Sequence Wednesdays: Warmup
Welcome back to Sequence Wednesdays. Today I’d like to share the first part of the warmup that I teach in pretty much every single class. Why? Well, I like it. But I also like the comfortable feeling starting the class off the same way each time gives to both me and my students. I know well the feeling of nervousness going into a class not having any idea what the teacher will ask of us, and it often takes a few moments for me to calm down and center at the very beginning of class both as a student and as a teacher. So why not make those first few moments gentle and as anxiety-free as possible? Once the warmup is over, I let my creativity guide my sequencing as appropriate.
Another reason I love this warmup is that it contains a fairly accessible “aha” moment for students. I have students first interlace their fingers whichever way feels natural – most people will do the same fingers on top every single time. And then we switch the interlace. When students do this for the first time, most are shocked at how weird it feels and it’s a really good way to introduce concepts like how different poses can feel depending on which side you favor, and how easily samskaras (habits) are formed unconsciously. What’s exciting for me as I demonstrate is how even both interlaces feel after doing it in every class I’ve taught for the last year or so. I can assure my students with confidence that if they keep switching which fingers are on top, it won’t feel so weird after a while!
When Melinda and I were shooting this, I kept getting lost because I wasn’t teaching it with my usual patter – talk about habits!
1. Interlace your fingers in front of your heart (whatever way feels normal). Then push your hands out and up over your head. It doesn’t matter whether your arms are straight or bent at the elbows – it will depend on the openness of your shoulders and other structural factors – but make sure that there is good space in between your ears and your shoulders. If your shoulders and your ears are engaged in an intimate conversation, you need to relax your shoulders down and back a bit. Hold for at least 5 breaths.
2. Release the interlace and gently bring your right finger tips down to the floor and stretch you left arm up and over your ear. The key to this is not to come down too far onto your right hand and collapse your right torso. You want to keep the length in both sides of the body to get the best stretch. Hold for 5 breaths. Then, reach both arms up and see your palms. Here, don’t worry about form – just enjoy the stretch for a few moments. Finally, gently bring your left finger tips down to the floor and stretch your right arm up over your ear. Once again, make sure you are not collapsing into your left side. Hold for 5 breaths.
3. Go back to step 1 but switch the interlace so the opposite fingers are on top!
4. This time, bring your left hand to rest gently on your right knee. Twist to the right, bringing your right hand to rest on the floor or a block. Hold for 5 breaths. This is a gentle twist, so NO yanking. You want to feel the twist in your lower belly. Your shoulders and arms help with leverage. Then, reach up once again – just enjoying the stretch. Bring your right hand to rest on your left knee. Twist to the left, bringing your hand to rest on the floor or a block. Hold for 5 breaths. You may notice that twisting on one side feels very different from the other. One reason for that is you have different organs on either side of your body!
You can see in the third photo that I’ve got my hand on the wall instead of the floor. That’s because I have shorter arms and my spine wouldn’t be straight if I tried to get my hand to the floor. Play around and see what works best for you.