Connecting Yoga & Horses

Baddha Konasana, my top yoga pose pick for riders. See below for the how to. Photo by Larry Stanley Photography.

A lot has been said, by me, on this topic. But wait – there’s more. What I love most about these two things is the lifelong opportunity to learn. You are never “done”.

Breath. For me, no amount of pranayama practice has hit home the importance of the breath like riding a horse. From the moment you engage with your horse on the ground, he can sense your breath, and what it means. He is translating your breathing. If you tense up on his back and are hardly breathing, he thinks something is wrong and that danger lurks. You feed off each other. Cue the cliché, take a deep breath. You relax. He relaxes. Deep breathing is one of the best riding skills you can have.

Energy. In yoga, we talk about shifting prana, our life force. We are moving energy within us when we practice. We do the same when we interact with horses; however, we take that energy shift outside of ourselves. Horses are very sensitive to our energy. They remind us what it’s like to tune in to a different frequency that we’ve lost touch with, one that is part of their daily lives. In groundwork, you can move a horse without touching him, without even coming close to him, by intensifying your energy in his direction. It’s not magic – but using the power of our own energy to communicate with a horse certainly can feel that way.

Yoga. Baddha Konasana, or bound angle, is a pose I think about a lot while on horseback; if my hips aren’t in this pose’s position, I’m too tense. If I had to choose one pose that connects riding and yoga, this would be it. The hip opening action encourages a relaxed posture and seat on the horse. Open hips are beneficial for a lot more than horseback riding – how about just releasing tension? The first place we normally think of as holding tension is the neck and shoulder area, but the hips also collect a great deal of our stress. It’s a lovely basic hip opener for everyone, whether you ride or not.

The how to: Sit down and reach back to get your rear out of the way, so you feel the sit bones at the bottom of your pelvis connect to the floor. Bring the soles of your feet together, about 4-6 inches from the hips (the more open your hips and knees are, the closer your feet will come in). If your knees are not dropping very far, you can place blocks or blankets under them for support. Interlace your fingers underneath your feet. Don’t pull the toes up; keep a light and relaxed grip. Now tune into your posture; draw your navel in toward your spine to activate your core and straighten your back. Relax your shoulders and lift your chin slightly. You can stay here, or begin to slowly and gently come forward with your upper body, keeping a straight back and directing your chin toward the floor in front of you. Work to lengthen your spine – stop coming forward when your back starts to round. Hold for 25 slow, deep breaths. Before getting up, straighten your legs out in front of you for a moment.

More yoga for riders by me coming soon in Chrome magazine, the lifestyle publication for members of the American Paint Horse Association.

If you want to experience all this…there’s still an opportunity to join us on Cowgirl Yoga this summer. We have two spots left on our July 14-17 B-LUXE Cowgirl Yoga retreat. Yeehaw and Namaste.