As Seattle has been turned into a winter wonderland filled with snow, I’ve been thinking about the need to change your practice with the seasons, specifically warming up well. One of my teachers, Melina, has talked a lot about ways to change your practice throughout the season (for example, lots of inversions and backbends during cold winters, forward bends and seated poses during hot summers) and I think these are very important subtleties to be aware of.
The biggest change for me during winter is to make sure that you are taking the time to warm up thoroughly before you start going deep into your stretches. I can’t tell you how many classes I’ve been to over the years where despite the weather (and time of day too – mornings require more warming up) the teacher has jumped right into long static stretches. Not only is this dangerous injury wise, but what ends up happening is that instead of stretching muscles only, you end up stretching your ligaments more than you should. Ligaments, as opposed to muscles, don’t spring back well after you have overstretched them, and since ligaments are what stabilize your joints, you really don’t want them overstretched.
In the personal training world, almost everybody I know has taken to stretching after workouts as opposed to before. And if you are going to stretch before working out or exercising (for activities that require lots of range of motion, this may be necessary) the rule of thumb is that you should warm up to at least a light sweat before you stretch. Dynamic stretching is also gaining in popularity.
For a yoga practice, this can mean adding a few more sun salutations (again, not pushing yourself in the stretches until you are warm) to build up heat before you move to more static poses. Whatever you do, please take the time to warm up. Your body will thank you.