Learning to ride, off the horse

So Mary Hanson, a nifty friend of mine, has been raving for several years about her yoga instructor. Love her, but yadda, yadda, I do yoga in my house by myself, I don’t need to go to a yoga instructor, let alone one whose only time I could work with him was 5:30 a.m.  Time passed, and doing yoga by myself got to be a bit flat to say the least, and I started doing it in fits and starts.  Then I stopped doing it, while my conscience, disgusted, looked the other way.

So I decided to look up this yoga guy, whose name, in a wry wink from the Universe, is Mat.  Yoga Mat.  Oh stop.  Anyway, I go to Yoga Mat and he is spectacular.  Mary is yet again, correct.  🙂  We went all the way back to square one with mountain pose, better known to the non-yoga public as, um, “standing”.  Seriously.  Then we spent an hour going over Sun Salutation A, which, if you look at the link in this sentence is in “Yoga for Beginners”.  Ha ha ha.  I have been doing yoga for, what, 10 years?  You’d have thought that going back to square one would not be cool, but I completely enjoyed going back and learning it correctly.  Mat would show me just how to move my hands or move my back.  I had always had a hard time remembering Sun Salutation A, but after working with a really good instructor it was pretty easy because I could understand what each movement was supposed to do.

One of the corrections that came up twice from Matt was that I need to move my lower ribs down.  This is an odd thought, because we are always told to “stand up straight and tall”.  My interpretation of that had been to “open my rib cage” (elongating the space from my bottom rib to my navel).  Turns out is better to engage your core and drop both your front ribs and your shoulder blades down your back.  This engages your core magnificently.  Try it.  Sit up “straight” at your computer.  Now, pull your lowest ribs down while still sitting up tall and at the same time dropping your shoulder blades down your back.

I don’t know what you feel, but I feel immediate solidness and strength in my upper body.  Both the front and back sides of the body are engaged.  I also feel that it is really hard to maintain!  Oy vey!


Redwood Original aka The Fabulous Sammy at Wind’s Reach. Yes that is Eric Dierks judging. 🙂

At any rate, I went to two more sessions with Yoga Mat, who gave me an at-home routine to work on and I am going to check in with him in a lesson each Friday.  Meanwhile, John Staples was out at my barn today and I had a lesson with him on the fabulous Sammy.

I really like my lessons with John because he lets me “in” a little bit as a fellow trainer.  I basically ride around and work on stuff and he comments and asks me questions to make me think, and shares enlightening anecdotes.  During all this, he said, “You know, if I have a problem with your riding, well, not really a problem, but if we were splitting hairs, I would say that you are always just a bit behind the motion.”  I’ve heard this before, usually expressed as the more annoying “a little heavy in the tack”.  Ouch.  Expressed the second way, I didn’t know what to do with it.  But when John said, “behind the motion”, I got to thinking about my time with Mat.  If someone’s lower rib cage is constantly a little “popped forward”, it would sink their sternum back and make them look behind the motion.  In fact they would be behind the motion.

So I decided to try to incorporate the changes that Mat was having me do on the yoga mat to riding a horse.  I moved my lower rib cage down while sliding my shoulder blades down my back, which then engaged my core.  I’m not going to say it was easy, but it was definitely effective.  The slight “wave” in my upper body in canter subsided and I was more centered on the horse rather than behind him.  After riding a few minutes like this, the asymmetry that I have been experiencing in the past year went away.  I could see in the mirrors that I was straight.  I wasn’t even aiming for that!

I planned on keeping up with the yoga anyway, and this is some really exciting stuff that I find motivating both for riding and for yoga practice!

Have you had breakthroughs inspired by off-horse insights?