Horse Yoga Isn’t Vaulting–Here’s Why

I’ve had quite a few people compare horse yoga to vaulting and ask me if I’ve ever tried vaulting. Let me begin by saying that vaulting looks super fun and I would love to try it! Vaulters are very talented and awesome! However, vaulting and horse yoga are not the same thing. Vaulting is gymnastics on horseback and horse yoga is, well, yoga on horseback, so saying they’re the same thing and that doing yoga on horseback is stupid because vaulting is already a thing is like saying that gymnastics and yoga are the same thing and doing yoga is stupid because why not just do gymnastics? See how that logic just doesn’t work out?

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I have nothing against vaulting, and again I’d love to try it, but yoga on horseback is its own special practice that differs from the sport of vaulting in many ways. First of all, yoga isn’t a sport—it’s a practice, a spiritual, emotional practice and journey. Vaulting is done while the horse is in motion. I usually practice horse yoga with my horse standing still. Sometimes I’ll do some seated poses at the walk, but for the most part Snowy gets to hang out and be still. Vaulters typically use a surcingle, while horse yogis usually practice bareback or with just a bareback pad.

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So there you have it—horse yoga and vaulting are not the same thing. They’re both awesome, but they’re awesome in different ways.

Out of the Woods…And into the Garden

Ever since I returned from Costa Rica at the beginning of December, I’ve been searching my heart and trying to figure out what to do with my life and how to use my gifts to best serve others. I felt like I was lost in the woods. I took steps to get another “real job,” but I felt quite a bit of anxiety about it. My passion is with yoga and horses. So I made what some would consider the not-so-smart decision and turned down the “real job.” I had faith that I would find a way to do work that spoke to my heart.

Well, I asked and the universe answered. I’ll soon begin work with Wheatland Farm as its barn manager. It provides therapeutic riding and an array of other services and activities. I’m thrilled to be a part of such meaningful work.

I spent a few hours today at the bucolic Oatlands Historic House and Gardens. I’ll be teaching yoga there every Sunday (except the first Sunday of the month) beginning February 21st. On the first Sunday of each month, my yoga mentor, Denise Moore, will be teaching, and I highly recommend attending her class, too. During the colder months, we’ll practice in the cozy greenhouse among the refreshing energy of the plants. Once it’s warm, we’ll practice outside in the lush gardens.

Stay tuned for more yoga classes to be added to my schedule. They’ll be posted here. There are lots of other exciting things in the works, and I can’t wait for them to come to fruition so I can share them all with you.

I’ve always followed my heart, and it has yet to lead me astray. We all have gifts, and it’s up to each of us to figure out what those gifts are and how to use them to serve others. If you spend your life chasing money, power, fame, and material objects, you’ll never be happy. Spend your life instead sharing your gifts, helping others, making this world a better place, bit by bit. Follow your heart and the rest will fall into place.

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What’s the Time?

Last night’s new moon provoked an emotional journey into the past and a night of very restless sleep. All kinds of memories about my pony Sugar Maple came rushing back to me, and the grief felt as fresh as it did the day I said goodbye to him forever. Grief is not something you get through; it’s something you learn to carry. Some days the load is light, and others it’s crushing.

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When I finally did fall asleep, I had a dream the moon herself must have sent me to help me feel better. The Dalai Lama came to me and I asked him for his most wise piece of advice. He replied, “The only time is now.” I recently had a realization that I was letting certain things in my life stop me from being happy—that I was actually stopping myself from being happy. Truly the only moment is this present one. Focusing on NOW makes it easier for me to recognize how much I have to be grateful for instead of focusing on what I’ve lost.

I had the privilege of attending a yoga class with my most favorite teacher, Denise Moore, this morning. She led my 200-hour teacher training, and to practice pranayama, meditation, and asanas led by her this morning was such a treat. Towards the end of our practice, Denise guided us through a lovingkindess meditation. We silently repeated to ourselves, “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy and strong. May I live life with ease.” We then extended the intention out to our loved ones (including our four-legged loved ones!), and then out further to our town, our state, and I eventually thought of the entire earth, humanity, animals, plants, and insects. I felt a serene oneness with the earth. When Denise mentioned living life with ease, she pointed out that this doesn’t mean challenges don’t arise—it means that when they do, we continue to let go.

I’ve learned that letting go doesn’t fix everything, but it does give me the strength to listen to my inner wisdom and find creative solutions to whatever challenges I’m facing. Letting go doesn’t mean going down the river without a paddle; it means accepting that you’re going down the river no matter what, but that you can choose which rapids to go over.

What’s stopping you from being happy? I’m going to bet that deep down, it’s you. So get out of your own way and let yourself feel joy and love and compassion. Life isn’t always rainbows and sunshine, but as Vivian Greene said so well, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

What’s Yoga Really About?

  

I want this to be the year people stop using the excuse of being inflexible for the reason they don’t do yoga. My urdhva dhanurasana didn’t look like this when I started practicing eight years ago. There were poses I never thought I’d be able to do that are now easy for me. My strength, flexibility, and balance have all improved through my years of practicing. And the great thing is, there’s always room to grow, no matter how “advanced” you become. 

Let’s also remember that yoga is not even about being flexible. We’ve become obsessed with contortion yoga, and aspiring to look like some of the people out there who can bend their bodies certain ways can really be harmful for those whose bodies don’t move like that. Let’s remember that yoga is about quieting the mind. Let’s remember that yoga is not just the asanas (postures), but also meditation and pranayama (breath work). Let’s remember that truly any BODY can do yoga. Let’s make 2016 the year yoga feels accessible to anyone. The year we focus on proper alignment instead of contortion. The year we remember the importance of pranayama and meditation in our daily practice. The year we remember what yoga is really about. 

Pura Vida: Horsing Around in Costa Rica

If there’s one word that describes Costa Rica perfectly, it’s magical. Costa Rica is a place with unmatched biodiversity, kind people, delicious food, and balmy weather. Not only did I experience all of that—I also got to play with horses! As serendipity would have it, Barking Horse Farm started following me on Instagram, so I checked out their profile and website. This farm specializes in Parelli Natural Horsemanship and Jungle Trekking, and hosts interns and volunteers throughout the year, so I thought going to Barking Horse Farm would be a great opportunity to travel and learn more about Parelli Natural Horsemanship. I originally planned to stay for three months, but ended up staying only one month for personal reasons. The month flew by, and I can’t wait to return to this beautiful country!

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I arrived at night and took a cab from the airport in San Jose to the farm, which is in an area called San Rafael Abajo, near a town called Puriscal. The headlights of the cab revealed in the darkness how green everything was; the flora and fauna were so lush, I thought they may overtake the road at any moment. Everything was shiny with a slick layer of moisture. I arrived at the tail end of the rainy season, so the mornings were sunny and bright, then the rain would roll through in the afternoon. Only in my last week there did the rain stop as the dry season began. Numerous dogs watched us as we passed, sometimes observing from a distance, other times chasing us and nipping at the tires. The curvy, hilly paved roads turned into bumpy gravel roads. I finally arrived at the farm and was greeted by a committee of one human, four dogs, and too many cats to count. I began settling in and putting my things away when I heard the sound of tires spinning. The cab was stuck in the driveway, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere! In the darkness and mud, it’s easy to understand how it happened. Pamala, the farm owner’s friend and the human member of my greeting committee, hooked up a cable to the farm vehicle, pulled the cab out, and it was on its way. The excitement for the evening was over. With the roads and animals quiet, I could finally close my eyes and rest. I fell asleep to the melodic rhythm of the bugs’ and frogs’ songs. The matter-of-fact crowing of the rooster woke me. The bugs continued their soft hum into the morning. The birds sang their gentle tunes as the rooster’s crows faded.

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Other volunteers arrived in the following days. They hailed from the UK, Germany, Poland, and France. We were all very excited to go up to the pasture and see the horses. They live not at the farm, but in a pasture near the top of a mountain, where it’s a bit cooler and breezier compared to the climate at the farm, which tends to be warmer since it lays in a valley. We all climbed into the farm vehicle, a tough Isuzu four-by-four, and headed out to meet the horses. On the way, we encountered an obstacle, and one thing I learned is that Costa Rica is full of obstacles. You can either curse your luck and let the obstacles cause you frustration, or you can look at them as a learning opportunity. I chose the latter. There was a truck broken down in the middle of the road, and a group of Costa Rican men was trying to push it out of the way, but to no avail. I got out of our vehicle and walked over to help push. The men looked skeptical, but all the other lady volunteers also walked over to help and we got the truck moved in no time. We parted ways with smiles and, “Muchas gracias!”

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The horses seemed mildly interested to see us. They had been off for months, enjoying their vacation from the busy season. We brought treats with us, scraps of fruit, which the horses absolutely loved. In the days that followed, the group settled into a nice daily routine. We’d begin our day with yoga (taught by me), have fruit, oatmeal, and happy eggs for breakfast, feed the animals here (I was responsible for feeding the chickens), then go up to the pasture and work with the horses. We began with groundwork and the Seven Games from Parelli Natural Horsemanship, and some days we rode bareback and with the rope halters. The horses took well to us, despite their realization that our visits meant their vacation was over. We always brought them treats, and they thoroughly enjoyed them. We’d then return to the farm and enjoy a delicious lunch prepared by Marta, who has worked at the farm for 10 years. The meals were vegetarian and sometimes even vegan, which was really great. During the afternoon rains, we’d relax, read, and socialize. A few hours later, we’d prepare dinner and after dinner, we’d watch some Parelli DVDs or play games.

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Liz, the owner of Barking Horse Farm, arrived to the farm a few days after us volunteers. She took us up to play with the horses quite a few times and taught us some fun Parelli training techniques. One day we worked on carrot stick riding, which was an exciting challenge. We also got to go on numerous rides. The trails here are mostly on gravel and dirt roads, and the horses are so hardy and sure-footed. We saw majestic views, picturesque sugarcane fields, and wildlife galore. One day we rode over two hours to get to a breathtaking river. At one point, the trail gets so steep, narrow, and full of rocks and boulders that the horses have to be sent down without the riders. I had never done anything like that before, so I was curious to see how the horses handled it. It was like rock scrambling for horses. They stayed relaxed, carefully and confidently making their way down the hill and then back up on our way back. We had packed a delicious vegan lunch of a watermelon and brown rice with veggies. The river was so refreshing and there was no one there but us—a true paradise. There’s another river just a 15 minutes’ walk from the farm. The waterfall there creates a spectacular ambiance. I went every chance I got and returned glowing every time. There’s something about Costa Rica that makes it impossible to be unhappy.

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In addition to horsing around, we also got to have some very local experiences. One day we helped a local farmer harvest beans, beating them with sticks to release the beans from the stalks. It’s hot, tiring work, but many hands made light work that day.

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Another day we went to a trapiche, or sugarcane factory. I use the word factory loosely, because it’s not at all like a factory in the U.S. This factory is very small and run by three brothers. We got to taste the sugarcane in four different forms: first the juice, then the hot, thick liquid, then the taffy-like substance, and finally in its final form as a block of sugar. We were all fascinated by the process and varying flavors.

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The only bad time I experienced was the night we went to an exhibition of the Costa Rican horse. Liz had warned us that Costa Rican training methods are harsh, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. The horses looked stressed out and fearful, and there were many large riders on horses that were too small for them. The bits being used were harsh, and every rider wore pain-inducing (for the horse) spurs. The first rider and horse entered the ring performing what looked like a perverse version of a passage. I say perverse because the horse was tense, constantly flicking its tail, pinning its ears, and wrinkling its eyes and nostrils. The horse was also hollow, and the underside of its neck was overdeveloped, making it clear that it was forced to carry itself in an unhealthy position on a regular basis. The rider maneuvered the horse onto a platform where the “passage” turned into a kind of piaffe. It seemed the demonstration would never end, and my heart ached for the horse more and more with each passing second. This type of treatment and training is a result of ignorance, of not knowing there’s a better way. I can only hope that if and when these people are exposed to a better way, they’ll change.

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Liz’s passion and love for horses is inspiring, and her tenacity and commitment to pursuing Natural Horsemanship is admirable in a country where the traditional treatment of horses is harsh and violent. Liz’s horses are healthy and happy; they’re also the most bomb-proof horses I’ve ever met. I hope to return again one day to do a trek to the beach, which I didn’t get to do this time. The people I met, the horses I bonded with, and the memories I made are treasures I’ll remember for a lifetime.

 

Below are some photos from the trip. Visit my Facebook page to view the full album.

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The Tackroom

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happy chickens=happy eggs

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Pirate, chillin’ like a villain

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Manolo, Basta, and our jungle vehicle

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Stopping to snack on the sugarcane

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Full moon rising

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The volunteers with Liz (owner of Barking Horse Farm) and her friend, Pamala.

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Manolo, a rescue, with lots of love and Natural Horsemanship has come around to being a fantastic horse.

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Zanahoria wanted to come home with me.

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The volcano Momotombo in Nicaragua erupted the day before I flew by it on my way home. It hadn’t erupted in 100 years.

 

Thank You


As I make the final preparations to leave for my next adventure, I am filled with gratitude as deep as the sea. I am so thankful for the support and generosity of friends, family, and strangers.

I am deeply touched to have such amazing people in my life. This is the last week to donate to and/or share my GoFundMe campaign. Next week I leave for Barking Horse Farm in Costa Rica with much growth and learning ahead. Thank you for your well wishes, sweet messages, and support.

I feel a deep knowing that this next step in my journey will lead to amazing things—healing, new connections, open doors—things I can’t yet see, but that will enable me to do work I’m passionate about. Using yoga and horses to facilitate healing and growth is what drives me, what gives me the courage to follow my heart instead of the safe, predictable path. I hope you’ll join me and follow along as we change the world, opening hearts and minds along the way.

Why I Practice Yoga on Horseback

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“Love is the bridge between you and everything.” ~Rumi

“Do what is healing to your spirit, and without effort you will bring the world healing in return.” ~Alan Cohen

Pain is part of life. Pain enables us to heal and grow. My journey of healing began with horses and continues with my yoga practice, both on the mat and with Snowy. I began practicing yoga on horseback out of curiosity. My passion for yoga and horses fueled a quiet, but nagging thought in my mind—what would happen if I combined the two?

Good horsemen and women learn a lesson at some point in their equestrian careers: horses are much more than recreational vehicles—they are sentient beings who deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity. This lesson punched me in the gut when I was eight years old. The equestrian center my mom managed at the time housed an athletic little Appaloosa pony named Trixie. She and I would explore trails for hours. She was every little girl’s dream come true—pretty, reliable, and fast. One day Trixie and I returned to the barn and my mom noticed with horror that Trixie was huffing and puffing and lathered in sweat. My mom pulled me aside and explained to me in a stern voice that I couldn’t just go out and run Trixie as much as I wanted to. She said to me, “Horses aren’t machines. They have feelings. You have to be considerate of them. You should never cause them suffering.” My heart ached for the way I had treated Trixie. Until that day, I didn’t realize that horses had a limit, that they shouldn’t be run all the way back to the barn even if they seemed willing. I felt horrible that I had caused a sentient being suffering. As I walked Trixie out that day, allowing her to cool down, I vowed to never cause such suffering again.

“Under no circumstance should your hand disturb the horse’s mouth. You must learn to stay calm in all situations and control your emotions. There is no room for anger.” ~Xenophon

That day proved to be a turning point in my horsemanship. From then on, I dedicated myself to learning all I could about horses and how to have harmonious, mutually respectful relationships with them. I participated in Dressage, Centered Riding, and Natural Horsemanship clinics. I read all the literature I could get my hands on. And, most importantly, I learned to listen to the horse. My horsemanship and training methods are based on a deep love for and ever-increasing knowledge of the horse as a sentient being. Do I still make mistakes? Of course, but I learn from them. I do not force my will upon any horse. I do not cause any horse pain or suffering. During my yoga practices with Snowy, I pay close attention to him to see if anything I’m doing is causing him even a hint of discomfort, and if so, I immediately stop doing that pose.

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.” ~Carl Jung

When I embarked on my yoga journey, I couldn’t have fathomed where it would eventually lead. I first tried Hatha yoga at Smith College during my first year there. I was bored and could not for the life of me understand the point of savasana. During my senior year, a friend dragged me to a Baptiste Yoga Studio in town, Shiva Shakti Power Vinyasa Yoga. I walked out of that first class feeling like I was floating on air. I had officially experienced my first yoga high. Classes with Brandon and Naima transcended a physical workout and showed me how to use yoga to look within and grow spiritually. I attended classes there daily until I moved away after graduating from Smith.

I continued to practice vinyasa yoga at Awakening Yoga Studio near Savannah, GA, where I lived for two years after graduating from college. Classes with Lisa, the owner, enabled me to continue to grow my practice. I achieved headstand under her knowledgeable instruction. When I moved to Virginia in 2013, I discovered Yoga Time Studio and went there to sweat away all my stresses and uncertainties. Mindy, the owner and fabulous teacher, had a way of helping me focus on the present moment intensely while having a great time doing so. She told me about a teacher training that was being held at her studio, and that’s when I met Denise Moore. Denise created and led the first Open Dimension Yoga Teacher Training, which I graduated from in May of this year. I have never met anyone as knowledgeable and passionate about yoga as Denise. Through her training, I gained thorough knowledge of how to teach Hatha yoga to beginners and advanced beginners, and also learned about anatomy, pranayama, meditation, the yoga sutras, and more. You can learn more about Denise and her yoga classes here.

I came full circle, beginning with Hatha and ending with Hatha, although my yoga journey has really only just begun. I’ve been teaching Hatha yoga classes at Native Barre and Barre Buddhi and hope to return to teaching when I get back from Costa Rica. What I love about Hatha yoga is that it builds a strong foundation that yogis can practice on for the rest of their lives. If and when a yogi decides to try other types of yoga, Hatha teaches him/her how to stay safe and prevent injury through being mindful of proper alignment and breathing. The more I practice and teach Hatha yoga, the more I love it.

“Truth is a matter of perception. People only see what they’re prepared to confront.” ~Unknown

One sure thing I’ve learned about horses and yoga is that there is always more to learn, there is always room to grow. Admitting I don’t know it all enables me to keep learning, and I will keep learning, but I will never know all there is to know, and that’s okay. I will learn all I can and pass on all the knowledge I can, and that will be enough.

“The willingness to face life’s challenges before you have the skills in place—without shrinking from the fear and pain involved—is courage personified.” ~The Power of the Herd by Linda Kohanov

I’m making up this whole horse yoga thing as I go, guided by my heart and Snowy’s responses. I practice yoga on horseback for no other reason than I love it. Practicing with Snowy enables me to deepen my yoga and horsemanship skills. It has also cultivated even more trust between me and Snowy. There are no tricks in my photos. No one’s standing just outside the frame in case Snowy decides to move. Sometimes Snowy does fidget, and that’s when I pay extra close attention to see if something I’m doing is uncomfortable for him. Most of the time, though, Snowy stands quietly, breathing deeply, steadily, and slowly, enjoying the yoga high as much as I do. The deep peace I experience during savasana with Snowy is extraordinary.

“Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.” Ron Swanson

“Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.” ~Ron Swanson

Some critics have said I’m doing this for attention. Others have said it’s cruel to the horse. Allow me to address both of those concerns. I am not doing yoga on horseback for attention. I share my journey on social media in hopes that it can inspire others, and I share it to make others aware that horses are beings with emotions and depth, and that they deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity. And to those who think practicing yoga on horseback is cruel, I’ll tell you what’s cruel. Competing a horse in a sport it doesn’t enjoy because it feeds your ego is cruel. Confining a horse to a stall with hardly any time to just go out in the field and be a horse is cruel. Using any bit with a harsh hand is cruel. Using ill-fitting tack is cruel. Using spurs, whips, and harsher bits because you lack the skills necessary to have a mutually respectful relationship with your horse is cruel. Blaming the horse for your mistakes is cruel. Viewing the horse as anything other than a sentient being is cruel.

Yoga on horseback can be cruel. If I ignored Snowy during our sessions and tried to force him to stand still when he’s clearly trying to tell me he’s uncomfortable, that would be cruel. Any equestrian sport has the potential for cruelty. What matters is whether or not the horseman or woman understands the horse as a sentient being and respects its desires and emotions. I do. I always put the horse first. If you don’t believe me, I invite you to come watch, or even participate in, a yoga practice with me and Snowy.

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” ~Marianne Williamson

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” ~Marianne Williamson

I know that no matter what I say or do, there will be critics, but I’m not here to make everyone happy, and for every critic there are countless others who are inspired and supportive. I’m here to follow my heart and stay true to myself. I dare you to do the same.

“Worry is a misuse of imagination.” ~Dan Zadra


  
  
  
  

Graze On

Something burst open yesterday, in me and in the universe. After all, we are the universe and the universe is in us. We are made of stars. I laid my mat on the earth, craving the outdoors, the fresh air, the sky above me and the earth beneath. Prana flowed through me, grounding me and lifting me up all at once. My mind was quieter than ever, allowing me to truly be fully present during my practice. My heart was so open that backbending poses I had never before been able to do came easily. I was so grounded I held my handstand for seven long, slow breaths—longer than I had ever held it before. I lifted into pinchamayurasana with ease and stayed with little effort. I floated through my surya namaskars. My core fired up and kept me centered through it all. Because my mind was quiet, my ego couldn’t butt in and interfere. I was moving purely from my soul. My practice wasn’t perfect—I gently tumbled out of a standing split. Then I laughed and found joy there and realized that even in our flaws there is perfection.

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In a particularly vulnerable moment, I realized that everything that will be already was, and everything that was will be. After that epiphany made itself known to me, I let go. I let go of worry. I let go of stress. I let go of trying to control anything and everything except my own mind. All decisions have already been made. All outcomes have already happened. There’s no need to fret. Worry does nothing but drain our energy. This does not equal nihilism, nor does it negate free will. We still have choices—we’ve just already made them. We can still fight for what’s right, but the difference is that we can fight without struggling.

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Something big shifted in the universe. Can you feel it? No? Be still. Meditate. Breathe. Do yoga. Go for a walk. Pet your dog, cat, bird, horse, ferret or whatever furry/feathery friend you have. Watch your fish. Look up at the sky. Find what you’re grateful for and then sit with that gratitude. Listen to the steady beating of your heart. Feel whatever emotion is there, whether it’s joy, sorrow, hope, despair or longing. Feel itExpress it. Change what needs to be changed. And then move on. Go with the flow. You’ll continue down the river anyway, so why splash about so, unless you’re splashing for fun?

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So please, for the sake of your own beautiful soul, let go. Graze on. Just breathe. Just be.

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Albert Einstein

Yoga Retreat at Kuntz Nokota Horse Preservation Ranch

“I was born upon the prairie, where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures and where everything drew free breath.” Ten Bears

Wide open spaces, constant wind and rugged terrain were the first characteristics I noticed about North Dakota as I made my way to the Kuntz Nokota Horse Ranch in Linton. Owned by Leo Kuntz, a knowledgable horseman with an eye for good conformation and a sense for good minds (in horses and people), the Nokota Horse Ranch is truly preserving living history.

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The lovely, yet tough ranch hand, Holly, took me on a sunset ride on the evening of my arrival. As the setting sun warmed us with its golden rays and the sunflowers danced gently in the breeze, I thought to myself, “This just might be heaven.”

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The next day’s weather proved to be just as pleasant, making the first day of our yoga retreat a real dream come true. As I led savasana, “the boys,” as Leo and Holly refer to the herd of geldings, ventured down to us, approaching us with curious faces. The horses at the ranch are pretty much wild, although some do get gentled. Being surrounded by the herd during such a profound moment in our practice was a magical experience I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

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After our yoga class, Holly drove us around to see some of the stud/mare bands. She also showed us tipi circles, or stones arranged in large circles by the Native American tribes that used to call that land home. There was an energetic vibration to the land that I’ve experienced nowhere else. It’s like the history is almost so palpable you could touch it.

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Holly also took us to the Offering Stone, where the tribe’s medicine man would perform rituals and where, today, you can leave a token, such as a coin, as an offering and ask for blessings from the spirits in return. That space somehow commanded silence, and we all stood there taking in the view and the energy for a few long moments. Time seemed to cease to exist.

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That evening around sunset we strolled to a special place on the ranch where the mares and foals happened to be grazing.

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Seeing them live so free and natural filled my spirit with joy and sorrow all at once, for while I gazed upon that wild herd, I also thought of all the horses whose lives are spent boxed up in stalls.

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Later that night, I went out to look at the stars and my jaw literally dropped when I looked up. The Milky Way had never looked so magnificent and the sky had never seemed so big.

The weather turned colder and more blustery on Saturday. The strong wind held off until after our yoga class, but the rest of the day was mostly spent indoors. Sunday arrived carrying even colder temperatures and stronger winds, so instead of asanas, I led us in pranayama and meditation indoors. The wind began to subside later that afternoon, so I hung out with “the boys” for a bit, trying to coax Mr. Grey, my favorite, into taking a peppermint from my hand. He did place his muzzle in my hand, but he wasn’t so interested in the peppermint.

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Leo cooked buffalo burgers and summer veggies for dinner, regaling us with tales from his life as we enjoyed the hardy, home-cooked meal. The next day I had to say goodbye. Mr. Grey seemed not to mind my presence and allowed me to hang out near him while he grazed. One of my favorite things about Leo is his willingness to allow visitors to hang out with the herd. Simply being in the horses’ presence can be a transcendental, yet grounding experience from which there is much to learn. I look forward to returning to the ranch next summer to lead another retreat and to spend more time with these majestic, wise creatures.

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You may view a video I put together of the weekend here.

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Ask and You Shall Receive

This life is truly amazing. There are rough patches, but how would we ever appreciate the good times without the bad?

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My corporate job and I recently parted ways, and the accompanying emotions included fear, shock, exhilaration, relief and joy. Due to the unexpected nature of this change, I didn’t have a Backup Plan ready to go—hence the fear. What I do have is a lot more freedom than ever before, which is what I’ve been yearning for since I first stuck myself in an office two years ago. The previous stage of my life taught me some valuable skills and helped me get to know myself and my desires better. The next stage of my life will be one of uncertainty, adventure, thrills (and some spills, most likely), and I couldn’t be more excited.

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Doors are already opening for me. Put out there into the universe your heart’s desires, and you may just get what you wish for. I’m passionate about yoga on horseback and am receiving inquiries about clinics. I was yearning for more travel, and because of some magical serendipities, the next two months I’ll be away more than I’ll be home. I’m heading to Kuntz Nokota Horse Ranch this month to teach a yoga retreat, and a few days after I return from that, I’ll be on a plane to Reno to make my way to my first ever Burning Man. Right after my week in the Playa, I’ll be on a plane to Bolivia, where my dad is from, where I’ve wanted to go my entire life.

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After that I have no idea where I’ll go or what I’ll be doing, but what excites me most is that I’ll have the freedom to make my own way. I must make a living, but that doesn’t mean I have to be tied to a desk every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If that life makes you happy, great, go be the best at it. But it’s not for me. There will be challenges as I try to find ways to make my life financially sustainable doing what I love, but because I’m committed to following my heart and doing work that speaks to my soul, I know the universe will provide all I need.

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Some may believe faith is for the foolish, but I believe it takes a brave and wise soul to have faith. Having faith means trusting in the good, believing that good exists at all, believing that the heart’s wishes should be heeded and the soul’s yearnings fulfilled. How else should we ever live our lives than doing what we love? What else could possibly be more important than lifting each other up and making this world a better place by utilizing our own unique gifts? So I say cheers to uncertainty, for it gives us an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the flow of the universe and be guided by our hearts and souls.

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“Just living is not enough…one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” ~Hans Christian Andersen