Some time ago I got given a voucher for yoga sessions. Having done Pilates and various exercise programmes over the years I didn’t think this would be much different but I have always wanted to give it a go. The reason for this and for my general interest in various posture, body awareness and breathing exercises in more depth is to understand what can be a good, sustainable, complimentary exercise routine for an ambitious, amateur rider.
What I mean by sustainable is that it brings clear improvement to the rider’s performance (i.e. feel, body control, posture control, balance control) in such a way that the rider is encouraged to stick to the regime.
There are riders using yoga on horseback (not quite the thing I was after) and there are also numerous books about Pilates and Yoga for riders out there. From my own experience, Pilates can and does help with riding but not everybody is keen on it. Some of my riders do yoga and I wanted to know the difference first hand. Since I had the voucher I finally got organised and booked my first Yoga session.
Well, let me tell you, this thing is BRUTAL 😀
It started with a lovely ambient of candle lights and relaxing scents all warmed by wooden interiors and barefoot, quiet people. And then, my body got ripped apart. In fact, it’s a couple of hours since my session now and I still feel most muscles in my body as if I had done some serious workout or ridden a few horses more than I am used to. It’s quite amusing and surprising. I feel no localised pain, just a low grade muscular tiredness that washes off all over me and makes me feel rather good!
My class was a beginner one and the things I noticed brought me most difficulties were positions requiring a lot of hip flexibility. I am noting this down because pelvis flexibility as well as lower back stability is what we need as riders.
I liked the overall theme of very precise positioning, emphasis on neutral spine, straightness, symmetry and deep muscular engagement without force. My favourite exercise was an odd floating one (the crow? – see image below) when you pretty much lift yourself off the floor on your hands with your knees on your elbows.
I had no idea I would be able to do it but when I figured out how to shift my weight within my body I actually managed to keep myself in the air. These small adjustments within the body are also something I would be looking for in an exercise routine for riding.
Another aspect of yoga which I am curious about is its influence over our mental state. Riding at amateur level is pretty much 50% physical skill and 50% mental training so a routine that works on both would be one of my choice for Aspire programmes. Many exercises were quite difficult to do well so I am looking forward to improving and will report back in a few weeks time!
I am sure many of you out there experimented with either Yoga or Pilates – did it help with your riding skills? Are you sticking to a routine or exercising from time to time? Drop me a comment, I would love to know about your experiences.