Balance Blog: Yoga for Dressage Riders & Equestrians

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I am not exactly sure how I fell into the specialty, but I seem to be the local expert on yoga for Dressage and Equestrians. Serendipity? 

Actually it makes sense because I work a lot with yoga for balance and arthritis/chronic pain. These are two big concerns for riders long-term. Riding can lead to spinal disc issues and resulting back and nerve pain. Also, the position the body is in can put pressure on the back and knees, increasing the risk of arthritis in the long run. The good news is that through mindfulness and yoga, a lot of these symptoms can be relieved and many of the potential issues can be lessened or prevented. 

First thing I had to do was look up what dressage even is! Dressage is an equestrian sport and is thought of as "the highest expression of horse training."

A deeper level of focus, balance, and sense of union with your horse is necessary. 

A big part of my work with this unique group has been in physical and mental balance. In brainstorming with a top Dressage coach and judge, Kathy Rowse, we came up with the following tips for yoga for Dressage & Equestrians:

REMEMBER (in yoga & riding):

  • Find your balance. Play with lots of balance poses. See the video below where I add extra balance challenges to the traditional sunsalutations.
  • Find "center." When standing on two feet and when sitting on your sitting bones. When seated, try moving your butt muscles to the side and "slithering" or wiggling to feel your weight equally on by wiggling and noticing (this works on your mat or saddle).
  • Focus on your posture. Find a neutral pelvis so that you have a subtle curve inward in the low back. Imagine your head is floating up. Imagine space between your vertebrae. (Disc issues are a concern for riders so this is important.)
  • Keep your shoulders down. When you lift your arms in a yoga pose or to hold the reins, keep the shoulders down. The upper traps may have a tendency to ride up toward the ears. Relax. There is no need to wear your shoulders as earrings ;) The horse can sense this! 
  • Relax unnecessary muscles. While you are at it, notice if you are holding stress anywhere else. Relax your jaw, hips, and even your toes!
  • Notice your breath. Find a rhythm in your breath. Remember that your rhythm directs your horse's tempo. Also, in life, the rhythm of our breath directs the tempo of our reactions and interactions. Becoming more mindful of your breath will help you be more mindful in the moment. Imagine also being acutely aware of your horse's breath. Through this, your connection will grow infinitely. 
  • Keep your head up and your heart open <3

DO:

This weekend I taught 2 workshops on "Yoga for Dressage Riders" and I feel inspired and energized by the unique perspective of the students.