The Yoga Sequence -
The following sequence has been designed with a focus on awakening and opening the areas of the body that are integral to successful riding. These postures can be done pre-workout as a way to warm up your muscles & prepare them for engagement, or post workout to help prevent injury and soreness. This sequence utilizes the timeless yogic combination of breath work with postures to develop a deep sense of awareness that is essential to moving in harmony with your horse.
1: Cross Legged / Sukasana
Find a comfortable seated position with your legs crossed. Bring the pelvic bowl to neutral & lengthen your spine. Let your hands rest on your knees & relax your shoulders down the back. Take 5 deep breaths to settle your mind & bring awareness to your body. With each inhale(about 5-8 seconds) feel the chest rise & expand the ribcage. With the exhale(equal in length to the inhale)soften any tension you may be holding.
2: Side Openers
Walk your right hand out to the side and inhale as you lift the left arm up. Reach through your left fingertips expanding the left side of the body & with an exhale bend to the right. Keep both hips firmly rooted to the ground & focus on creating space along the left rib cage. As you stretch through the left fingertips, relax the shoulder away from your ear. Draw your chin away from the chest opening the throat space. Take 5 deep breaths then repeat the other side.
3: Folded Sukasana
Coming back to center, inhale, reach your arms up & lift the heart, exhale & fold easily forward. Try not to collapse in the spine but to extend out from the hips deepening the tilt of the pelvis & hip opening. Take 5 deep breaths.
4: Twisting Sukasana
With an inhale roll the spine back up and exhale easily twisting to the right. Use your right hand behind you for spinal support & rest your left hand on your right knee. Take 5 deep breaths; with each inhale extend up through the spine & on the exhale, pull the belly button back towards the spine moving deeper into the twist. Do not use your hand against the knee to press aggressively into the twist, let the twist deepen as you focus on drawing the belly button in with the exhale. Repeat other side.
5: Pelvic Tilts
Come to a seated position resting on your heels. Inhale; tilt the pelvis forward & let the head & neck follow. Opening the chest & awakening the spine. Exhale; rock the pelvis back & articulate the spine in the opposite direction, pulling belly button all the way in. Repeat 5 times with each breath.
6: Gate Openers/ Parighasana
Draw the hips up off of the heels & extend your right leg out. Let your right hand rest on your right leg. Inhale; reach up through your left fingertips. Exhale; bend towards the right. Engage the core pulling the pelvis into alignment with the spine to come out of any low back bending. Take 5 deep breaths as your feel your left side opening all the way from your hip flexor through your fingertips.
7: Grounded Lateral Angle Pose/ Ardha Parsvakonasana
Inhale; draw the upper body back to center. Exhale; plant your left hand down to the side of your left knee. Inhale; sweep your right arm up & over your head. Ground down through the outer edge of your right foot & reach through your right fingertips creating a long line of energy all along the right side of the body. Relax your shoulder away from you ear & draw the chin out opening your throat space. Take 5 deep breaths.
8: Boat / Navasana
Come onto your hips & bent knees. Tilt your upper body back to an angle at which you feel your core engage. Make sure to keep a nice long spine & lift in the chest. Bring your feet up off the floor & reach your arms out in front of you for balance & lift. Do not let the belly press out but engage the belly button back towards the spine. Take between 5-10 deep breaths feeling your core awaken.
9: Knees to chest
Roll onto your back keeping your knees drawn into the chest. As you draw the knees in try to flatten out the lower back creating space across the sacrum. Take a few deep breaths here. Then extend your left leg down to the ground & begin to draw the right knee slightly out to the side of your right ribcage, opening in the hips. Take 5 long deep breaths & then switch to the left leg.
10: Thread the Needle Hips
Stay on your back & bend both knees keeping the thighs parallel & hip-distance apart. Next, cross your right ankle over left thigh flexing through the right foot to stabilize the ankle & knee joints. Draw your left knee towards your chest & thread your right arm through the triangle between your legs clasping your left hand around your left thigh. Make sure to relax through the upper back & neck as you work on opening the hip. As you continue to draw the left knee in towards your chest, at the same time, press your right knee away from you. The combination of movements should activate a perceptible sensation of opening in the hip. Take 5 deep breaths & then switch to left side.
11: Downward Facing Dog/ Adho Mukha Svanasana
From a tabletop position lift your hips up to the sky extending through your tailbone. Slowly begin to drop into your heels opening in the hamstrings & calves. If you have tight hamstrings, keep a slight bend in the knee. Make sure to keep your fingers spread wide & palms grounded. Relax in the head & neck. Take 5 deep breaths.
12: Low Lunge / Anjaneyasana
Staying in the lunge, drop your back knee down in the ground. Draw the spine upward & place your palms on your front knee. Engaging the core, begin to bring the pelvis into neutral coming out of any low back compression. Take 5 deeps breaths as you feel the left hip flexor & groin open.
Staying in the low lunge, move the upper body towards the right into a twist. Take the left hand to the right knee & let the right hand rest at the base of the back. Use the exhale to move further into the twist as you pull the belly button back towards the spine. Do not use your hand on the knee to aggressively deepen into the twist, let the deepening come from the low belly drawing inwards. Take 5 full breaths. Repeat 11-14 on other leg.
14: Yogic Squat/ Malasana
From the downward dog, walk your hands back towards your feet & drop into a low squat. The feet can either be parallel or toes out, whichever position feels comfortable for the knees & hips. Draw the palms together & use the elbows against the inner leg to gently press the knees out. With each exhale relax more deeply into your groin. You can even shift your weight from side to side getting more movement in the hip socket.