How regular yoga practice helps my riding

Yoga Horses

Back in October, Johnny suggested we attend a beginner yoga workshop at a nearby studio. We were struggling to maintain a regular exercise routine; short days made jogging or walking unappealing, and neither of us were very good at getting up to drive to the gym before work. I’ve always liked yoga, but have a hard time staying motivated to practice at home. I thrive in a group fitness environment- working out alone at home with a DVD doesn’t work well for me!

We enjoyed the workshop tremendously, and signed up for a discounted one-month package of unlimited classes. The studio offered evening classes three days a week, which worked well for our schedules. We found a weekend class we liked, too. After our monthly package was finished, we signed up for a year’s worth of unlimited classes. The two of us have been attending classes four days a week since.

I’ve noticed subtle differences in my riding since making yoga a regular part of my life.

Yoga helps jumping!

The physical benefits are obvious (to me, at least). My balance has improved, both in and out of the saddle. I sit more evenly on both seat bones and contribute less to my horses’ natural unevenness. Practicing yoga has improved body awareness.  I can feel when one hip is further forward than the other and when I begin to collapse on one side. I give clearer aids and more effective cues because I can better control which parts of my body are doing what. My body is stronger and I have better posture. It’s easier to keep my shoulders down and my core engaged. I’ve increased my range of motion and flexibility, too.

Yoga has had mental benefits, too. I’m more relaxed and patient with the horses. Don’t get me wrong- I still get frustrated when Candy has a meltdown at a ground pole for the millionth time. But now I don’t pick a fight and make it a problem; I take a deep breath, stay relaxed, and let her figure it out. I find it easier to stay focused, too. I’ve learned to block out distractions and pay attention to what I’m doing and what feedback my horse is giving me. Yoga’s also made me more forgiving. I struggle to find the balance and strength to work toward advanced poses like Dancer or Crane; I’m sure Candy is also struggling to find balance and strength sometimes.

Non-competitive activity.

Yoga isn’t competitive, and every person in the classes I attend is at a different place in their practice. I try not compare myself to others; everyone has strengths and weakness. The same is true in riding. I can find satisfaction in improving my dressage scores even if I’m not winning (or beating anyone else). And I don’t have to compete to enjoy riding my horse- it’s fun to trail ride and hunt.

My favorite aspect of yoga isn’t any of these things, though. It’s that I’ve found a form of exercise that doesn’t make me feel like I’m punishing myself. I don’t dread going to class the same way I dread jogging. It inspires me to make other improvements in my life, like eating healthier, moving more, and making better choices about how I spend my free time.

Do you find a particular type of exercise helps your riding? Are you a yoga enthusiast, too?

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

12 thoughts on “How regular yoga practice helps my riding”

  1. Huge fan of yoga as well. I had tried yoga previously a couple of times and it really bothered my not so great back, but in the past year or so I tried Dressage Rider Training’s yoga videos and exercises on YouTube and they have been the best thing EVER. I finally figured out that because of my back, I needed to start out super slow, not do anything that hurt, and gradually build up to even doing the basic videos. Within 6 months I was up to the advanced videos, pain free with my back, and so much stronger, balanced, and even in the saddle. Huge fan of yoga for riding and I also do high intensity interval training for cardio on an elliptical. I either ride, do yoga, or hiit every day, and sometimes a combination of some or all. The hiit is probably my least favorite, but I watch Netflix episodes to ease my pain…

    1. That’s awesome that you found some yoga that works for you! And I am impressed that you’re out there working out every day- get it!! I go to the gym to lift weights about twice a week, but I definitely enjoy the yoga more. Now that our weather is clearing up and the days are longer, I imagine I’ll find a way to incorporate walking or very slowly jogging into my routine for cardio exercise. I just hate running so much! 😛

  2. I love this! I really think that they key to being more active (and in turn, healthier) is finding something that works for you. I’ve been doing personal training sessions for about 8 months now, and THAT’S what finally worked for me.

    1. Personal training can be SO helpful! Johnny and I have had a couple of sessions at the gym with a yoga instructor who’s also a personal trainer; it was really helpful to have her give us feedback and what we were and weren’t doing correctly.

  3. I love yoga! And pilates too. I do one and/or both at least once a week. I also do a core training class twice a week, and run about 30 miles a week (which is somewhat counterproductive because it makes me tighter I think).

  4. i’ve always wanted to try, but haven’t yet been able to justify spending the time on it that i would frankly rather spend at the barn. maybe one day tho! glad to hear you enjoy it so much!

  5. I love yoga! I’ve been practicing much more consistently the past 3 months and it has definitely made a difference in riding and other aspects of my life. I agree wholeheartedly with every point you’ve made about the benefits. A stretch goal of mine is to get strong enough with some yoga poses to be able to practice them on horseback – if only for the photo

  6. YES! All of this! We had free yoga classes at my work once a week, and I was LOVING it! Unfortunately, they stopped the classes, so I haven’t been able to partake since. I’ve tried finding affordable yoga nearby but nothing really worked with my schedule. I’ll have to try again though, because your post has reminded me about all of the benefits.
    I also found it loosened my hips up a ton so I could sit deeper in the saddle, and more around my horse.
    Totally agree about the last part too. I enjoyed and looked forward to Yoga. It’s pleasant exercise unlike running or HIIT classes.

  7. Exercising regularly, whether a class or lifting weights, has done tremendous things for my body awareness. I wish it had been a requirement when I was younger 😀 Glad you are enjoying Yoga so much!

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