10 Easy Yoga Warm-Up Poses to Improve Blood Circulation
Sport & Activity
Try these 10 yoga warm-up poses to give your body a boost in blood flow and improve your overall yoga practice.
Yoga warm-up poses require light-to-moderate stretching and prepare your body for a workout whilst increasing circulation. Warm-up poses help stretch core parts of your body, such as your entire back, hamstrings and neck. In addition to increasing blood flow and preventing muscle injuries, yoga warm-up poses also help to get you into the rhythm of breath to movement.
Yoga and Blood Flow
Just like warm-up stretching and cardio increase an athlete's heart rate before a game, yoga warm-up poses play an important role in increasing flexibility in your muscles while mentally preparing you for a yoga class. The asanas, or movements, work to stretch your muscles and connective tissues and facilitate blood flow throughout your body.
Which Yoga Stretches Increase Blood Flow?
There are many different kinds of yoga styles and practices. Vinyasa yoga, which is a popular and challenging form of yoga, is designed to keep your heart rate up with a mix of balancing poses, inversions and standing poses.
Specific asanas for better circulation involve positions that expand the chest and ribcage. These movements open up the space around the heart, which is a vital organ for circulation. Poses such as Camel, Wheel, Bridge and Dancer facilitate heart openings.
Inversions, when your heart is above your chest (think upside-down poses), are also beneficial because they draw blood to the brain and relieve some of the pressure from the heart. These poses may include Downward-Facing Dog, Shoulder Stand and Headstand.
Different yoga poses address different parts of your body's circulatory system, whilst some poses develop better muscles, ability to balance, and improve heart and lung health.
Incorporate the following 10 yoga warm-up poses into your practice to give your body a boost in blood flow and improve your overall yoga practice.
1. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)
Cat-Cow pose is a common warm-up pose that promotes blood circulation in the back and spinal column.
- Start on all fours and untuck your toes so the tops of your feet touch your mat.
- Breathe in, lift your head and gaze towards the ceiling.
- Breathe out while your head drops back down. Let your gaze fall between your thighs.
- Push against the floor with your palms as you increase the stretch between your shoulders and dome out your back.
- Repeat for a few breaths and make sure your movements are slow and controlled.
2. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
In Downward-Facing Dog pose, your heart is above your head, which allows for more blood flow to the brain and upper torso. It's a common inversion used throughout classes because it improves the ability to stretch your legs, arms and shoulders. It's also a useful posture to reset and breathe in between asanas.
- Start on all fours.
- Lift your knees up so the backs of your legs start to straighten and your heels melt to the floor.
- Try to touch the entire bottoms of your feet to the floor while straightening your legs.
- Move your hips towards the ceiling.
- Push down into the mat with your palms and focus on putting pressure in your thumbs and index fingers.
- Breathe slowly.
3. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
This is another simple but effective standing pose to increase blood circulation in your body and increase blood flow to your arteries.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Make sure your head, shoulder and glutes are aligned.
- Your hands should be by the sides of your body with palms facing the front of the room.
- Slowly move your arms upwards so your biceps are by your ears.
- Even though your arms are raised, your shoulders should be lowered into their sockets and away from your ears.
- Breathe in and hold this posture for about 30 seconds.
4. Shoulder Stand Pose (Sarvangasana)
Shoulder Stand is an inversion in which your legs go over your head as you're on the floor on your back. The pose uses gravity to allow blood from your legs to move towards your heart and brain.
- Lie on your back.
- Bend your knees and slowly lift your legs over your torso.
- Your legs should be straight in the air.
- Use your hands to support your back and rest your elbows on the ground.
- Slowly start to push your torso with your hands so your entire body moves to the back of the room.
- You should be balancing your body only on your shoulders.
- Your chest will naturally push into your chin.
- Gaze towards your heart.
- Hold this pose for 30 seconds and slowly lower down.
5. Legs up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Legs up the Wall is a widely used restorative pose in yoga. This active stretch helps increase blood flow and circulation to your calves and feet. It's effective for people who sit all day because it encourages the blood to move out of your hips and into your upper body and head.
If you don't have a lot of mobility in your legs and lower back, place a blanket on the seat of a chair. Then lie on the floor on your back with your calves on the chair rather than against a wall.
- Start by lying down on your back near a wall.
- Get your hips as close as possible to the wall, then walk your feet up the wall.
- Your body should be in an "L" position.
- Arms rest by your sides.
- You can place a pillow under your lower back for more support.
- Stay in this pose for about 10 minutes.
- Breathe in and out.
6. Low Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)
A dynamic stretch, Low Lunge pose aids in increasing the blood movement to your lower extremities. You'll feel the pull and, over time, this will increase flexibility in your hips.
- Stand with your back straight.
- Take a big step back with your right foot so the heel is lifted and only your toes are touching the floor.
- Lower your right knee to the floor.
- Make sure your hips are level with each other and are squared to the front of the room.
- Inhale and lift your chest upwards while sweeping your arms next to your ears.
- Gaze straight ahead.
- Exhale and lower your hands back to the ground.
- Hold this pose for a few breaths and switch legs.
7. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Chair pose increases circulation and blood flow to your legs, glutes and hips. It also helps build strength and stamina in your thigh muscles.
- Start with your feet flat on the floor.
- Your feet should be parallel and can either be hip-width apart or together so your big toes touch each other.
- Bend your knees and sink your weight into your heels as you lower down.
- Tuck your tailbone in and make sure your glutes are pointed down as you envision yourself about to sit on a chair.
- Lift your arms to the sky so your biceps are by your ears.
- Gaze to the top of your yoga mat.
- Hold the posture for a few breaths.
8. Standing Forward Bend Pose (Uttanasana)
A forward bend is a simple move, but it comes with many benefits, including improving digestion and stimulating the liver and kidneys. Standing Forward Bend allows blood to move towards the vital organs and glands in the chest area.
- Stand with your legs hip-width apart.
- Raise your arms to the sky.
- With a straight back, bend forward from your hips and bring your torso towards your knees.
- Move your hands to the floor for support.
- Try not to bend your knees.
- Inch your nose closer to your knees.
- Hold this posture for a few rounds of breath.
9. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
Locust pose is a full-body stretch that helps strengthen and stretch your muscles along your spine. It helps improve your posture and also gets your blood flowing.
- Lie down on your stomach with your arms by your side and your legs together.
- Interlock both palms behind you and breathe out.
- As you inhale, lift your shoulders and legs upwards.
- Hold the position for a few breaths.
- Lower down and exhale.
- Repeat the movement and, as you inhale, try to bring your chest, arms and legs higher than the last time.
10. Bridge Pose (Setubandhasana)
Bridge pose is usually done towards the end of a yoga class because it is both relaxing and restorative. It's an inversion meant to increase blood flow to your head, lungs, abs and digestive system.
- Lie down on your back with your arms by your sides.
- Bend your knees and move your feet closer to your body so your heels are close to your glutes.
- As you inhale, press your feet into the floor and lift your hips towards the sky.
- As you're lifted, make sure your knees are parallel to each other and don't splay outwards.
- As you exhale, slowly lower down one vertebrae at a time.
- Use a block underneath your tailbone if you need extra support.
- Hold the position for a few breaths and repeat.
Incorporate Yoga Warm-up Poses into Your Daily Routine
Make it a point to practise yoga daily to improve your blood flow and the circulation in your body. If you sit for most of the day, remember to get up and take frequent breaks. Use these warm-up poses as a guide to help get you moving. As you move, be mindful of staying relaxed and calm, and breathing through each pose slowly.