For those of us not lucky enough to be headed south, January can be a slow month. It’s no secret that the dark, frigid days make for less than desirable riding conditions. Horses and riders alike often take this time to rest and recuperate before getting back to work to prepare for show season. This is the perfect time to work on some cross-training fitness to improve your riding and your life.
Enter…Yoga for Equestrians! The comprehensive guide to yoga positions that will strengthen your riding muscles and help soothe those riding related ailments- we all have them! This book “merges two very ancient disciplines- horsemanship and yoga- as a practical, beneficial and enjoyable program to enhance your riding skills.” (Bedenik & Wirth 12). With emphasis on the importance of breathe, power, and focus, this book is a great way to shake up the way you view your riding.
If you hear “yoga” and automatically picture a shirtless dude on a beach balancing on his arms with his body twisted into a pretzel, fear not! This book is designed by equestrians, for equestrians, and tested for you by your fearless leader… me! You’ll see that just like riding, yoga is great for the mind, body, and soul.
I will walk you through some of my favourite poses.
The book says: This pose is a fundamental position and he starting pose for most standing asanas (poses). The rider achieves precise, vertical alignment of the entire body and a steadiness of form by centering in this simple standing posture. Mountain pose bestows a sense of power and strength as the rider establishes stable, upright alignment (71).
I say: This pose is the same feeling as trotting down centreline, halting, and saluting your judge, waiting at the ingate right before your round, or when your grandma takes a picture of you. It’s the tall, noble, queenlike position we should always embody! Remember to engage your core and keep your upper body in a straight line- don’t arch your back.
The book says: This is a beautiful, classic balancing pose. It teaches the rider to develop the ability to remain entered through the slow, gentle movement of extending the limbs away from the body. Dancer sharpens the rider’s mental focus through the use of breathe and physical attention (72).
I say: This pose has great physical benefits as well! You’ll feel a deep stretch in your hips, abs, chest, and arms. The broadening and opening of your chest and shoulders will have you feel like you’re flying. When I first started yoga this pose gave me a head rush, the same way a great jumping round does!
The book says: This pose energizes the entire body and increases awareness of control of the rider’s power centre, directing energy through the arms, legs and spine (74).
I say: This pose is fantastic to release tension in your hips after a long day in the saddle. Focus on keeping your body and hip straight- my yoga instructor says you should feel like bread in a toaster!
The book says: This pose is excellent for building pelvic alignment. It teaches breathing in rhythm with movement. This pose also increases flexibility of the muscles surrounding the hips and spine (78).
I say: I love this pose for stretching through the shoulders and relieving neck tension. Keep focusing on breathing deeply and evenly as you lift and drop your back.
What’s your favourite yoga pose? I hope these exercises refresh and rejuvenate you and your horse. Happy riding!