30 Apr 3 Ways Yoga Can Help Your Dressage (With A Routine To Try)
Yoga is an incredibly under utilized form of training for dressage riders and I would love to see that change. You see yoga has the ability to make you feel centered, balanced and more energized. It improves your posture and evens out any imbalances throughout your body. Just as we want our horses to be balanced, centered and energized it makes sense that as a rider we to should be aiming to feel the same. After all how the horse feels is a replication of how the rider feels.
Here are 3 ways yoga can help your dressage:
Improve Strength and Balance
The great thing about yoga is its ability to get to all those deep muscles that we tend to neglect, while at the same time improving your straightness and opening up your hips. All of which are incredibly important for riding. The combination of length, balance and strength allow you to get more in control of your center of gravity and more balanced in the center of the horse while riding. It is when you are balanced that you are able to give subtle independent aids on the horse.
Increase Mental Focus
Not only does yoga work on your body it also works on your mind. Its increases body awareness, focus and clarity. Then at the heart of yoga is breath. Staying connected to your breath and mind while you take your body into challenging and uncomfortable poses. Exactly what a dressage rider needs when heading into an arena or trying out your first flying change! Being in control of your body, your horses body, the balance and impulsion while at the same time being accurate calm and centred.
Improves Core Strength
Yoga also improves your core strength and promotes proper alignment. In fact most people when asked to stand properly don’t know how. Yoga improves your standing posture which is the same posture required for riding correctly. By practicing yoga you strengthen the muscles that support the spine and help improve overall posture. When standing and riding correctly the core muscles are continually working and balancing the spine. If you are out of balance or weak in certain areas it is very easy to overuse, damage and injure the body.
As riders we want our horse to calmly move through the movements with grace and ease, so it just makes sense that we put that sort of training in practice off the horse to. Dressage is about feeling, flow, balance, mindfulness and breath and yoga is very much the same when done well. So if you are looking for a simple place to start with improving your riding strength, balance and posture I would start with this simple sun salutations flow. This doesn’t have to take up hours in fact you can begin with just a 5 minutes a few times a week and greatly notice it impact your posture on and off your horse.
Sun Salutations Flow
Standing in neutral spine, shoulders back and palms open. Breathe here to begin, then take your hands over head with your inbreathe. As you breath out fold forward with your hips into forward fold.
From your forward fold step or jump your feet back into downdog, the move into plank so your spine is long and straight. Then either with your knees up or down, slowly lower chest to ground keeping elbows tight by your sides.
Then push your self through into up dog by straighten your arms and squeezing your bottom. From there lift your bottom back up to down dog, walk or jump your feet forward to your forward fold and hold. Then repeat the sequence.
This sun salutations flow you can do as slow as you need, begin by holding each pose for 2-3 breathes, then as you warm up move deeper into the poses and increase the speed to just 1 breathe per pose.
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