Practiced by people for more than 5,000 years, yoga helps improve flexibility, muscle tone, blood flow, and oxygen distribution throughout the body. The meditative elements that are included help increase mind and body awareness. As the practice continues to gain global momentum, more and more people are finding innovative ways to include yoga in all elements of their lives, including their relationships with animals.
Linda Guanti, a yoga enthusiast and horse owner in British Columbia, Canada, has found a way to combine her love for yoga and horses through the unique practice of yoga with horses.
“Yoga with horses gives you a way to connect with your horse if you can’t ride,” she says.
Yoga Provides Pain Relief, Improves Flexibility and Athleticism
Linda found traditional yoga several years ago when she was searching for relief from a back injury she suffered following a fall from a horse in her early teens.
“I’d been through years of physiotherapy and painkillers and was still suffering, so I tried including yoga and the benefits were amazing. I had less pain and more flexibility, and as a result, my riding began to improve,” she says.
As Linda’s riding abilities began to improve, the athletic demands on her horse, Lewis, increased. “I was looking for a way to help his body deal with the increasing stress, and thought that if yoga was so good for me, it had to be good for my horse,” she says.
Yoga with Horses Benefits Horse and Rider
Yoga with horses allows horse owners greater insight into the well-being of their horses and allows them to connect on a deeper level.
Natural Yoga Practice
Linda and Lewis’ yoga practice evolved naturally and slowly. Linda began to include bends and lunges when she was grooming, and leg stretches for Lewis after she tightened the girth before a ride, and neck stretches when he wanted a treat.
“Getting Lewis to stretch for treats was easy and really help stretch all kinds of muscles,” says Linda. Encouraging him to reach for a treat held next to his shoulders stretched the muscles on the sides of his neck, and holding one between his front legs stretched his crest, or the top of his neck. Linda even figured out how to get him to bow using treats. “Now when I pull out a treat he immediately bows for it,” she laughs.
Similar to Partner Yoga
Yoga with horses can be compared to partner yoga, but with a non-human partner, and is mostly limited to the standing postures, such as tree, and varied warrior, lunge, or twisting postures. “There is some modification, but all the poses provide a fabulous whole body stretch and balance each other out,” says Linda.
While horses can’t do the lying down poses, a comfortable and confident rider can do them on the horse’s back.
Yoga with Horses: Hoofbeats, Heartbeats, and Drumbeats
Yoga enthusiasts and horse lovers interested in learning more about yoga with horses are invited to attend a one-and-a-half-day workshop called Yoga with Horses – Hoofbeats, Heartbeats, and Drumbeats on July 9 and 10, 2010 in Langley, British Columbia. Neither yoga experience nor owning a horse is required. The farm has a herd of horses for participants to choose from, and the practice is gentle enough that each pose can be modified as needed. “Yoga is not about the end of the pose, it’s about the journey through it,” says Linda.
“Body awareness is one of the best things you can do for you and your horse,” says Linda. “The horses all seem to really enjoy the yoga time with their owners or even their human partners. Even the most fidgety ones calm right down and most start yawning. It’s an amazing feeling for all involved. Once you start you won’t want to stop!”