Yoga for Equestrians: Back and Spine
By Lindsey Memering
I’m going to describe quite a few movements because a happy back makes so many other portions of your body happy!
A good warm-up to yoga for your back is the simple cat to cow pose. Here you will stand on your hands and knees alternating between poses. Cow pose you lift your chest with your inhale, tuck your tail bone in, and press your stomach towards the floor. As you exhale, lift and round your spine up and tuck your chin in towards your chest. Warming up your back is very important so try and do these movements slowly and at least 5 times to really get your body flowing.
Another excellent stretch and one of my all time favorites for my spine is scorpion pose. Here I find its best to start on your belly on your mat and stretch your arms out to the sides. From here facing left or right, take your leg from the direction you are facing and bring it back in the opposite direction while keeping the other leg straight with the rest of your body. Hold this pose for a few breaths and you should feel results right away! Switch directions and try to do this back and forth a few times to get the most out of this pose.
A variation pose similar to cat/cow is another favorite simple stretch of mine called upward facing dog and cobra. For upward facing dog it’s best to start in a simple plank position, bend at the elbows with an inhale, drop your chest to your mat, and lift your chest up planting your fingers into your mat. Make sure to really push your shoulders away from you and that your using the flat part of your feet to hold you so that your thighs are lifted from your mat. Cobra gives a deeper back stretch and might be better for those who don’t want to use some of the strength required for upward facing dog. For cobra, keep your hands by your ribcage and arms slightly bent, your chest aligned with your ribcage, and press your thighs into your mat.
A finishing pose to any yoga session and a great way to cool down the back is child’s pose. This helps stretch your back in a direction not similar to most other movements, thus counter-acting and improving stretches. For child’s pose, place your knees flat on the mat together and sit on your feet. From here, lift your arms around and up over your head in an inhale. With your exhaling breath, bend at your hips, keeping your arms stretching forward onto the mat. Keep this pose until you reach a calm, meditative place and finish your practice with it.