Improve your riding balance, flexibility, and focus
Advantages of yoga for riders include improved:
- Mental focus
- Come to stand with your big toes together and heels slightly apart or, for more stability, with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Evenly distribute your weight across your feet (front-to-back as well as side-to-side). Draw energy up the legs, pulling your kneecaps up and engaging your quadriceps.
- Lengthen through the front and back sides of the body to stand up tall.
- Rotate your outer upper arms (triceps) back to roll your arms open until the palms face forward. Send energy down the arms and out through the fingertips, straightening the arms as much as you can.
- To find your optimal alignment in the pelvis and spine, press both thigh bones (femurs) straight back (you may notice that when overdone this brings your lower back into an arch), then draw your tailbone down until you feel like your pelvic bowl is upright and neutral and your lower back is long and in a natural curve.
- Next, draw the shoulder blades down the back and in towards the chest and spread them apart to widen the upper back.
- At the same time soften your front ribs down towards the floor until you feel like you are open across the chest and yet relaxed.
- Finally lift your chin until it is parallel with the floor and reach up through the crown of the head so it feels like your head is directly centered over your pelvis.
Eagle pose starts in the mountain pose and is followed by the following actions:
- Balancing on right leg with knee slightly bent, lift the left leg and cross it over the standing leg, hooking the foot behind the shin and hugging the legs together.
- Bring your arms in front of you with elbows at shoulder height and bent at a ninety degree angle, fingers together and pointing up.
- Cross the right arm over the left joining the palms of hands.
Tree pose also starts in Mountain pose and requires a spreading of toes and rooting into the ground of all four corners of the feet.
- While focusing on a point in front of you, bend one leg and bring the foot to the inside of the opposite calf or thigh.
- Arms extend overhead with palms together.
While Eagle and Tree poses help riders with balance and focus, Camel pose is one of the backward bending postures. As a category, backbends are particularly beneficial for opening the entire front of the body while improving spinal flexibility. They are excellent for strengthening the back, legs and shoulders. Backbends are also very invigorating, stress relieving and opening to the heart chakra which can promote an emotional release, thereby allowing a deeper connection with our horse. Regular stretching and opening of the hip flexors will promote a deeper seat and a more comfortable ride.
5. Low Lunge
- Come to stand at the top of your mat and take a big step back with one foot towards the back of your mat.
- Make sure that your feet are hip-distance apart rather than on a tightrope.
- Drop the back knee down onto the mat and rest the top of the back foot on the mat.
- Bend your front knee to come into the pose and ensure that your front knee is directly over the front ankle — not in front of it (you should be able to see your toes).
- You can start with hands on the hips, on your front knee or extend your arms overhead with both arms straight, palms facing one another and shoulder-distance apart.
- If the back knee is tender in Low Lunge, you can place a blanket under your knee or press into the top of the back foot to relieve the pressure on the kneecap.
- Look straight forward or up towards your hands. Try to relax the shoulder down away from your ears, even as you stretch through your ring fingers up towards the sky. For most of us, the back will want to arch as we bend into the front knee in lunges. Resist this by lifting the frontal hip points (ASIS) up towards the belly and lengthening the tailbone down.