IMO, I feel that the warmup exercises have for the most part lost most of their substance and are essentially just a hollow shell of their original intent.
The approaches I have seen on these exercise have all been strictly external and focused on strengthening and loosening up muscle and joints. Now I believe that is part of what they were intended for, but I also think there is more to it that addresses internal development as well. However, without knowing what should be happening internally, that part of the exercise will be lost.
A basic tenet of internal skills training is the strengthening and development of the whole body connection of the fascia, ligaments, and tendons. What we do in our warmup exercises to support this, is to perform the stretch with an exhale totally relaxing all muscle while extending the stretch as far as possible. We will then hold that extension while doing a slight reverse breathing inhale. This will essentially inflate and add pressure inside the body along the path of the stretch. At this point we will then mentally explore that path with the mind by visualizing ki flow along the path. IMO, this approach brings together both aspects of the mind and body in the performance of the exercise. This approach was not something given to us directly by Dan or any other source, but it is something we have put together based on the concepts and principles of what we have been giving by Dan and other sources for our aiki development.
I agree. At most you get people focusing on the movements of the exercise, but doing little else.
I'm also doing very similar things with those exercises these days myself. Sounds like something that could spin off into an interesting thread of its own...