Yoga Transformed My Riding!
Pic: Alison Nye Warden
Local rider and MD of premium online retailers, Dressage Deluxe, Alison Nye-Warden explains how yoga has transformed her life and her riding and how she has her future goals focused on helping riders just like her…
“Throughout my riding career, like many riders I have sustained numerous falls and injuries and one of these, in particular, left me with permanent damage to my left arm. Yoga has often been suggested to me as a means of physical therapy and although I tried it once or twice it never really struck a chord with me, until last year. Discovering that there was a yoga teacher operating from a Tipi a few houses away from my rural home meant that it felt like it had landed in my lap, so I thought I would give it another go.
I rocked up to my first class fairly confidently “how hard can this be?” I thought to myself “I am fit and danced for years in my youth, I’ve got this” (Oh dear, how wrong was I??) The Yoga teacher Ebony is a slip of a thing, who has the strength of not just one Ox but about six!!! She put the class through what I now know to be an easy ‘Hatha’ sequence, and I returned home feeling very unfit and not quite so smug! The class was a real eye opener, I had discovered a tightness in my hips that I didn’t know I had and an inflexibility in my back that was quite frankly astounding. Riding regularly, I thought I was strong and fit but just from one session, I could see that actually my physical state was not all that great!
So, I continued with my classes, once a week at first, increasing to two before not too long and although it was never a secret I didn’t tell anyone.
About six weeks later, during a lesson with Jane my Dressage Trainer of nine years, she looked at me and said: “I don’t know what you are doing that is different, but whatever it is, don’t stop!!”
It transpires that the tightness in my hips had been the reason that I had found sitting trot so difficult, for so many years and suddenly it just happened – easily!! This with my new-found flexibility in my spine meant that for the first time ever I was able to sit and properly concentrate on where and how my horse was going, rather than struggling with bouncing around and trying to ride at the same time. Riding was not the only area of my life that I noticed a difference, I was noticeably becoming fitter, stronger…and more toned!!!
I have now decided that this is too good to keep to myself, so I am currently undertaking a Yoga Teacher Training course, with the aim of teaching older broken people like myself (I am 49 years old) as well as devising a programme purely for dressage riders to help them improve their results in the saddle…so watch this space!”
Exercises I Love:
Here are a couple of my favourite exercises but make sure like me you are under the supervision of an experienced yoga teacher before attempting any yoga exercises.
Vrksasana (Tree Pose):
This is an amazing pose that improves balance, increases proprioception, develops strength and stability, strengthens and muscles supporting the pelvis as well as mobilising an opening the hips (who knew that standing on one leg could do so much?!).
Stand with your feet hip width apart and transfer the weight to the left foot. Keeping the left leg strong, place the sole of the right foot either above or below the knee (never on the knee) with the toes pointing down towards the floor. Engage the quadriceps of the left leg to assist with balance and inhale to lengthen the spine. Relax the shoulders away from the ears, press the palms of the hands together in front of the chest and breath evenly. Exhale to return to standing. Repeat on the other side.
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle or Cobbler Pose):
This is a great hip opener and as well as increasing flexibility in the adductor muscles and general groin area, Yogis believe that this asana (position) helps to relieve fatigue!!
From a seated position, bend the knees out to the sides and bring the soles of the feet together. Draw the feet towards the body with the hands and inhale to lengthen the spine, taking the crown of the head upwards. Exhale, allowing the hips to open and the knees to relax towards the ground. Breath evenly.
It is important to listen to your body and not force any movement. If you compare the position of my knees to Ebony’s you will see clearly that I am working within my body’s current limitations.
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