Often overlooked, Shanti Yoga starts every class in the morning with joint exercises. This is a warmup for the joints. Also, it wakes up the body and prepares our students for the day.
Your joint health is important. Sometimes our joints hold us back from progressing in our yoga asana practice.
What are joints?
Joints are cartilage that join bone to bone. The connective tissue is called a ligament. The ligaments form around the ends of bones to form a joint.
The major joints of the body are in the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, hips, knees, ankles, and toes.
How do you perform joint exercises?
You want to start by warming up the joints at the extremities and work your way towards the center of the body. Perform each exercise 5 times each.
Joint exercises for the arms
First, let’s warm up the joints in the fingers, hands, and wrists. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Then, extend your arms out in front of you. Squeeze your fingers in, as if you’re holding a ball. Next, tighten your grip on the imaginary ball, and release. Finally, make circles with your wrists in one direction then the other.
Next, we’ll warm up the elbows. With arms still extended in front of you bring your palms facing up. Then, bring your fingertips to your shoulders, bending at the elbows. Next, return your hands to the original position, arms extended, with palms facing up.
To work the shoulders bring your fingertips back to your shoulders and keep them touching there. Then, bring your elbows to touch in front, then make circles with your elbows by bringing them up overhead and around the back. Do five circles in one direction and five more in the opposite direction.
Exercises for the neck
Then, drop your arms to rest on your hands on your knees, thighs, or in your lap. Next, bring your chin down towards your chest. Keep your shoulders relaxed and don’t let them pop up or move too much. Your shoulder blades should be slightly close together behind your back, but relaxed. Do not strain too hard. Then, bring your head up and back, chin towards the sky. Next, with head straight, slowly look to your right and left. Then, with head back to center, drop your right ear towards your right shoulder, then to the left. Finally, bring your chin to your chest again and slowly rotate your head clockwise, then counter clockwise.
Joint exercises for the legs
Next, we’ll extend the legs out in front. Place your hands behind your hips, fingers facing away from the body, elbows and spine are both straight. Then, scrunch your toes in, and release. Next, to work the ankles, point your toes towards the ground, then towards yourself. Finally, rotate your feet at the ankles. Keep the knees stable – do not let them move or rise up.
Then, to work the knees, bend one leg and place your heel close to the middle of your body. Your knee should be bent and up towards the sky while your foot is flat on the ground. The other leg should be straight with toes pointing up towards the sky. Now, switch legs. The leg with the bent knee straightens and the the straight leg bends.
Finally, let’s work the hips. Bring the bottoms of your feet to touch with knees bent and moving towards the floor. Your heels should be close to your middle. If this gives you pain or discomfort in the knees move the heels away from you. Next, interlace your fingers together grabbing underneath the toes. Finally, use your inner thigh muscles to bring your knees as close to the ground as possible. Or, if they are already touching, you can still use the inner thigh muscles to get more of your legs to touch. Consequently, this exercise strengthens the legs as well as works the hip joints.
Want to practice these joint exercises with us? Join us for a yoga teacher training. Learn more here.