The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:41 pm 
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:sun:
I get a lot here, may be I can give some as well, or at least establish a fertile exchange…

As some of you may know or conclude from my username, I am a yoga teacher. Though this is a really important part of me, I am not actively teaching, at the moment. One of the reasons is, that I concentrated on equestrians as students, which was becoming more and more absurd, because I started to change my way with horses and had to withdraw, to confirm my new insights and my changing way of being with horses. I still think, there is a huge necessity for this kind of mind and body awareness that yoga gives the equestrians and I will go on teaching in future.

My lessons for equestrians were either on the horse or on the yoga mat. The combination of both was the best for active riders. In the lessons on the horses, first of all, most of the people had to learn to do less. It was often about letting go tension, starting to really exactly feel, which part of the body still disrupted the horses movement. We would direct the awareness of the rider through all parts of the body. It was amazing to see, how horse and human could trigger each other into a fresh, loose movement. It is about doing as much as necessary, but as little as possible. Then the movement of the horse even seemed to help the rider to release more and more. The riders also had to learn to not only concentrate on the horses “failings” (which is a widespread habit...) but to rather concentrate on themselves. Of course most of the horses started to become fresh and loose (permeable). The lessons on the mat complemented the sessions on the horse. Here, we could enable the body of the rider as much as possible, to ride this sensitive and without useless tensions.

Well, there is so much to yoga.
To me, yoga is a wonderful holistic way of development.
It affects the mind as well as the body.

I want to expound a bit, before coming to the point….:

The philosophical superstructure is much more widespread than what people generally expect. The physical exercises are actually a quite small part of it all and not, as most of the people think, yoga itself. I want to very briefly sum up (though there are different branches, which name and define things differently, I try to phraze it quite generally…):

One of the basic texts (The yoga sutras of Patanjali) defines yoga as the calming of the motions of the mind. Then, so says the Text, “the seer rests in his real nature”. As per that philosophy, there is something behind the physical reality and the mind, that is not really describable, though some name it pure love and some name it pure consciousness. But if you want to call it consciousness, it is a kind of consciousness that is not touched by anything at all. It is just a motionless "observer". It is non-material, endless, timeless, formless, it has no substance, it is not empty, not filled, not describable, not changeable, untouchable, beyond words… This entity is essential to the world. The rational mind can t understand or imagine such a “thing”. The yogi is the person, who does all the efforts to clear up the layers that obscure this entity beyond words. This means, the yogi has to overcome the rational mind, that wants to explain, structure, understand and all that. In very simple words: It is about letting go. The one, who succeeded, is in the state of enlightenment. This is the most ambitious and at the same time the easiest approach…Some say, you have to do all you can, to find out, that you can not do anything at all to reach enlightenment…. That s because, the "layers" are not really obscuring this entity, how could they? However you are, you are perfect as you are. But every person on this way has to find it out himself. Nobody can really make you realize it, no words can replace the experience, but they can guide your way…So the Texts, as well as the exercises, the meditations and the cleaning instructions give a yogi the “guide board” on his way. The yoga philosophy offers manifold wonderful and inspiring images. For me for example it helps so much, to get reminded of the endlessness of the space, of the awareness of space itself and me and the others being in the same endless space. It helps me to overcome narrow-minded thoughts, by swamping my rational mind…

That was a little excursion in yoga philosophy. An amazing theme for me…
But I don t want to persuade you of this actually, I just mentioned this, because it is the reason, why the yoga exercises as we know them exist.

The good thing is, that yoga offers these very practical routines as well…

Though I read, that some of you know these things already, I just want to sum up some essentials…

The Asanas (Positions) are very complex and offer a broad choice of exercises, that stretch and strengthen muscles, that school the awareness of tension and release in the body, that train a adequate body posture. And they can feel georgious...

The Pranayamas (breathing exercises) nourish the body with oxygen, clean the respiratory system and train the awareness for the breath (as well as inner muscles..). Conscious breathing also affects the state of mind and the tension of the body. Some people say, it is a link between body and mind.

The meditations calm down the mind and establish an observing position and develop awareness. Well, first of all, it may feel horrible, because the practitioner becomes aware of how many thoughts are thought all the time. That may feel first of all, as if the mind is “louder” and more active than before. Actually, it is just an impression, because these thoughts happened unconsciously and automatically before and weren t even detected sometimes... After a while, meditation may turn out to be ever so precious.

All these things can be taken into everyday s life, for example, when we meet the horses.

Horses are extremely sensitive, both physically and mentally. As we have to learn each others language, it helps, if the human is as conscious as he can be.
Well, I know that all of you know….just wanted to mention it…

This thread could be a place of exchange.
Maybe one has a question about a problem (if you don t want to share a problem, you can also contact me…).
May be a suggestion comes to your mind.
Or one has experienced something and wants to share.
May be someone has learned something similar (for example Alexander Technik).
Whatever comes up… everything is welcome.
Let s see, what comes up.
:sun:


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 9:52 am 
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I totally fell in love with Yoga about two years ago. :l:
I never thought I would actually, especially if it meant to go to some yoga institute and do body stuff among a group of people. But thanks to a very good and sensitive yoga teacher, I felt OK there immediately.
I have not actively tried to implement any specific yoga philosophy, but I totally understand when you say that it is more widespread than one might think.
By doing the asanas and breathing exercises, my view of my own body changed really quick and with it also came another view of the bigger picture of life I guess. Nothing too radical, but something subtle I can feel when I walk on the street and I focus on my body moving, my feet touching the ground, my chest lifting with every breath. It is that kind of awareness that changes a lot - especially with the horses. It gave me a place inside my body that I can go to - a beloved retreat from where I can inspect myself with a certain kind of love for my own physical form, which then can be used to radiate it back to others. People and horses.

With Mucki in particular I was able to experiment with lightness, smoothness and joyfulness.
As weird as it may sound, but it feels like yoga brought some kind of childhood laughter back into my body, while at the same time it planted a serene seed of tranquility deep inside. With that in mind, I can connect much more easily with horses in general.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 11:10 am 
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Quote:
By doing the asanas and breathing exercises, my view of my own body changed really quick and with it also came another view of the bigger picture of life I guess. Nothing too radical, but something subtle I can feel when I walk on the street and I focus on my body moving, my feet touching the ground, my chest lifting with every breath.


That is exactly, what makes yoga so very precious to me...

Quote:
With Mucki in particular I was able to experiment with lightness, smoothness and joyfulness.
As weird as it may sound, but it feels like yoga brought some kind of childhood laughter back into my body, while at the same time it planted a serene seed of tranquility deep inside. With that in mind, I can connect much more easily with horses in general.


It is so nice, because I always think, you can describe things so well, that it hits the point, is coherent, down to earth no matter how aloof the theme might be and it still sounds so poetic....
:sun:


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 12:16 pm 
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Thank you, Dani :kiss:
I always thought that should I ever have my own place with horses, I'd love to invite some good yoga teacher for a course of yoga with horses, or for horses? I hope that one day we can talk about those things in person - maybe at an AND meeting, or when I visit Romy again? That would be nice...

Do you also do breathing exercises with Zermatt? I tried Ujjayi breathing (or at least the basic form which I can do) with Mucki while I was stretching his legs. It was interesting, as he relaxed quickly and sometimes we could get into a flow together.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 2:24 pm 
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Quote:
I hope that one day we can talk about those things in person - maybe at an AND meeting, or when I visit Romy again? That would be nice...

Oh yes, I am shure, we will meet...however, whereever :D

Quote:
Do you also do breathing exercises with Zermatt? I tried Ujjayi breathing (or at least the basic form which I can do) with Mucki while I was stretching his legs. It was interesting, as he relaxed quickly and sometimes we could get into a flow together.


First of all funny, that you mention Ujjayi, which is one of my favourite ...

A very brief Info about Ujjayi for those who don t know it, but are interested to know, what we talk about : The pracitioner closes the glottis so much that breething produces a whispering tone. The mouth is shut, but the jaw is as wide as possible with a shut mouth. Because there comes less air through the glottis, you breath very slow. And still the breath is nicely deep (well always just as deep, as it is comfortable, which is always an important criteria...) and widens the chest. The sound produced is like a soft and long breeze or wind. It is a very calming and warming technique.

I didn t mean to do with Zermi breathing exercises in the first place. He invented it by himself (well that is also creative...just to build a bridge to the other theme...). He puts his upper lip on my left shoulder, while he is standing in front of me, when he gets too excited (in the meantime, he does it also, when I want too much from him... 8) ). He does it in a way, that the upper lip crinkles and his nostrils get narrow, which has the effect, that he breethes very slowly and loud. When he started to do that the first place, I started to do the Ujjayi. We synchronized then and it felt so wonderful.... Since then, it is part of our practices.

In the meantime, I realized, that he is very sensitive to my breathing. I got the feeling, that as soon, as I start to concetrate on my breathing, he does it as well. If we have a calm phase, we do a lot of breathing together. Sometimes, we synchronize and sometimes, we breeth in different rythms. I like both versions. Sometimes he emphazises the breath so much, looking so serious, that I have to laugh though....

During training, I sometimes concentrate on my breath, but I guess, I could use it more.

I can imagine so well, that Mucki could release into the stretching and you came into the flow together...beautiful.

I guess, it s nice to stretch a horses legs. I tried sometimes, but Zermi wouldn t let me. He got defensive. Something about trust, I think. I didn t try it for a time now, though. It would be a nice thing to try again, thanks for reminding me... With us, the stretching, I can give him is by slow movements sidewards, backward, forwards, upwards and bending and stuff.

One summer, I did teach a yoga class near Zermis pasture on friday mornings. All the other horses where grassing, but Zermi did watch us most of the time very attentively. The students had a good laugh about it...maybe he did laugh as well.

In the meantime he is used to me, doing funny stretchings in front of him...though one time, he got shocked about my bare feet... :ieks:


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 3:31 pm 
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Yogini wrote:
He puts his upper lip on my left shoulder, while he is standing in front of me, when he gets too excited (in the meantime, he does it also, when I want too much from him... 8) ). He does it in a way, that the upper lip crinkles and his nostrils get narrow, which has the effect, that he breethes very slowly and loud. When he started to do that the first place, I started to do the Ujjayi. We synchronized then and it felt so wonderful.... Since then, it is part of our practices.
That's so interesting. It sounds a bit like wind sucking, only that that is usually hard and pressed. but I think that wind sucking is also done to calm oneself down I suppose.

Yogini wrote:
During training, I sometimes concentrate on my breath, but I guess, I could use it more.
I really need more exercise to use it during training effectively. I just use it for certain exercises.

Yogini wrote:
I guess, it s nice to stretch a horses legs. I tried sometimes, but Zermi wouldn t let me. He got defensive. Something about trust, I think.
That was actually the exact reason why I started doing it with Mucki. He was often bracing against me, when I tried to move his feet. So I slowed my movements and synced my breathing in and out to moving the leg forth and back. It felt a bit like the Four Directions meditation, which you probably know...

Yogini wrote:
In the meantime he is used to me, doing funny stretchings in front of him...though one time, he got shocked about my bare feet... :ieks:
Haha :funny: yeah, I know the feeling! Zermi and Mucki must be related. I have this video of Mucki discovering bare feet for the first time ;). It was just too hilarious...
Also, I have witnessed Lily doing very bizarre things when Anna is doing yoga exercises before riding. Lily tries to imitate Anna to the best of her abilities, while Mucki just stops and stares incredulously while trying to figure out how Anna can fold and twists her body like that. It is always a very funny sight.
So I think horses definitely have an interest in yoga :funny:

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2013 4:33 pm 
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Haha :funny: yeah, I know the feeling! Zermi and Mucki must be related. I have this video of Mucki discovering bare feet for the first time ;). It was just too hilarious...


Haha, that video is amazing. And yeah, Zermi and Mucki seem to be so similar... Zermi did nearly the same with my feet. Though he didn t do that thing with the upper lip as long as Mucki...But he took my toes between his lips and played with them for what felt endlessly. An it also felt so funny...

Quote:
That's so interesting. It sounds a bit like wind sucking, only that that is usually hard and pressed. but I think that wind sucking is also done to calm oneself down I suppose.


Please help me, I don t know, what you mean by windsucking. Maybe Koppen in German? Then Zermis version is different, he presses his nostrils and the mouth is open, but he still does breeth through the nostrils. Understandable? That sounds like pressed air and his breath is very, very long. I ve never seen it with other horses...

Quote:
That was actually the exact reason why I started doing it with Mucki. He was often bracing against me, when I tried to move his feet. So I slowed my movements and synced my breathing in and out to moving the leg forth and back. It felt a bit like the Four Directions meditation, which you probably know...


Good idea. Once a Lusitano connoisseur told me, that, in contact with horses from Zermi s breeding, you have to move like a Tai Chi master...


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 3:19 pm 

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Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
Hi Dani,
what a nice topic. :f:

I have a problem with my upper body, particularly the shoulders and upper thoracic spine. I just have no awareness of myself there. And feel and look very stuck.
I work with Mary Wanless on my riding (rider biomechanics) and I (think :smile: ) I have a pretty good awareness of the rest of my body, but that upper back.... I actually look at anatomy drawings and the whole shoulder blade/collar bone/ shoulder construction seems very alien to me :alien: - no way that's what I look like! :D

I have been doing some feldenkrais tapes and it's helping enormously. But I need more ;)

And since "my way" is (was!) a one of force, I tried to pull my shoulders down with force - which eventually causes me to hurt myself. I am sure I just activate ALL the muscles in my upper back/sides all at once.... :roll: and then I end up with soft tissue/neurological pain...

And there is the other part of this which I am for some reason just realizing this morning :smile: . That is how it is tied to my way of being too forceful, unhealthy focus on the horse.... all the stuff I am working on regarding the relationship vs performance.... To me my posture says: determination and insecurity.... how interesting! I am guessing it is not a coincidence, becoming aware of this now!

And I am also guessing that I won't be able to "fix" one without the other!

Any thoughts? Anyone? thanks!

you can see the "funny" shoulders here
Image

and here:
Image


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 4:45 pm 
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That is very, very interesting, Zuzana.
Actually, I got some first ideas.
For reason of time, I have to sort them out and write them down tonight and post them tomorrow...
:f:


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 3:57 pm 
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Some people think, Yoginis don t get sick, but they do...

I was knocked down for a while, had to take antibiotics (I did that just once, when I was a child..), thats why I didn t write anymore. But during my recovering, I thought about the shoulder region a lot (quasi feverish :D ).
The results will come sooooooon....
:alien:


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 5:02 pm 
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Hope you get well soon, Dani! :f: I'm also down with a cold - really itching to go to the horses, but my body says no :(

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 5:23 pm 
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Thank you :f:
Quote:
I'm also down with a cold - really itching to go to the horses, but my body says no :(

Oh yeah, I had that. I am better now, not the fittest yet, but better.
Gute Besserung to you, Volker... and keep on listening to your body... :f:


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