Yoga Keeps Bull Rider Steady

The benefits of yoga have been embraced in many circles—even professional bull riding. Buzz reports.
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The benefits of yoga have been embraced in many circles—even professional bull riding. Buzz reports.

We all know yoga can help us manage stress, increase mindfulness, and even improve some medical conditions. But you don't often hear about how yoga can benefit the practice of something like ... bull riding.

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The Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently quoted Tate Stratton, a professional bull rider, as he told a group of kids at a rodeo camp that yoga has helped him stay calm in the ring and ultimately be a better rider. (Don't tell that to the organizers of San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, which positions itself as the anti-yoga activity in a recent commercial!)

Stratton, who has also tried ballet, started doing yoga with his wife and realized that it was more beneficial than stretching alone. "Yoga, like any physical workout, is a good release of energy," Stratton told Buzz. "It allows you to focus your mind, body, and energy towards some kind of goal--whether that be as an athlete or better health in general."

"The breathing techniques are also beneficial and allow you to learn how to control your body's tension," he added. And that calmness can rub off on the animals, he says—which we can only assume is extremely important when you're trying to stay aboard a bucking bull for 8 seconds.

Margaret Burns Vap, a yoga teacher who leads yoga and horseback riding retreats in Montana, isn't at all surprised that yoga benefits someone in the rodeo. Yoga can help people with both the physical and emotional balance it takes to be present with and ride an animal, she says.

"At Cowgirl Yoga, we practice hip openers to address the physical aspects of riding, and heart openers to address the emotional aspects of connecting with a horse," she said. "It's not just about being physically open; through yoga, we teach how to be emotionally open, and experience how that deepens the horse-human connection."

Now, no matter how you feel about rodeos, you have to admit that it's interesting how yoga helps people from all walks of life. What unusual environment have you seen yoga used?