Do you know of a fun fitness class we should feature? Tweet me @ApozTV.
With my eyes closed and my body finally relaxed, I slowly laid back and began to settle into my yoga practice. That is, until my “mat” moved. Moments later, it shifted again … before finally letting out a loud neigh. This is precisely what makes horseback yoga challenging, fascinating, and fun.
The class, offered by Campbell Equine, is held at Sky High Farm in Leverett. The bucolic setting serves up a heavy dose of tranquility. Being outdoors and breathing in fresh air definitely provides a different sensory experience than a typical yoga studio.
The first portion of class was spent on solid ground. An instructor led the group through a series of stretches, twists, and bends to warm up our bodies and get the blood flowing.
Next, it was time to climb high atop the horse. Depending on your experience as a rider (or, in my case, lack thereof), you have the choice to use a saddle or go bareback, which is more challenging. For those with physical limitations or injuries, there is also the option to use an exercise ball in place of a horse.
Poses targeted the entire body, with an emphasis on the legs, hips, shoulders, and back. The horse not only makes for a fun four-legged companion, but it also challenges you to remain focused and present. If your mind begins to wander, you risk tumbling to the ground. Balance is also a big part of the equation. Some participants did the poses while their horse was in motion, activating their core muscles to help maintain proper form.
I went into the class thinking the horse’s role would purely be from a physical standpoint, but I could not have been more wrong. Horses are incredibly sensitive and intuitive creatures. From the moment you climb atop them, they absorb your energy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but after a chaotic couple of days, my body had been carrying around a lot of tension. And having only been on a horse once in my life, I was admittedly a bit nervous to try horseback yoga. From the moment I sat atop B.H, I immediately felt his lucid body begin to tense up. I had transferred my frenetic energy to my horse, and my being stressed out was making him stressed out.
The instructor led me through a series of breathing exercises to calm my mind. As soon as I began to relax and let it all go, my horse did the same. Ultimately this made the poses a lot easier and the adventure a lot more enjoyable for both me and my partner.
For me, the experience encompassed what yoga is all about … staying present, letting go, and reigning in your thoughts in order to rebalance and reignite both your mind and your body while challenging yourself at the same time. And I found there’s no better, or cuter, barometer than a horse to help accomplish just that.
Horseback Yoga, Campbell Equine Training, www.campbellequinetraining.com, see website for classes and pricing.