibres of the pectoralis, deltoid, serratus sliding with control over each other and the intercostals, obliques, and aponeurosis of the rectus even down into anterior hip tissue. It is facilitated by the tissue of the trapezius, latissimus, posterior deltoid and terres major (and minor) gliding over rotator cuff, rhomboid, serratus posterior, erector spinae even into TLF, obliques and glutes.

Elicit more Efficient Load Transfer

As the above happens there needs to be an integrated efficient load transfer from one set of tissues to the other. All requiring viscous gliding surfaces for tensile strength.

Integration of Breath and Respiratory Anatomy

(deep front line)

Low load multi-directional movement is the ideal time to tension, stretch, educate and reset the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles.

Our respiratory muscles are part of our core stability group. And when we perform thoracic movements (like rotation, lateral flexion, extension and to a lesser degree flexion) in standing, high off the ground, our centre has a job to do in ensuring we remain upright whilst moving. This requires a degree of bracing which is excellent. But as our diaphragm attaches all around the inside of our rib cage and being a muscle like any other, it does not benefit from constant bracing. All muscles need to be able lengthen and let go too. Low load multi-directional movement, adding ‘pin and stretch’ for hydration and glide in adjacent structures enhanced the health of the diaphragm. Making a movement and holding it while exaggerating inhale and exhale with stretch and tone the attachment of the diaphragm.

The diaphragm is highly sensitive to our emotions. All Yoga aspires to deepen the connection to the parasympathetic nervous system. Because of the “less stress” low load in warm ups, it is an ideal opportunity to override some bracing patterns in the respiratory system. Consciously breathing, lengthening the inhale will tone the muscle and lengthening the exhale while maintaining control over it will regulate the nervous system.

It is especially important for the nervous system at this stage that you do not go too far too soon in your movements which could cause a sensation associated with pain or discomfort, as this will stop this deep somatic release and cause a brace/nervous system response.

Investigate the fascial lines in smaller sections to be able to utilise the full sling later in your practice

Just as we favour certain joint actions we also favour certain fascial slings and elements of those slings. This can cause tension, stagnation, dehydration and numbness.

Back body slings are certainly poorer in response and efficiency for most people. Women in particular often lose contact with back functional line and back arm lines. Yogis can lose some degree of contact with superficial back line through excessive forward folds and turning off the hamstrings.

At low load local level, toning areas that need attention may assist greatly in the integration of the sling into bigger moves, e.g. practicing shifted superman, cross body swimming prone, loaded neck and thoracic extension.

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