Saturday, February 12, 2011


Obviously, this isn't a current picture.  I refuse to post any more pictures of snowy, dreary winter scenes.  This is one of the roses from my garden this past summer.  I can't remember the exact name of it, but it's a very nice plant.

Calm, Forward, Straight asked me about my yoga routine.  I had mentioned that I do my routines by myself.  There are no gyms or yoga studios near me, and even if there were, I wouldn't have time to go anyway.  I have two young children, a household to take care of and the attention span of a ferret with ADD.  Getting in the car, driving to a gym and doing an hour long yoga workout would take up far too much of my time and attention span.

So, I've developed my own sort of practice.  If you're not interested in yoga, the next paragraph will probably be pretty boring.  Feel free to skip ahead.  I'm just going to list the sequences I do.  I'm going to use the translated names, because I can never remember the Hindi names for the poses and can't spell them anyway.  Every morning I do several rounds of a Sun Salutation.  My Sun Salution is: Mountain pose, Raised arm pose, swan dive to forward standing bend, flat back, hop or walk back to plank, four limbed staff, up dog, down dog, repeat.  I do that sequence as a vinyasa, alternatively using each pose to inhale or exhale.  To open my hips and stretch my hamstrings, (which always get tight from riding), I do a sequence of  Warrior II, Extended Side Angle, Warrior I, Triangle pose.  I also have a balancing sequence consisting of Eagle, Tree, Warrior III, Half Moon, Revolved Half Moon.  The balancing sequence is great for strengthening the legs and core.  I generally hold each pose for 4-5 deep breaths.

 The sequences I do are mostly pieces of full workouts that I can do anywhere, anytime.  Sometimes, I'm standing in the kitchen cooking something and I think to myself, "Ooh, my hip feels a little hitchy.  I think I'll do some yoga."  Then I do my hip opening sequence.  It's just that simple.  In this fashion, little pieces at a time, I can usually do several rounds of each sequence every day.  If I tried to do a full hour long practice every day, I'd never be able to get it done.

Breathing is very important in yoga.  As you breathe in, each breath expands the chest, lifts the rib cage and lengthens the spine.  As you breathe out, you deepen the pose, draw the energy in and center yourself.  The breaths don't need to be slow, just deep.  I've found yoga breathing to be very beneficial to my riding.  As I sit in the saddle, I can use yoga breathing to correct my position, engage my core, sit more deeply in the saddle and relax.  As I breathe in, I lengthen my spine.  My rib cage lifts.  My shoulders slide down my back.  My leg reaches down the side of the horse.  As I breathe out, I engage my core.  My seat relaxes into the saddle.  I draw my energy into myself and into the saddle.  I have found that a side effect of breathing out like this is that the horse moves more energetically forward.  Because of this, I often breathe out when asking for upward transitions.  I breathe in when asking for half halts or downward transitions. 

I generally don't have to concentrate too hard on breathing anymore, but occasionally I find myself short of breath from breathing too shallowly or holding my breath during a difficult movement.  That's when I consciously use the yoga breathing techniques to focus myself.  I also find them helpful in maintaining the correct position during canter work.  Like many riders, I tend to fold up and get short in my legs during canter work.  Concentrating on my breathing, lengthening my spine and legs during the inhale, engaging my core and sinking deeper during the exhale, helps with this. 

The nice thing about yoga breathing is that you don't have to be insanely flexible to breathe.  Believe me, I am not insanely flexible, or even kind of flexible.  You just have to concentrate a little at the beginning, and soon it will be second nature.  Anyone can do it, even those of us possessing the attention span of a squirrel on crack.


  1. This is a really helpful post. So if I just look up the names of all the poses, is it that simple? I've been thinking about Yoga for a while now, but I've been reluctant to go someplace to learn it. The Yoga studios in my area tend to reek of patchouli and the 1960s, so I've chickened out on visiting them. Is it something I can study on my own, do you think?

  2. Muddy K- I don't know that I'd try to just look up the poses and do them. I think it would get pretty confusing! You might find it helpful to search YouTube for Yoga videos. There are a lot of good videos out there. It does help to be able to see the poses demonstrated and hear the instructor giving tips during the sequence. The breathing sequences are important, you need to know when to inhale and exhale. Also, it helps to know how to get into and out of the poses.

    If you have Comcast OnDemand, there are several good videos on there, also. We don't have Comcast anymore, but I used to do their videos a lot when we did. Or, you could also buy videos at the store. Shiva Rea makes great videos for beginners that are available from or at most stores.

  3. Hey Shannon-

    I appreciate you taking the time to describe your yoga practice. It's true that you don't always have to be so formal about yoga - going to the studio, or even getting out a mat - for example hip openers while doing the dishes. I do quite a bit of riding mower yoga ;) And breathing exercises can be done anywhere, anytime.

    Breathing into or out of the transitions is key, as well as not holding your breath - which I have to be conscious of often. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Thanks for a very helpful post! I do yoga but at a studio because I don't have the patience or something to ever get to it at home. I like your advice on using the breath at canter. I'm going to try that as my legs do creep up. I use yoga breathing when I ride (and agree with all your observations) but I haven't specifically used it at canter. I'm gonna try that!

  5. Inspiring! Thank you! Used to do yoga back in the day and now want to do a bit more on the pilates side since it seems to be a bit more of a strength building thing. I too have a the attention span of a squirel on crack and it is very true that just the idea of dedicating and amount of time to one specific thing(other than what I am passionately pursuine) is a duanting task. I love your practice of just making it everyday and simple. I am going to make that my goal!

  6. Thanks brilliant post! I agree with you it is better to do a bit all day long rather than doing it a t the gym for one hour then slouch all day long.

    I use Pilates breathing, engaging my caore all day long. I try to keep my shoulder blades down and towards the centre, and my core engaged when I go running walking etc....

    You sound like you have a brilliant routine!

  7. Good ideas for spanning the day with intermittent exercise rather than an intensive session.

  8. Thanks for some great information. While I don't do yoga, the breathing would definitely help my riding, especially the canter. I'm fine on Savanah (our draft cross) but need to focus on keeping my legs long on Rogo - I'll try to practice the breathing you describe.
    Thanks so much for the information on sarcoids. I really appreciate it. I'm realizing it should be quite manageable.

  9. ps - thanks for the rose picture. Just what's needed. It's so beautiful I literally sense the smell of it.

  10. Great post for those of us considering doing yoga. I like your approach in that you don't do a whole set taking up and hour of time but do it intermittently during the day. Good idea.

    Breathing is so important for riding and doing it during the ride is a great way to relax both you and the horse.

  11. Love yoga. Sounds like you do a lot of the same stuff we do in my yoga PE class at the university. I've found it has been GREAT for making me stabilize my core and open up those dang hip flexors.

    We also do a lot of inner spiral/outer spiral - rotating the inner thighs back and arching the back to stick your butt out, then tucking the pelvis back under to engage the core. I've discovered that if I do that in the saddle, I magically have great posture and I'm actually using my core to balance! It's excellent for sitting trot with no stirrups :)

    Great post.


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