“True riding mastery can only be reached by the person who, for years and years, has kept his mind open to new ideas, and even he should always be prepared to admit that there is still much to be learned.”
I've ridden both English and western, as a competitor and as a student; I've competed and I ride and drive for pleasure. I have found that embracing yoga can definitely enhance your riding and driving skills and connect you more fully with your horse.
Here are 7 Parallels I've discovered between Yoga and Riding:
#1 Encourages Compassion, Kindness and Awareness
Yoga and riding are two very ancient practices having originated thousands of years ago. In their purest form they encourage compassion, kindness and awareness. The practice of yoga inspires you to treat your body and horse in the same manner as classical riding. Rather than forcing an outcome through ruthless methods, yoga teaches you to allow, listen closely and coax your body and your horse gently.
#2 Breathe Brings Awareness
Both yoga and riding integrate breathing with the rhythm of movement allowing a synchronicity to flow between the two. To ‘dance’ with your equine partner, the rider must breath and move in a very relaxed and rhythmic way. Breath brings an awareness to the movements of your body and connects and guides your movements in both riding and yoga.
#3 Engage Mind and Body
Yoga and riding engage both the mind and the body. By doing so it stimulates the thought process to identify and explore your physical and mental limitations. When we are on the mat doing our yoga, we learn to safely and intuitively stretch our limitations without injuring ourselves and our ability to focus is heightened. As our skills develop, we learn how we can move safely beyond those limits and transfer that to our riding - one baby step at a time.
#4 Life Long Learning
With both yoga and riding, we find the more we learn, the more we realize just how much more there is to learn. We acknowledge learning is a lifelong process. The principles and practices of horsemanship are always evolving. We read about the thousands of people before us who have shared their journeys of self-discovery and growth. If we are keeners, we journal our own journey so we can look back with wonder and acknowledge how far we have come.
#5 Heightens Awareness
Yoga practice heightens our awareness of our body’s symmetry, while also telling us very clearly of our imbalances. Our horse provides the same feedback to the rider who has learned to listen and understand their horse.
#6 Cultivates Balance, Suppleness, Flexion and Mental Focus
Correct training methods provide a foundation for the horse by cultivating balance, suppleness, flexion and mental focus over time. The same happens on the mat with our yoga practice. The stronger our foundation of balance, flexibility and focus off the mat, the better it is on our horse and we’ll progress more quickly in our desired discipline.
The universal goal of union is shared in both yoga and riding. In yoga, we strive to merge all aspects of ourselves to attain unity of body, mind and spirit. Once we achieve this, we start to explore the same techniques to achieve a union with our horse. There are so many similarities between riding and yoga! It’s quite natural to see many yogi’s riding horses!
What does yoga do for you (& your horse)? I love to hear how people are moved, shifted and changed by yoga😀🦋
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