Yoga for the (Not Very Flexible) Equestrian
After years of riding, ‘snap, crackle, pop’ isn’t just a tagline for a popular kids’ breakfast cereal, it’s also what I hear every time I stand up or get out of bed. Unfortunately, adding SmartFlex Ultra to my morning cereal is not an option for me, so instead I do yoga. Let me just clarify really quickly though, I do not do yoga well by any means, I just try really hard.
If you’re someone that wants to add strength and flexibility to their riding resume, then keep reading- I’ve added my top 5 favorite yoga poses for equestrians below. If you’re someone that wants a good chuckle then keep reading- I’ve added photos for extra entertainment value.
1) Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
aka “Praying To The Goddess of Not Eating Dirt”
This is a great pose that I like to do early in my standing practice. The longer I can hold it, the more burn I feel in my thighs and calves, and it’s one I continually go back to in my practice to keep building that muscle. There are also twisting variations to help lengthen and stretch your lower back.
2) Alanasana (Crescent Lunge Pose)
aka “You Don’t Need A Lunge, But I Do”
While my sleeper-cell gelding acts like he doesn’t need a lunge, I definitely do. While my tall boots make it tough to straighten my back leg like I normally would, that didn’t inhibit the awesome stretch I felt in my hips, thighs and quads! It’s also supposed to help strengthen the muscles around your knee, which is something I definitely need.
3) Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana (Dolphin Plank Pose)
aka “The Only Time I Can Really Push My Heels Down”
“Plank” is an exercise used in a lot of different workout routines and there are tons of variations. I like Dolphin Plank because it doesn’t put as much strain on my wrists, but is still killer for core and leg strength. As an added bonus for riders, it helps stretch out hamstrings and calves that definitely get tight for me when I ride.
4) Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
aka “My Trainer Asked Where My Talent Went So I’m Looking For It”
I see this pose a lot on Instagram, usually with super fit girls at the peak of some stunning vista. Sadly, I’m not one of those girls, but I still like Tree Pose. As a balance pose, it’s more difficult for me on some days than others, but I love being able to feel super centered and hold it steady when I can! There are a lot of variations for this pose, too, but I tend to stick to the ones that have me move and hold my arms different ways to better strengthen my ankle and calf while stretching my core tall.
5) Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
aka “I Dropped My Cellphone But My Horse Is Walking Away Pose”
Despite the look on my face as my horse actively walks away, this is one of my favorite poses! I try to save it for the middle or end of my practice when my body is a little warmer so I can get a good bend out of my usually-stiff hips. While I like that it strengthens my core and legs, what I’m really after is the awesome stretch I get in my lower back. I carry a lot of tension there, which definitely doesn’t help in the saddle, and when I take deep breaths in this pose I can actually feel it loosen little by little.
For anyone wondering, I’m rocking the SunShield Long Sleeve 1/4 Zip Shirt in Azure and Piper Knit Breeches – Mid Rise Knee Patch in Navy. Both the top and breeches are super soft and flexible, and I could easily have worn them to a real yoga class. I’m trying to inspire fellow riders to give yoga a try, but if I mostly just inspired you to get new breeches or a new top I’ll call that a win, too.
All jokes aside I hope those poses were helpful! I’m certainly no yogi, but I love how yoga has helped me both in and out of the saddle. If you’re not big into group-classes, or want to get a feel for yoga on your own, there are a ton of free videos on YouTube, too! For those of you that practice, teach, or just try really hard at yoga (like me), what are your favorite poses to do?