Melissa Seneca, yoga instructor, and part-time rider, first got in contact with yoga a few years ago. Back then, she struggled with hyperventilation attacks and anxiety. Her doctor recommended she take yoga classes, which she has benefited from ever since. She decided to take yoga courses and become an instructor herself. Studio Balans was born.
Her main focus is to help people improve their balance, as well as that between body and mind. “As a rider, I think yoga for equestrians is very important”, Melissa says. “We tend to sit in the same position almost all the time, which strengthens certain parts of the body, while other parts are being neglected or becoming stiffer. This can be a reason for a body to be more susceptible to injuries. A great example is the hips. They often become very stiff and need to be loosened up in order to prevent back or shoulder aches. Apart from that, stress is also something that has a huge impact on your body, which translates into your riding. This is where yoga and meditation come in. There are so many successful business owners and top athletes who practice this already, so I think it’s time for the equestrian community to do the same”, she adds.
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According to Melissa, meditating can be very beneficial for the connection between rider and horse, but also the rider’s focus. “Not every meditation has to take so long. Several exercises only take three to ten minutes. You can even to them on your horse, in the warm-up for example. And by the way… No one will notice”.
The hips, pelvis, hamstrings, and core are what needs the most exercise, for riders specifically. Apart from that, our feet and heels are very important too. We always put them down, so stretch exercises where we stretch them the other way can help the rest of your body as well.
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From left to right:
- Cresent pose
Important here is that the hips are faced forward, your knee placed on top of your ankle, and your leg that is the furthest back needs to be actively pushing back and completely extended. Make sure to open and lengthen your upper body.
This is very good for your back, hips, and pelvis.
2. Low lunge
Important to ground the pelvis, place your left knee on top of your left ankle (do the same for your right knee when you switch side), lengthen your back, and open up your chest. You might want to hold on to a chair or whatever is near you, which is completely normal at the beginning.
3. Half split
Important to place your pelvis on top of your knee, extend your left leg, flex your left foot, and bend your back towards your leg. Make sure you properly lengthen your back.
4. Tree pose
Important to never place your foot on your knee, but on the inside of your calves or the inside of your thighs. Rotate your knee to the outside and make sure to keep your hips and pelvis straight, and in place.
5. Standing shoulder stretch
Bring your hands to your back, and try to make your palms meet. Make sure you engage the core and the abdominals and open up your chest. The more you open up your chest, and bring it upwards, the more you push your hands back, away from your hips.
6. Forward fold with shoulder stretch
Important to place your pelvis on top of your knees and ankles and bend forward. If this is hard, you can slightly bend your knees or keep the knees in place and just try to bring your hands as close to the floor as you can.
7. Pigeon pose
Important to not let your hips thrift to one side and keep them next to each other. (Avoid this exercise if this is too burdening for your knees) Make sure to place your left knee behind your left hand your left foot in front of your right hip.
8. Spinal twist
Make sure to lengthen your back (inhale) before you twist it back (exhale). Remain in this pose for 3 to 5 breaths. Look back over the shoulder.
9. Forward fold
Slightly flex your feet upwards, inhale and lengthen your back, exhale and bend forward towards your legs. Engage the upper legs so you really stretch those hamstrings.
Photo: Wild Orange Make-Up