Relaxation and yoga…on horseback. By Denise Leicester
I recently returned from a weekend of ‘de-stressage’: relaxation and yoga on horseback. I was looking forward to the experience but had no idea it would have such a transformative effect.
I started my connection by stroking and brushing the horses (I sensed a real response to my oil blends, particularly the sandalwood and jasmine). I then mounted my horse and, with no reins or stirrups, began the yoga element: horse-based breathing, focusing on deep long exhalations with the intention as I breathed out to relax and flow. Horses use out breaths to convey intention and healing; they breathe over their foals to let them know they are safe. I felt my lymphatic system stimulated and began to notice a warmth spreading throughout me.
It was at this point that I was overcome with the memory of a car accident; I froze and my horse followed suit. I was guided to breathe more deeply and move into a forward bend – something released as I did, and my horse started to walk. I progressed through the yogic postures at various paces: walk, trot and even canter. Having arrived feeling exhausted after a particularly busy week, I emerged two days later feeling empowered, joyful, transformed and more deeply connected to my inner abundance than I could have imagined.
Horses are extraordinary, intelligent creatures that can ‘read’ human emotion; extremely empathic, they help with recovery and fostering change. They also communicate through intention and this is a powerful tool in horse healing and yoga. The use of horses in therapy can be documented thousands of years – Hippocrates referred to it as ‘hippotherapy’ (‘hippos’ in Greek meaning horse), and there has been an increase in physical (physio) and psychological equine therapy in recent decades. We know from neuroscience that a human’s and a horse’s limbic (emotional) brains have incredible similarities; in mirroring our emotions, they teach us to recognise our feelings, connect more deeply within and tap into source.
We so often put the intent on inhalation – filling the lungs with big fresh breaths – but it’s good to take the lead from the horse and remember that an exhalation that’s longer than the inhalation relaxes the body (nervous system) and therefore the mind. To echo and align yourself with ‘the horse breath’, use your preferred essential oil as you inhale, then meditate on peace and joy during deep long exhalations. While the process is enhanced breathing alongside an animal (a companion like a cat or dog), you could also focus on your heartbeat, inhaling for 3 beats and exhaling for 6 beats (whatever you feel comfortable with). It works…reap the relaxation rewards.
Denise Leicester is the founder of ila-spa.com