I’d heard the term equine yoga before, but I never really understood what it meant to combine yoga with horsemanship until I met Cathy Woods. A yoga instructor from the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Cathy is also a horse owner and trail rider. Our paths crossed during a body, mind, equine workshop on the Yoga of Horsemanship while I was attending a horseback riding vacation in Montana.
During our body, mind, equine workshop we learned how to use yoga to improve our horsemanship, yoga stretches for equestrians and had a little saddle time with yoga. Woods, a long time equestrian and yoga teacher, talked a lot about being present in the moment with awareness, as well as body awareness.
“My goal is to assist yoga students in becoming more aware, conscious riders,” said Yoga Instructor Cathy Woods. One of Cathy’s goals for us was to harness in the moment. She shared with us that she doesn’t consider herself an expert equestrian. Her equine workshops are more about becoming an aware rider.
“Being in the moment with yoga means uniting our body, mind and spirit. Our energy can become so fragmented,” noted Cathy. “Yoga is about unifying that energy.”
While many of us in the equestrian world enjoy a level of competition, either on the trail or in the arena, Cathy cautions that “yoga is not about athletics or competition. It’s about awareness.”
With my horse show days behind me and after my second hip replacement, I have come face to face with my horseback riding limitations, as well as the joy I experienced getting back in the saddle after total hip replacement surgery. I’d previously participated in an equine perspective workshop in California and thought I was “in touch” with my feelings, but Cathy’s Body, Mind, Equine class brought up a lot of emotion in me that I was not expecting.
Tears rolled down my checks as we walked and trotted around the arena. My present moment awareness was over-whelming for me. I fought to control my emotions, totally caught off guard by the feelings of frustration and sadness that were welled up inside me. I tried to focus on my breathing, all the while, wiping my hot tears from my face. After a few laps on the rail, we walked our horses into the center of the arena and shared our thoughts. The other riders were feeling connected with their horses while I felt a disconnect, not so much with my horse, but my body.
What did I learn from this experience, the yoga of horsemanship? I learned that it’s okay to feel sad about the loss of range of motion since my joint replacement surgery. I also learned to be more gentle with myself and accept where I am at the moment. I’m curious to learn more about the body, mind, equine connection and hope to join Cathy at the C Lazy U Ranch in Granby, Colorado for a three night women’s equine retreat.
To learn more about Cathy Woods Body, Mind, Equine Yoga workshops call (828) 479-9373
Beginning yogi and equestrian Nancy D. Brown enjoyed stretching her mind and body while researching this article. I was a guest of The Resort at Paws Up during the Cowgirl Spring Roundup.