BY SALLY BISHOP
Horse people are typically active beings, whether it be from riding, or any of the other variety of tasks around the barn that are required for a horse’s upkeep. Chances are there may be an old injury that (especially during this time of year,) creeps up to remind you of its presence. Maybe you’ve hit the ground hard a time or two, or maybe it’s just hours logged in the saddle. Either way the good news is there is an all-natural, inexpensive way to help fix you up. And what better time to give it a start than in the New Year?
For some , the mere mention of yoga brings thoughts of freakishly bendy people forming themselves into pretzels, or perhaps chanting, incense or worse – hippies with man-buns.
Luckily, there is a type of yoga for all; from a very challenging athletic workout (power yoga, for example), to a more gentle stretch (yin, restorative.)
When I started teaching yoga in my small town of Nanton, AB, there were many people who declared, “they weren’t flexible enough to do yoga.”
Isn’t that the point of doing it?
There were also a large contingent of horse people who wanted to work on their tight “rider hips.” There was even a rancher who very hesitantly joined, feeling that he would not be able to do it. As a person who has had a lot of injuries, I told him, “I have a plate in my shoulder and a plate in my knee, and that’s just a start. So if I can do it – you can do it.”
That got him in the door, and he never looked back. I also have an 80-year-old man who comes faithfully every week, sometimes with his wife who does yoga from a chair.
There are so many places to try this spiritual discipline nowadays but if going to a studio is too intimidating, or too far to drive, YouTube videos or magazines are a start for having a practice at home. The point is, just start – and the benefits are several. According to the American Osteopathic Association, yoga helps with increased and improved circulation, respiration and energy, protection and prevention from injury, and lowering blood pressure. An important aspect to yoga is that it can be a stress reliever, and a great way to battle insomnia as it helps you to relax and wind down before sleep. It is also said to help with mental clarity and calmness and sharpens your ability to concentrate. A great benefit for the many aspects of horsemanship.
If you’ve considered yoga, wondering if you should give it a try, now is a great time to start! You don’t need a mountain top or even a fancy studio. The basement will do just fine. Or if you prefer, in the barnyard. Horses often provide an inspiring backdrop. There aren’t many people who leave a yoga session saying they wish they hadn’t done it. Do it for yourself and for your health. Your joints will thank you!
POSE #1 – Forward Fold
Level – Beginner
How To: Stand upright with your inner feet parallel, about six inches apart. Contract your front thigh muscles to lift your kneecaps. Keeping your legs completely straight, exhale and bend forward from your hip joints, moving your torso and head together. Slide the index and middle fingers of each hand between the big toes and second toes. Then curl those fingers under and grip the big toes firmly, or your calves or thighs if you can\’t reach the toes. Relax the head neck and shoulders. As you inhale, lift your torso as if you were going to stand up again, straightening your elbows. Lengthen your front torso, and on the next exhale, lift your sitting bones.
Benefits: Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and anxiety. Stimulates the liver and kidneys. Stretches the hamstrings and calves. Strengthens the thighs. Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause, relieves headache and insomnia and improves digestion.
POSE #2 – Half Moon Pose
Level – Intermediate
How To: Slide your right foot about 6 to 12 inches forward along the ground. At the same time, reach your right hand forward to the ground, beyond the little-toe side of the right foot, at least 12 inches. Exhale, press your right hand and right heel firmly into the floor, and straighten your left leg, simultaneously lifting the left leg parallel (or a little above parallel) to the floor. Extend actively through the right heel to keep the raised leg strong. Be careful not to lock (hyperextend) the standing knee. Balance your weight mostly on the standing leg. Press the lower hand lightly to the floor, using it to regulate your stability. Switch sides and execute the Half Moon Pose on the other leg.
Benefits: Strengthens the abdomen, ankles, thighs, buttocks and spine. Stretches the groin, hamstrings and calves, shoulders, chest and spine. Helps relieve stress and improves coordination and sense of balance.
POSE #3 – Wide Leg Forward Fold with a Twist
Level – Beginner
How To: Position your feet wider than your hip width, hinging forward from the hips. Place one hand down and the other hand straight up. Twist from the base of your spine and look up over your right shoulder toward the ceiling. If doing so is too hard on your neck, you can always keep the gaze down and hold. Switch sides.
Benefits: Good for mobility of the spine and general back health. This pose helps to create space between your vertebrae. It’s also a good stretch for the hamstrings.
BIO – In addition to being the Sales Ad Executive for WHR, Sally Bishop is a Yoga Alliance Certified yoga teacher who has practiced yoga for 20 plus years. As a stunt performer and a roman rider, she credits her yoga for helping her to overcome many injuries.