“Yoga Warmups for Aikido,” by Stanley Pranin

“Incorporating Yoga Exercises into Aikido Training”

Recently, I wrote a blog titled “How I solved my chronic back problem.” It elicited a lot of comments from others with back problems, some describing their own experiences, and some asking questions. One reader requested that I explain in more detail what yoga exercises I was doing.

In thinking about it, I thought that a video would be the best way to show what yoga postures we had incorporated into our aikido training in my little garage dojo. So here is that video demonstrating the yoga routine we use as part of our aikido warmups. Please feel free to add your comments.

I would be particularly interested in getting commentary from you yoga adepts out there. What this video shows is very, very basic. There is much more that can be done if one cares to delve deeper into this ancient discipline. I find it a perfect complement to aikido training.


  1. Zung Nguyen says:

    Thank you, Pranin sensei, for posting your Yoga exercises.
    It would be nice if you could add some details on the breathing that is involved in the exercises.
    May abundant peace be with you always.


    • As for the breathing, I think if you try out the exercises you will naturally be able to breathing in an appropriate way. Your body will show you the way.

  2. Tony Wagstaffe says:

    Good stuff Stan, will help those who don’t stretch enough. Have a similar kind of workout incorporating isometric/isotonic workouts, atemi waza slow and fast, it’s all about finding what’s good for the individual, everybody is different.

  3. Sami Chatila says:

    Very nice! It was very informative as I knew nothing about Yoga.

    I’m actually starting to get this lower back pain as well sometimes in the morning when I first wake up following a previous night of keiko. I thought that the pain might have been due to bad sleeping habit or/and just a general tiredness due to an excessive training the night before. Having seen what you’re doing and hearing of the positive results you got, I’m definitely gonna try to do those yoga exercises.

    Thank you sensei for your valuable inputs and for sharing your personal experiences in dealing with the back pain issue.

    • Sami, yoga approaches things from a balanced perspective. A bend one way is followed by a bend in the opposite direction. Both left and right sides are given equal attention. In aikido training, we sometimes neglect such issues. So I’ve found yoga can bring your body back into harmony.

  4. Hi, Stanley.

    Great video. Thanks. Since I read your blog post about back problems, I’ve been awaiting the follow up detailing which exercises you had incorporated in your aikido warmups. I’ve been considering practicing yoga as a complement to my aikido training, hoping to gain some flexibility and also strengthen some muscles. I may have to accommodate yoga classes into my schedule this academic year.

    Thanks again,

    • Thanks for your comment. I never expected this subject would generate such a response from readers. I guess back problems are something that almost everyone has to deal with at some time or other.

  5. Stan, thank you very much for the instructive yoga stretching video. I will incorporate this into my daily routine. Any later info on correct back rolls, and anything else you can think of, would be appreciated. I do not do them as well as I would hope and need to lead into them with some stretch conditioning.

    My Best,


    • Yes, it’s very true. I’ve had a few very good yoga teachers. Most of them seem to be really intelligent and articulate people. It’s a testament to the value of the discipline. I hope that some yoga teachers will offer their input to this discussion.

  6. Good point Stanley.
    I go 100% with you. I discovered Yoga a few years ago and I come back to it as often as I can.
    Just one point, may be like Morihiro Sensei used to say… as for Aikido, this is important to find a good teacher in Yoga as well :)
    Take care,
    From France,

  7. Yes …Stan continue everything you talked about at the end of the video…it’s time we see what you have learned over the years.

  8. i do sunstyle tai ji quan and qi gong. I have always done martial arts like tai chi. Aikido flows like water, but are there comparisons in aikido and tai chi. Both are based on circles. Both the warmups base themselves on yoga and the breath. O-sensai was a great man who understood these things: nature, humankind and the universe. He was a light to guide the way, and a follower of the TAO

  9. Comments posted on youtube:

    Thank you for this helpful video. I will incorporate these Yoga exercises in my warmups too. I am sure many of my colleagues will appreciate them too.

    Thank you very much for making and sharing with us this video. Very helpful!

    Nice video!! Yoga did helped me a lot with back pains (Lumbar) too. There is no pain anymore, but I´m still doing the Surya Namaskara everyday before meditating. But apart from Aikido. At the dojo where I´m training we just do the classical Aikido warm-ups.

    Thanks for the video, it really helped me to remind others yoga positions.

    This is a great video I am really enjoying them please keep them coming

    My wife has incorporated the Aikido wrist and neck stretches as part of her yoga class warm-ups.

  10. Hi Stan,

    I wanted to compliment you on sharing via blog and video your positive experience with yoga. I think it is very cool that you should do that, and I also appreciate your calm, humble demeanor in this presentation and in others.

    I think (presently) I probably only screwed up in two major areas with regards to what I learned from my teacher (although there are probably countless other little ones). The first was when I discounted the practices taught to me for developing Ki/Kokyu (or Aiki) as archaic resistance exercises. I dutifully passed on the practices to my students (“You are supposed to do this.” but never gave them time in class opting to “do that in the gym.” HUGE mistake. I was simply prejudicial and wrong. Now I am trying to make up for lost time. The other boo, boo was droppi ng Shirata sensei’s warm-up exercises, which included many of the ones you demonstrated BTW (but not the pigeon. My tight butt LOVES -or hates- the pigeon!). Despite the fact that he would admonish us to keep up the practice for the future, I slowly dropped the warm-ups in favor of more class time . . . dumb! I won’t be able to even DO class if I can no longer move!

    At any rate, all that is my long way of saying, “More power to you!” I personally appreciate your taking the time to share, and found your video inspirational. All of that on top of my former appreciation, I think I’ve mentioned before how grateful I am for your contribution to Aikido and Daito Ryu in particular and the related Budo community in general. To my mind you have made yourself a place in history by virtually giving Aikido back its history, or at least taking a good whack at it AND opening up the possibility of further exploration to boot. It couldn’t/can’t have been easy, but doing “the right thing” rarely is. Please accept my humble appreciation!

  11. Thank you Mr. Pranin for sharing your experience with us.

    Chronic back problems are one of the partially commited students’ excuses to drop out. Chronic back problems are the indication that we are doing something incorrectly. They are a great opportunity to study about ourselves, strengthen our determination, courage, humility, etc. and share our experience with our kohai or students.

    However everyone is different so there is a different solution for everyone. We can teach what works for us, which will become the foundation for others to start with and find what works for them which may take years. The solution is beyond the physical. We have to review the way we think as well as the way we move. We have to accept to make changes in our life habits.

    Mochizuki Sensei said that he did not know of any serious martial artist who had never got injured in his career. While we should not look for injuries, they are unavoidable. But we should learn from them and never repeat the same error that led to them. It is the teacher’s responsibility to learn from his mistakes and teach his students to do better. That is evolution.

    Unfortunately the majority of people believe that the solution has to come from someone else and is not willing to do their own research. Consulting experts and those who have experience of dealing with their own problems should be seriously considered. However it’s just the beginning of a long quest. The final answer has to come from within.

    Patrick Augé

  12. Hi Stan,

    Thank you for sharing this! I have started yoga about a year ago and have increasingly replaced my weight training with yoga and pilates. I find both disciplines very helpful not only for simple wellbeing (less back pain and shoulder tension, stronger knees, easier breathing, more balance & stability) but also as supplementary training for aikido.

    It is really inspiring for me to see that you have taken the next step and actually integrated yoga into your aikido warm up. I think this is a great idea, and many standard aikido warm ups could greatly benefit from the ancient health and flexibility promoting exercises of yoga.

    I feel encouraged to combine aikido and yoga more in future, too.

    Thank you for your continuing efforts both in your own training, and in sharing with the aikido community:)



  13. oisin bourke says:

    On a point about stretching and flexibility: early Aikido and Daito Ryu have a number of intricate pins and locks that help stretch and stengthen the body. Perhaps some of the more “baroque” pins should be done with the same care and attention that one would give to yoga excercises. The answer to chronic injury may lie within the art one is already practicing. Thoughts anyone?

  14. My Gibeaut says:

    I started to study Aikido at 39 about 10 months ago. I go to Aikido six days a week, and to yoga three days a week. Without yoga, I can barely get out of bed in the morning, or get comfortable enough at night to fall asleep. My Sensei also practices yoga.

    I’ve had some very good yoga teachers over the past four years, and lower back problems as well. One of my teachers told me that the key to having a healthy lower back is flexibility in the hamstrings. And, if your going to work on the hamstrings, you have to work on the quads too.

    For pain that occurs in my upperback, neck, and shoulders, I have found poses like cobra and fish helpful. Also clasping the hands behind the back, and bending forward while letting the arms fall forward, helps to eliminate pain in those same areas. Any poses that tend to extend the muscles in those areas, rather than flex them, work well for me. I would guess that this is because much of the time, in order to keep my head from hitting the mat during ukemi, my body is flexed or bent forward. The stress on the contracted muscles is actually compounded by the impact of the fall.

    Thank you Stanley for sharing your warm ups. Although yoga is a separate discipline, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had common roots with massage and healing techniques developed in the fighting schools of ancient times. I agree that it is a natural complement to Aikido. It would be good to develop a yoga practice specifically aimed at issues that tend to manifest in Aikido practitioners. I extend my wishes to all Aikidoka, that we may be able to practice to a ripe old age, with vigor!

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