January 17, 2016

Yoga on a Horse, Of Course!

Angela Nunez

“Do what is healing to your spirit, and without effort you will bring the world healing in return.” ~ Alan Cohen

Pain is part of life. Pain enables us to heal and grow.

My journey of healing began with horses and continues with my yoga practice—both on the mat and with my horse, Snowy. I began practicing yoga on horseback out of curiosity. My passion for yoga and horses fueled a quiet, but nagging thought in my mind—what would happen if I combined the two?

Good equestrians learn a lesson at some point in their careers—horses are much more than recreational vehicles,they are sentient beings who deserve to be treated with kindness, respect and dignity.

This lesson punched me in the gut when I was eight years old. The equestrian center that my mom managed at the time housed an athletic little Appaloosa pony named Trixie. She and I would explore trails for hours. She was every little girl’s dream come true—pretty, reliable and fast.

One day, Trixie and I returned to the barn and my mom noticed with horror that Trixie was huffing and puffing and lathered in sweat. My mom pulled me aside and explained to me in a stern voice that I couldn’t just go out and run Trixie as much as I wanted to. She said to me, “Horses aren’t machines. They have feelings. You have to be considerate of them. You should never cause them suffering.” My heart ached for the way I had treated Trixie.

Until that day, I didn’t realize that horses had a limit, that they shouldn’t be run all the way back to the barn even if they seemed willing. I felt horrible that I had caused a sentient being suffering. As I walked Trixie out that day, allowing her to cool down, I vowed to never cause such suffering again.

“Under no circumstance should your hand disturb the horse’s mouth. You must learn to stay calm in all situations and control your emotions. There is no room for anger.” ~ Xenophon

That day proved to be a turning point in my horsemanship. From then on, I dedicated myself to learning all I could about horses and how to have harmonious, mutually respectful relationships with them. I participated in Dressage, Centered Riding, and Natural Horsemanship clinics. I read all the literature I could get my hands on. And—most importantly—I learned to listen to the horse.

My horsemanship and training methods are based on a deep love for and ever-increasing knowledge of the horse as a sentient being. Do I still make mistakes? Of course, but I learn from them. I do not force my will upon any horse. I do not cause any horse pain or suffering. During my yoga practices with Snowy, I pay close attention to him to see if anything I’m doing is causing him even a hint of discomfort—and if so, I immediately stop doing that pose.

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.” ~ Carl Jung

When I embarked on my yoga journey, I couldn’t have fathomed where it would eventually lead. I first tried Hatha Yoga at Smith College during my first year there. I was bored and could not for the life of me understand the point of Savasana. I’ve now been practicing for eight years, and I’ve tried Baptiste Power Yoga, Vinyasa, Jivamukti, Restorative, Yin, Aerial and Kundalini Yoga. I’ve loved them all and have learned about my mind and body in a different way in each class. I finally came back to Hatha Yoga and got my 200-hour certification. Hatha yoga builds a strong foundation that yogis can practice on for the rest of their lives. If and when a yogi decides to try other types of yoga, Hatha teaches him/her how to stay safe and prevent injury through being mindful of proper alignment and breathing. The more I practice and teach Hatha yoga, the more I love it.

“Truth is a matter of perception. People only see what they’re prepared to confront.” ~ Unknown

One sure thing I’ve learned about horses and yoga is that there is always more to learn, there is always room to grow. Admitting I don’t know it all enables me to keep learning,

I will keep learning, but I will never know all there is to know and that’s okay. I will learn all I can and pass on all the knowledge I can, and that will be enough.


Relephant Reads:

Giddy Up Little Yogi: How Horses & Yoga Bring Us Peace.

I Skipped Yoga Class & this is What Happened.

The Horses Across the Road.


Author: Angela Nunez

Apprentice Editor: Jaimee Guenther / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Author’s Own

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