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Yoga for Riders


Pat Kessler’s cat enjoyed the Yoga mat.

DDA members practice the Yoga poses.

Instructor Erin Williams shows the warrior pose.
As part of its new 2013 agenda, Delta Dressage Association hosted a free Yoga for Riders session on March 10, 2013 at the home of Patricia Kessler, Eads, TN. The instructor was Erin D. H. Williams, a Movement Specialist at Madonna Learning Center. Erin’s focus for the hour and 15 minute session was (1) breath, a Yoga fundamental; (2) abdominals; and (3) hips. About eight Delta members, and some new members, took advantage of the free instruction.

Williams explained what yoga does and how yoga can be used in riding. “The word yoga means to unite the body, mind, and spirit.  The breath – the thing we need most to survive, but which is often over looked in our fast-paced lives – is key to this union. When the body, mind, and breath are all integrated and working harmoniously, we are whole and present. Stretching areas in the body that are short and strengthening areas that are weak, while focusing on the breath, we begin to cultivate a new awareness about ourselves. 

 “We ask our horses to be present all the time: to know not only what their body is doing, but also to listen to and respond to ours.  Yoga can give the rider tools to be truly present. Yoga can help all riders of all disciplines better connect with their breath and body, so they can have a better awareness of what they are doing with their body in time, space, and intention. All this, in turn, influences the horse. If the rider can better relate to his or her body; help regulate nerves or tension with their breath; they will have much more awareness of what their equine partner is doing and feeling underneath them. Incorporating yoga into riding mindfully creates a truer union with the horse – something we all strive for.”

Williams began the session with a breathing exercise called Sama Vritti, done in the cross leg seated position called sukhasana. “Breathe in to the count of three; pause; breathe out to the count of three, keeping the breath smooth and steady,” she explained. Sama Vritti means equal parts breathing; breathe in to the count of three; pause; then breathe out to the count of three. This calms the body and focuses the mind.

Next she progressed to abdominal exercises: “Uddiyana Bandha = abdominal lift and lock. Technically speaking this is not an asana (posture), but a restraint of energy used to bring awareness to and tone the abdominals. It also helps eliminate toxins from the digestive tract. We did this at the beginning of class so as to bring awareness to the abdominals for the rest of class and following asanas (yoga postures),” she said.

The next exercises were: “Upavista Konasana = wide-angled seated pose. This pose stretches the adductors and the hamstrings, and increases mobility in the hips. 

Uttihita Trikonasana = Triangle pose. This is a standing pose that improves balance, stretches the hamstrings, and increases flexibility in the hips.”

Throughout the session, Williams “focused on the breath because it is important to begin to cultivate an awareness of and relationship with the breath. To know how to use breath and how it can help you in your poses, as well as off of the mat in your day to day life, also helps your riding!

“I focused on abdominals and hips because they deal directly with the seat. Having a good seat is something all riders need. Knowing how to strengthen and stretch those areas of the body will help the rider create the seat needed for their particular style of riding.

“There is some much more I could have taught and, of course, there are more body parts than abdominals and hips that affect riding.” But these were the basic areas she chose to work on in the limited time span. Sounds like an opportunity for follow-up sessions!

The next Delta Dressage sponsored session will be Tai Chi for Riders on April 14 at 2:00 pm at Pat Kessler’s in Eads, TN. For more information, contact Peggy Gaboury, gaboury@bellsouth.netor

About the instructor: Erin D. H. Williams is a Movement Specialist at Madonna Learning Center. She studies Iyengar and Vinyasa yoga, is RYT 200 certified, and is currently in training to become a Yoga Therapist. She teaches alignment based yoga with a strong emphasis on the breath. She enjoys working with all body types, helping people to connect with their bodies and, in return, better connect with their horses.  She is a dressage rider, training with Peggy Gaboury at Cranesfield Farm. She is also a PATH Intl. certified therapeutic riding instructor and a founding member of Opal's Barn Therapeutic Riding Center in Nesbit, MS. For more information, visit:

0463: Pat Kessler’s cat enjoyed the Yoga mat.
0466: DDA members practice the Yoga poses.
0470: Instructor Erin Williams shows the warrior pose.

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