In yoga, there is this idea of finding poses that require effort while at the same time have a certain ease to them. This idea of not forcing a pose while holding a certain dignity.
As riders we know this all too well, horses do not respond to excess pressure, but just the right amount and we have to know exactly when to release the pressure.
This beautiful dance between effort and ease is what top riders aspire towards as well as yoga practitioners. You watch a rider that you idealize and they look strong yet fluid, they have found that beautiful balance between effort and ease.
I want you to take a moment for an honest conversation with yourself and ask yourself: Are there places in my riding where I am forcing too much and contrarily are there places where I am holding back energy? This could be with horse care, maybe you are pushing your horse too hard in the arena and not grooming well enough to create a connection.
Whenever we put a time stamp over our heads and start to force things we lose the sacred presence with the horse that we need in order to succeed. Ironically when the pressure releases a bit we improve faster. The mind functions better in a positive environment just like horses. A positive environment will always create a happier more fluid mover.
I'm sure everyone has had the experience where they have moved their horse from one barn to another or seen another horse move facilities and it was a different horse; Better or worse. The environment changed these horse's demeanor completely, a relaxed barn typically produces a relaxed horse, same as some riders that have a calm demeanor get on every horse and create this trust right away.
That rider that produces that trust probably laughs at mistakes and moves from a place of positivity. I don' think I've ever seen a rider that hated every second of it look beautiful and effortless in the saddle. We have to maintain the joy in the saddle by finding this beautiful balance between effort and ease.
This balance changes everyday, somedays the body needs to be more still, some days it is ready to push a little harder, the same goes for our horses. This ability to read that takes time and practice but the more present you become the easier it gets. Throughout the process practice being kind to yourself and see how that in itself changes your ride.
**Excess effort and strong feelings of disappointment are long ingrained in our brains. We have to rewire our brains for positivity and openness so going easy on yourself through this practice is the most important part. Being process-oriented and not goal-oriented will make you more joyous at the moment and feel more appreciation for the ride. That goes for all things in life.
Some asanas (yoga positions) to practice for this:
Let's start with breath: When we breathe it gives us a second to take a look inside and quiet the mind so we can intuitively feel what our body needs.
Breathing exercises I recommend:
1) Alternate nostril breathing:
-Begin seated in a comfortable position with your spine up straight. (You can find a video in my blog https://www.gmdtraining.com/post/alternate-nostril-breath-for-riding)
-Next bring the right thumb to the right nostril, the right ring finger to the left nostril and the 2 middle fingers in between your brows. Just rest them there for now.
-Now inhale and exhale through both nostrils regularly.
-On the next inhale block the right nostril and inhale only through the left
-For the exhale close the left nostril and only exhale through the right
-Inhale through the right
-Block the right nostril and exhale through the left, inhale through the left
You are taking 1 exhale and 1 inhale through each nostril before always switching for the exhale. This can take a little while to get accustomed to but just make sure you are taking full breaths and just going back to the rhythm when you fall off. As long as you are mindfully breathing you are practicing yoga.
2)Counting Belly Breath Series
-You can do this seated or lay down.
-Bring the focus to the lower abdomen and start sending your breath deep into your belly. Maybe rest your hands there.
- Once comfortable breathe in for a count of 4.
-Hold for a count of 7.
-Exhale for a count of 8.
Now, let us jump into the physical practice:
*Take the awareness of the breath with you
Can you practice a plank with the right amount of effort to hold it with dignity, while having enough ease to relax the face muscles and breathe deeply?
Warriors are a great way to stand tall while also relaxing the shoulders away from the ears and practicing holding these with the core without clenching.
3)Deep stretches - Seated forward folds, pigeon.
Can you find your edge gracefully and relax into it? Can you honor your body enough to just go to the place where you feel growth without pain? Can you let the ego go and listen to the body?
You can make any position on or off the mat to be something that you practice this with. Think about places throughout your day where you could let some tension go and others where you could devote a bit more effort.
“When an asana is done correctly, the body movements are smooth, there is lightness in the body, and freedom in the mind....Performance of the asana should be nourishing and illuminative.”
— B.K.S. IYENGAR.