Prime Your Body
body awareness

By Barb Frye

Originally published in Massage Bodywork magazine, May/June 2011. Copyright 2011. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.

As the weather starts warming up, so should we. Actually, warming up should be a year-round and daily part of your routine. This exercise needs to be as basic as charting your treatments and changing your linens.

Taking yourself through a short mobilization routine makes all the difference in keeping your muscles and joints primed for the work ahead. Mobilization is also commonly referred to as dynamic stretching. It helps increase circulation, range of motion, and flexibility. It can also reduce your risk of injury. Unlike static stretching in which a muscle is lengthened and held, mobilizing moves your joints through their range of motion, both warming up your tissues and getting them ready for the physical activity of your work.

From the psychological point of view, warming up gives you the opportunity to free your mind of other thoughts, allowing you to become focused on the day ahead. It is an excellent time to ground and center yourself, letting the movements of the body lead you toward a focused, yet relaxed mental and emotional state.
Remember to start slowly and never move through pain. Most of all, enjoy yourself. If you don't look forward to warming up, you probably won't enjoy it.

The following sequence of 10 mobilizations is a good place to start.

Begin by standing comfortably, with your feet approximately hip-width apart. Focus on increasing your body's circulation and flexibility, and allow your mind to become relaxed and calm.

1. Begin to slowly side-bend your head toward one shoulder, and then toward the other. Each time, increase the bending so that you begin to feel an increase in your flexibility. Perform this movement 10 times to each side (Image 1).

2. Roll your shoulders forward 10 times and then backward 10 times, gradually increasing the range of motion (Image 2).

3. Swing one arm at a time, up and down. Start with small movements, increasing the swing each time. Make this movement 10 times (Image 3).

4. Circle your wrists in one direction 10 times and then in the other 10 times, increasing the range of motion with each circle (Image 4).

5. Circle your hips to the left 10 times and then to the right 10 times, increasing the circumference as you progress. This is similar to the movement made when using a Hula-Hoop (Image 5).

6. Move your entire upper body in circles of increasing width, reaching out further and further as you go. Make this movement 10 times in each direction (Image 6).

7. Lift your left foot and make circles to the left 10 times and then to the right 10 times. Make the same movements with your right foot (Image 7).

8. Slowly twist your body once to the left and then to the right. Let your arms hang loose at your sides, letting them easily swing with the movement. Keep your knees slightly bent, allowing your legs to move along with the movement as well. Gradually increase the size of the swing. Repeat 10 times (Image 8).

9. Slowly swing your entire body down so that your hands swing behind you, and then swing yourself up so that your hands swing toward the ceiling. Make this move 10 times, increasing the swing each time (Image 9).

10. Stand with your legs hip-width apart. Raise your hands toward the sky, bringing your palms together. During this movement, take a breath in and look in the direction of your hands. Allow your entire body to gently lengthen. Slowly return your arms to your sides and exhale. With each cycle of breath, increase your lengthening. Repeat 10 times (Image 10).

This exercise sequence is meant to give you an idea of how to warm up with mobilization. Be creative and develop your own combinations and variations. And remember, you are more likely to incorporate warming up as a part of your daily routine if you enjoy it.

Give yourself some feedback. What does your body feel like now that you have done these mobilizations?

Barb Frye has been a massage educator and therapist since 1990. She coordinated IBM's body mechanics program and authored Body Mechanics for Manual Therapists: A Functional Approach to Self-Care (Lippincott Williams Wilkins, 2010), now in its third edition. She has a massage and Feldenkrais practice at the Pluspunkt Center for Therapy and Advanced Studies near Zurich, Switzerland. Contact her at

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