The Reasons I Practice Yoga

Laura Crump Anderson is the Equestrian Fitness Specialist at InForm Fitness Leesburg and Reston and specializes in working with riders of all disciplines and has competed to training level in eventing. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Personal Trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine. This past weekend Laura graduated from her 200-hour yoga teacher training course.

As far as equestrian fitness trends, I was behind the curve on the value of yoga. Videos and books on yoga and Pilates for the equestrian have been around for as long as I can remember, though I barely gave them more than a glance. That changed two years ago when I walked into a yoga studio simply to support a pregnant friend. Prior, my experience with yoga was a one-credit class in college. Rough association with a guy friend from high school, who broke my heart more than once, was now a yoga teacher blowing up my news feed with constant postings on social media … Let’s just say that this was not something I expected to do regularly. I was fit, I rode horses, and I worked out, so who needs yoga?

Photo by Melissa Hunsberger.

Reason #1: Anatomy

As the story goes, she had me at ‘xiphoid process.’ The xiphoid process is the boney bump at the bottom of your sternum, and when my teacher used it as a body marker in my first class I was hooked.

I quickly realized that through movement, I was learning more about the human body than I had in three years of anatomy and physiology in school. While I could point to an IT Band on a chart of a human with no skin, it had nothing on holding a pigeon pose for three minutes and identifying exactly where my IT band was and how it worked. Through my practice I learned more about my body and other people’s anatomy than ever before. This helped me become a better fitness specialist. I believe this knowledge of how the body works helps instructors and clinicians teach students as well.

I went on to continue studying yoga and the second concrete and detectible difference I felt was in my mental strength.

Photo by Melissa Hunsberger.

Reason #2: Grounding

I learned to ground into the present moment more and worry about the ‘what ifs’ less — the greatest tool to access this is through the breath. My breath is the yoga that I have with me throughout the day; when I start feeling overwhelmed, or worse, out of control, I can always control my breath, and it starts me on the right path to address the situation ahead. Competitiveness and comparison almost never serve the practice, and I learned that quickly to meet my body where it is that day. Yoga has taught me to breathe and work with the madness.

My world is demanding, fast paced, meticulous and complicated by ADHD and so incredibly vata deranged that I am grateful to now understand what that means. I hold a leadership role in a small business; I am serving as Chair of the Health and Wellness Committee for the Loudoun Chamber, one of the fast-growing counties in the nation; I am blessed with incredible yet demanding clients, two dogs, two horses, six chickens, a 20-acre horse farm, and a remarkable husband, who did not sign up to be a main caretaker.

Breathe.

Reason #3: Visualization
Do this, it works!

Reason #4: Energy or Spirituality

If you don’t care for ‘woo-woo’ feel free to skip this next paragraph … I would have two years ago. However, the more I learn the more I realize this was a part of my life that I was missing. Through meditation and connection with energy that is in everything, my understanding of self
grows stronger.

I must admit this did not come from once a week classes. For me this required more in-depth breakdowns that I have received with my 200-hour yoga teacher training. The intuitiveness of some Ayurveda came easy; however, I still get lost when they start talking about chakras, though I am starting to understand how chi moves through the hyaluronic acid in the fascia and the reason western doctors had so much trouble identify meridian lines because experiments were conducted on cadavers, and dead bodies have little chi. While I digress, I would be amiss to write about yoga and not touch on this.

Here are three great stretches for equestrians of any disciplines, presented in order of yin (most passive) to yang (most demanding). The key action of all three poses are to stretch, the inner thigh which tends to be chronically tight in riders.

Wide Leg Up the Wall. Photo by Machelle Lee.

Butterfly. Photo by Machelle Lee.

The Frog. Photo by Jason Smith.

Thank you to Melissa Hunsberger and the team at Stephen Bradley Eventing for opening your beautiful facility for me to teach my first yoga class outside of training. Melissa was the first instructor I had dedicated to eventing through Loudoun Hunt Pony Club. I could not dream up a better group, and it is an amazing experience to teach my teacher.

Namaste!

Photo by Laura Crump Anderson.

 

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