Yoga – dressage – and the language of teaching

In addition to riding a lot, I also practice a bit of yoga. A few years ago, I practiced a lot of yoga to the point of taking a pretty intensive yoga teacher training course. I taught a bit in gyms, but it took too much time away from riding, and taking a day off was harder than I liked, so I mostly used that to improve my own practice. Then, I started to build a new farm and started riding a lot more, and I let the yoga fall to the side. I now think that this was probably a bad decision on my part. I think yoga might have been what was holding my back together, and when I stopped, my back issues got worse.

So, I decided this spring that at the absolute minimum, I would go back to my weekly class, and hopefully find the motivation to practice a couple of times a week outside of class. I backed off a few levels to see how my body felt. I wanted to make sure I addressed any weaknesses and identified ways to support my back, and definitely not aggravate it. As luck would have it, I returned in the semester where backbends were the focus. This has been good for me. I’m now very focused on my back, what areas my arthritis cause limitations and also what movements my bulging and damaged discs are aggravated by (have to be super careful to lengthen the spine in all twists and know when to stop). I did discover that I had not lost as much strength or flexibility as I’d thought, but I’m still glad I backed down.

My regular instructor was out of town, and had substitutes for a couple of weeks, and the primary focus was backbends. With substitute 1, she talked us into the back bends and prep poses with a lot of focus on protecting the lower back, as she also has some back issues and I left her class feeling fabulous. The next week was with substitute 2 in a lower level class, so less backbending, and the instruction was still good and very correct, but I seriously tweaked my lower back.

What was the difference? The intention? How does the intention get set? The language of teaching is fascinating to me. Some people have more experience and a bigger teaching vocabulary. The timing and emphasis of the same instruction can make huge differences in the outcome. What is the right instruction this week might not work next week. And this is true in both riding and yoga. This is why in both, serious students tend to work with more than one instructor, often sequentially, as they develop their skills.

Why did this rambling suddenly seem blog worthy? Because my abs are screaming at me (this is good) after my two lessons in the clinic! Same goal that I’ve had, but the language of teaching that was used obviously was what I need right now as it got me working some muscles that I am obviously lazy with.

I went back for another session in the clinic this morning, and we continued working on the same stuff, but the goal was to start out where we ended yesterday. Bali really seems to like the work and really, she has just really turned into a grown up this year. She walks off the trailer and settles into work. She has manners, beauty, soundness, brains…what isn’t to love?

Ok, so she’s still a tad lazy (and seemingly, so am I based upon the sore abs that mean I’m being a lazy rider a LOT), but she seems to be liking this stretchier work and longer frame.

We did a huge amount at the walk again, the counter shoulder in to haunches in really works nicely to really start controlling the body parts. The transitions were getting smoother and smoother and very uphill.

My reins were longer and I’m carrying my hands lower and a lot of the work is in a longer and lower frame than I’ve been riding in, but it seems to be helping with loosening the lower back and getting a release in the jaw and poll. I’m not working as hard in many ways, the bigger canter was much easier to obtain, but way harder with my core (see sore muscles above).

As an aside, Tanq was again amazing today. He is for sale, so people come to try him, and the lady who tried him today rode him beautifully (as in, “wow, he has really turned into a NICE horse!), and she may come try him again. It is not always easy for horses to switch riders, but Tanq is such a good egg that he handles it with aplomb.


About Mel

Random musings in a riding journal
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