I love Instagram, there is no hiding that fact and one of the biggest reasons why I love Instagram (social media in general), is that sometimes I come across profiles of amazing people, who live on the complete opposite side of the planet and I would probably never have crossed paths with them in real life, but online we are all connected somehow and the world is tiny and very accessible.
So a while ago I found Angela’s account: Horse_yoga_girl and I was utterly amazed! I mean yoga is tough enough as it is and then she goes and does it on a horse! Incredible. I obviously needed to know more. I myself am just a very beginner yogi, I do random yoga youtube videos once in a while when I feel like one big knot. But this girl is amazing. So I asked her to share her story with us. And here it is:
“Laughter drives shouting away.” ~Indra Devi
I was having a bad morning. I had just found out that my boyfriend at the time had cheated on me the night before, and at 20 years old, I was pretty sure that meant my world was ending. My horse, Snowy, was around two years old at the time, so I was focusing his training on groundwork and building a relationship with me. When I arrived to the barn, I was feeling angry, hurt, and depressed, but I was very careful not to let those emotions affect my time with Snowy. We danced together in the round pen, learning about our boundaries, respect, and trust. I stood in the middle of the pen and Snowy walked up to me and took the carrot stick (a training tool—not a whip!) between his teeth. He started waving it in my direction and I realized that he wanted to move me around the pen, as if saying, “It’s my turn now!” I played along with him, jogging around the pen as he playfully pranced along behind me. Suddenly, I found myself bursting out in laughter, and then letting the tears flow. In trying to be mindful of Snowy and not letting my erratic emotions affect him, I lost mindfulness of myself and locked my emotions up behind a wall. Snowy sniffed out the wall, though, and knocked it down better and faster than any human could have. Snowy used humor to help me process and release my anger and my pain. Snowy brought me back to the present moment and helped me quiet my mind, which is, after all, the point of yoga.
A college friend dragged me to a hot yoga class, promising me that I’d love it. I was skeptical, but I went anyway. I had no idea then how much yoga would change my life. After just one class at Shiva Shakti Power Vinyasa Yoga Studio, I was hooked. I was awed by the connection of breath, body, mind, and spirit, and continued to explore numerous types of yoga, including Slow Flow, Yin, Jivamukti, Restorative, Aerial, and Hatha. After seven years of practising, I decided to pursue my 200-hour teaching certification through Open Dimension Teacher Training with Denise Moore (E-RYT 500), and became a 200-hour RYT with Yoga Alliance in May 2015. Something I didn’t count on is how yoga would affect my riding and horsemanship. I already used my breath in my riding and knew that horses respond to the breath when given the opportunity, but I wasn’t familiar with pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) until I really dug into practising yoga. The asana (physical practice) of yoga made my riding more supple, improved my balance, and strengthened my core. The meditation taught me how to quiet my mind and be fully present during my time with my horses.
Bringing yoga and horses together was a natural union for me. I started practicing yoga with Snowy and he loved it as much as I did. During our yoga sessions, Snowy is more than happy to stand still, only shifting his weight now and then to help me balance. He licks and chews, yawns and stretches, and sometimes even takes a nap. When I teach horse yoga to my students, it’s amazing to watch the horses respond as the students become more relaxed. When an initially nervous student finally takes that first deep breath of relaxation after a few minutes, a deep breath from her equine partner is sure to follow. When the students go into savasana for yoga nidra (final relaxation/meditation), the horses go into their zen zone, too, softening or totally closing their eyes, relaxing their heads down towards the ground, and meditating right along with their human yogis.
The point of yoga is not to become a contortionist, or to get six-pack abs, or to be able to stand on your head (although headstands are pretty fun!). The point of yoga is to quiet the mind so you can get in touch with your eternal divine existence within and experience that blissful awareness, or Samadhi. I’m convinced that horses exist in Samadhi and that we can learn from their wisdom if we open our hearts to it. If you’re interested in trying some horse yoga, check out my Beginner Horse Yoga video and other videos on my YouTube Channel. Follow my journey on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or if you’d like to schedule a horse yoga class or clinic.