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Pushing up against those mental barriers in riding and how yoga helps

All riders know and have probably experienced the moment when it’s time to do something new riding, something more challenging and let’s be frank something potentially more scary. For every person this may be different, for some it’s the first time you have to trot, for others it’s the first time you walk into a stable with what seems like a massive horse, and for me it’s the time I head down a centre line in collected canter towards three judges.

This moment takes it form in many ways, as Riders though our aim is to not pass on our anxieties, negative narrative or downright fear to our beautiful horses beneath us.

Unfortunately this is generally what happens, we become tense, our breathing takes a hike, aids that would normally come to us easily suddenly seem like they never existed and the poor horse beneath us hasn’t a clue what we’re asking of them. The usually chilled rider they know and love has morphed into a tense rigid board and they feel as alone in the world as you feel up on top.

Yoga helps us to have tools in our tool box to deal with this situation and instead of it becoming a mountain to climb using yoga we can turn it into a positive outcome.

When we practice yoga we ask our bodies to go into postures that we may never have asked them to do before, some postures challenge our body but most challenge our mind. In certain postures of flows our body is coping but our mind lacks belief we begin a negative narrative “maybe I’m not strong enough, not balanced enough, not chilled enough for this” delete as required. If we observe our bodies we may find the start of tension or the breath becoming shallow.

When we practice and start recognising these patterns we can learn to breath into these moments, deepening the breath and releasing the body until we find ourselves into a state of calm clarity. As we repeat this process our sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous systems get attuned to being able to come up against pressure and dropping back into a state of calm.

Through regular practice on our mat we can become pro’s at calming ourselves when our mind wants to tell us something different, we can then put this into action when we find ourselves facing that mental barrier whilst sitting on our horse.

So when you’re in a yoga class observe your breath, observe your mind patterns, if you start having negative narrative use your breathing to change this into a positive place. Deepen the breath when you feel you’re becoming tense, send the breath to the areas of tension and flush them out.

Practicing this in a safe space like your yoga mat re-enforces the relaxation and you’ll find you get there quicker and quicker.

Then when you come to ask for that canter transition (or whatever your mountain is), do the same observe your breath, notice the negative narrative, breath deeper into the areas of tension, come to that place of calm and suddenly you’ll find you can work through the block rather than bouncing up against it.

Have a good week people.


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