It’s the start of another year, 2022, bringing with it a unique set of opportunities, challenges, possibilities and adventures. We all tend to set goals at this time of year and as equestrians some of these goals will involve our horse/s, maybe it is competing at a higher level, going for a hack in a particular place (or indeed going for your first hack), starting a youngster or bringing your horse back into work after a tough winter. Whatever it is a yoga practice can help you achieve these goals, bringing with it numerous benefits for both body and mind.
As equestrians we tend to invest a lot of time and money in our horses (or I know I do!) doing our best to keep them happy and healthy often with beneficial extras such as physio and carrot stretches. There is a lot of focus on relaxation, acceptance, balance, core strength, muscular strength, flexibility, evenness and much much more as we work together with our horses building and creating what is ideally a harmonious partnership between horse and rider. It takes time, patience, commitment and sometimes even blood, sweat and tears! However if we are unbalanced, lacking core strength, are tense, have unevenness in our hips and/or body, imagine how much more difficult that can make life for our horse as we work towards our goals.
As riders unevenness or tightness in the hips can restrict our ability to sit evenly on our seat bones, affecting our seat which in turn can negatively impact our effectiveness as riders and the effectiveness of our aids, perhaps even leading to miscommunication with the horse. Poor hip health can also lead to knee pain, back pain and tension which then negatively affects both our lives and our riding ability. A regular yoga practice with a focus on the hips can help to improve hip health and improve a riders seat and ability to balance which then positively enhances the experience of being ridden for the horse.
In yoga practice there is very much a focus on the balance between strength and flexibility as too much of either has the potential to lead to injuries. Unwinding the tension in the body and building strength through yogic asana (postures) creating space and releasing out tight muscles could just help prevent injury, increase performance and make you a better rider.
Nervous before competition day, backing a youngster, going somewhere different, feeling anxious, lacking self belief? Pranayama (breathing techniques), mindfulness, medita, positive affirmations and led relaxations are all yogic tools that you can take off your mat. Simple yet effective breathing techniques and meditations can enhance relaxation, reduce anxiety and help us feel centred and grounded by stimulating our parasympathetic nervous system and moving us out of our sympathetic nervous system (our fight or flight response). Working with positive affirmations, practicing led relaxations and yoga nidra (Yogic sleep) can all help enhance our self belief, improve our sleep patterns, reduce anxiety and create a sense of inner calm, which in turn can help us achieve our goals.
A regular yoga practice is a great way to work on rider core strength, balance and flexibility whilst enhancing relaxation and providing tools and techniques that you can then take off of your yoga mat and into your everyday life. To book into a class and start on (or continue) your yoga journey click here