Fitness

Why You Should Be Practicing Yoga To Improve Your Dressage Riding

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Being a strong dressage rider means you have to be mentally and physically fit. You need to be able to stay balanced and focused in the saddle, to be able to sit up straight while pushing your heels down and keeping your ankles flexible. To engage your core and change position on a moment’s notice. But what can you do in order to improve overall? Easy. Add yoga to your daily routine.

Most people think of yoga as a stress-relieving activity, given its focus on balance and breathing. While yoga can help relieve stress before or after a ride, or at the end of the day, it is also a way to exercise that helps build core, leg, arm, and back muscle as well as joint flexibility. As we age, our bodies begin to lose that flexibility we need in our knees, hips, and ankles. Holding positions like downward dog engage our core, stretch our calves, and increase flexibility in our ankles while helping us become aware of how balanced, or unbalanced, your body is.

Balance, too, is important for the dressage rider. If we aren’t balanced in our saddles, we find ourselves leaning in on one side over the other, or being too heavy on our cues on one side over the other. Feel like you’re constantly falling in on one side? Yoga can help you identify which side of your body you’re leaning on more so you can correct this before you get back in the saddle. Try Warrior I, which not only helps open your hips, engages your core, and strengthen your leg muscles, but it brings awareness to and strengthens your balance.

Building and toning muscle is also part of including yoga practice in your fitness routine. With Downward Dog, Warrior I, and many other yoga positions, muscle strength is needed to hold yourself still for any length of time — just as it’s needed to correctly ride at a walk, trot, or canter for any length of time.

Adding yoga to your fitness routine will not only help you improve physically as a rider but mentally, too. When we’re in our yoga practices, we’re focused on breathing and holding our positions before moving onto the next one. With riding, we need to remember to breathe, to remind ourselves we are in control of what our body does and that we are strong enough to make it through the end of our ride.

Ready to add yoga to your fitness routine? Check out Nicola Smith’s free yoga videos geared towards the dressage rider.

Nicole is a writer for Heels Down Media. If she's not writing or editing, she's either running, doing yoga, or at the barn working on becoming a better, stronger dressage rider.

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