Yoga for Equestrians: A New Path for Achieving Union with the Horse by Linda Benedik & Veronica Wirth

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Trafalgar Square Publishing

This guide to yoga in and out of the saddle is not only well written, illustrated, and photographed, and of obvious interest to equestrians, it will likely prove to be of surprisingly high interest even to yogis who never come near a horse, let alone spend much time riding one. The reason is that by exploring yoga from the standpoint of striving for “union” with another being—of another species, at that—the authors illuminate principles of breathing, posture, and energy with authority, insight, and sensitivity.

Of course, anyone who devotes time and energy to horse riding (or, for that matter, any activity which involves extensive close encounters with other life forms) develops a certain amount of empathy, an ability to communicate physically, and even emotionally with the other creature. But applying hatha yoga to that pursuit is quite a novel approach—and a clever one. Reading Yoga for Equestrians, one sees, for example, that proper alignment of the spine, effective breathing, and physically centering oneself (or “deepening the seat”—a yogic term if ever there was one—by which the authors mean maintaining “a resilient connection with the horse’s back”) make as much sense in the context of riding as they do in any other sport—or any other aspect of life.

Horse lovers can wax quite spiritual about their relationships with their trusty steeds, but Yoga for Equestrians makes it difficult to see that relationship as anything but spiritual—or, more precisely, as anything but yogic: “a rider’s journey toward Union.” If it were of value only to riders, this book—coauthored by Benedik, an accomplished dressage instructor, and Wirth, a yoga teacher who earned her certification at the White Lotus Foundation—might not merit widespread attention, but again, the 100 or so asana photographs (many in color and some showing the model in riding gear or even mounted on the horse), detailed illustrations of musculature, and thoughtful text transcend that apparent limit.

Decades ago, when I was studying Spanish in high school, I discovered that learning another language actually helped me understand my native tongue much better. The same principle applies here: By studying an intelligent presentation on how the practice of yoga applies to a discrete pursuit, albeit one you may never take up—in my case, it’s probably been 20 years since I’ve been on a horse—you can acquire a deeper understanding of its application in the more familiar ways you use your bodymind every day. Which I’m grateful for, because I could never get comfortable in those pointy boots.