My body totally knocked me on my bum today. I had all kinds of plans, including hopefully taking some horse yoga photos at the new barn, but when the body says no, there’s no arguing with it. I’ve been unbelievably busy the past two weeks, and it finally caught up with me. So guess what I’m doing today–nothing. I totally ran out of prana, and my body became sick. I think our society glorifies being busy. Unfortunately, the art of resting, observing, and doing nothing has very much been lost. I’ll learn from this and give myself a break before my body breaks down next time. It’s difficult to change our lifestyles in this society to accommodate living a less busy life, but we must do everything we can to fight against the current that says being busy is a good thing. Horses are great teachers in the art of doing nothing. Let’s be more like them.
Neighsayer – noun: An internet troll who says negative things about horse yoga.
No matter who you are or what you do, there will be those who criticize you. The internet has enabled complete strangers to say just plain mean, ignorant things to each other. Most people who find me on Instagram or my other social media pages are very positive and supportive; however, there are a few who are critical and negative, saying that what I do with Snowy is abusive to him. Yoga’s first yama is ahimsa, or nonviolence. If Snowy didn’t enjoy our yoga sessions and if they harmed him in any way, I wouldn’t be doing yoga with him. The truth is that Snowy enjoys our yoga sessions just as much as I do. He’s given me very clear signs that it feels good and he’s happy to be my yoga partner. You can watch my YouTube videos to see how relaxed and happy he is.
So when people who don’t know me or Snowy say that I’m abusing my horse and practicing yoga with him just for attention, it gets under my skin. Let me clarify—usually neighsayers’ comments don’t bother me. Yoga teaches us to keep our mind calm through the good and the bad, so I work to appreciate the positive comments without letting them go to my head and to shrug off the negative ones. Every now and then, though, a neighsayer will leave a comment that actually bothers me a little bit. When this happens, I find the best thing to do is laugh it off. These neighsayers don’t know me or my horse and clearly have issues of their own that lead them to leave such hateful comments about a person they don’t even know. So I laugh it off and send them love.
The most recent neighsayer suggested I do yoga “on a bucket or something” instead of with Snowy. So here’s to all my neighsayers out there. May you find your own peace and sense of humor. And to all my supporters, thank you ❤
Yoga without a sense of play isn’t really yoga, at all. If you fall out of a pose and can’t laugh at yourself (as long as you aren’t injured), this creates more “vrittis,” or disturbances in your mind, and the whole point of yoga is to learn how to quiet your mind and eventually reach samadhi. Horses appreciate a human’s inner child, too, as it encourages a sense of wonder and awe.
Here are three reasons to get in touch with your inner child, whether you’re a yogi and/or equestrian or not:
1. So you can live in the present moment.
If you haven’t checked in with your inner child in a while, he or she may have a few things to say. You may need to get in touch not just with your inner child, but your past self. Events that caused you great pain as a child could still be affecting you today, even if you’re not conscious of it. I have issues surrounding separation and expressing my emotions because of things that happened when I was ages six to twelve. I’ve known for a few years now that six-year-old me was affecting the way I reacted sometimes, but I didn’t start doing serious work to heal and grow from that until recently. The work isn’t fun, but it’s essential to being able to truly live in the moment. Growth is uncomfortable and, many times, painful, but it’s always worth it.
2. So you laugh more.
Children laugh way more than adults. Laughing forces you to breathe. When you’re tense and stressed out, your breathing moves up into your chest. Laughing encourages the breath to move back down into the belly, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest system). So lighten up and laugh a little. Actually, laugh a lot. As Oscar Wilde said, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”
3. So you can keep learning and growing.
Children possess such open, unprejudiced minds. Think about how much you learned during your childhood. Think of what your life could be like if you were willing to continue learning like that. With yoga, horses, and life in general, I’ve realized that the more I learn, the less I know. Keeping an open mind is essential to growth.
Your inner child calls to you when you stop to notice a dandelion, when you’re stuck in traffic and see the person next to you singing her heart out and feel an urge to do the same, when you listen to the animals, and when you listen to your heart. Let that child come out to play.
This is for the sensitive ones out there. The ones who cry easily. The ones who feel others’ pain. The ones who have been called weak for being vulnerable. I’m here to tell you that your sensitivity, rather than being a weakness to work on, is a strength to be proud of. I’ve been told I’m too sensitive more times than I can count. The people who have told me this misunderstand me and, surely, any other sensitive beings in their lives. Unless you are sensitive yourself, it can be difficult to understand sensitive people (and animals).
I cry easily and feel everything deeply, but this isn’t something I want to change. Feeling everything deeply isn’t easy and takes A LOT of strength to endure. The Achilles Heel of sensitive people is that we tend to take things personally. So I have done a lot of work on not taking things so personally and, even when they are personal, to understand that others’ words and actions are a reflection of them, not me. I’ve gone through some tough changes and lost friendships in the past few months, and the work I’ve done on taking things less personally has been a huge help in getting through those times. Cultivating self-awareness and committing to never-ending personal growth is essential to sensitive people surviving and thriving in this wild ride called life.
What we sensitive ones must remember is that our sensitivity, no matter how many times we get criticized for it, is a strength we should never seek to be rid of. Sensitive people tend to be more introverted, not necessarily less social, but we need time to ourselves to rest and recharge. We sensitive ones are usually quiet and calm, and when we’re not calm, we have a damn good reason for it. Horses are sensitive creatures and there are, of course, some horses that are more sensitive than others. Horses’ generally sensitive nature enables them to live harmoniously in a herd and to help each other survive in times of danger. Horses’ sensitivity allows them to feel what their herd mates are feeling and what any other beings (predators and humans) around them are feeling. Did you know that if your blood pressure rises, so does your horse’s? The thing is, we shouldn’t try to get our horses to “toughen up,” nor should anyone tell a sensitive person to do so.
Our sensitivity gives us the capacity to be empathetic, nurturing, highly tuned into our environment, aware of others’ needs and wants, and, most of all, strong. Going out into the world is difficult for us some days, but we do it anyway because we must; however, on these days it’s important not to stuff our feelings down and lock them away in some remote cell within. Instead, we must acknowledge whatever we’re feeling, breathe, and say, “I’ll come back to you when the time is right.” And the right time must be soon, for any feelings we don’t deal with in a timely manner express themselves physically as sickness, pain, or disease.
Sensitive ones, I feel you—literally, and I know you feel me, too. Thank you for being you. You are strong. The world needs you. So don’t ever stop being sensitive (as if it’s a choice, anyway), and embrace your sensitivity as the gift it is. Sometimes it’s hard to bear. I don’t enjoy attending most horse competitions anymore because there are so many unhappy horses and horses in pain and, not only do I recognize in their facial and bodily expressions the pain they’re in, I feel it, and I wince and struggle to hold back tears. I sometimes despair that I can’t do anything to help them. Then I remember that my sensitivity is a gift that enables me to have close bonds with horses, other animals, and nature, and to recognize their suffering and speak up for them when I can, whether it’s on this blog or elsewhere on print and social media. So if you haven’t already, dear sensitive ones, figure out how to use your sensitivity to help others, especially those without a voice. Because we feel so deeply, we don’t need words to understand another’s suffering. We just need the willingness and strength to be present with it and then to speak up and make a change.
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?
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.
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.
Today an instructor said something to me that no other instructor ever has—she told me to send my horse gratitude from my heart. This riding instructor also happens to be an equine massage therapist, and she pointed out in my lesson that horses have bigger hearts than humans and much larger energy fields. She said that if we want our horses to continue to try for us, we must be grateful to them. Sending them gratitude comes naturally to me, for I’ve felt this way about horses for a very long time. It’s such a privilege to ride upon such magnificent, powerful, graceful, wise beings. Hearing the reminder to send them gratitude certainly didn’t hurt, though, and it felt so inspiring to know there ARE other equestrians out there who feel this way.
Horses are extremely emotionally intelligent. They are social and emotional creatures. How often do you pay attention to how your horse is feeling? Treat your horse like a partner instead of a tool or a recreational vehicle or a means to win ribbons and you’ll have a partnership, a relationship, instead of a constant struggle filled with frustration and misunderstanding. Horses want to be heard. Are you listening?
P.S. Lara Muller is the instructor who taught me today. Here’s her website if you’re interested in learning more about her: www.jltrainingandsales.com
Rain pelted down on my windshield as I navigated semi-flooded roads. I used my dirga swasam breath to stay calm. I thought about what I’d want my loved ones to know if I didn’t survive this drive. Focused on the tail lights in front of me, I kept a steady pace and reminded myself that the storm was temporary. I found myself even slightly enjoying the rush of adrenaline. About halfway on my drive home from work this stormy day, the rain lightened and the setting sun began to break through the clouds. Stunning colors to my left caught my eyes and I realized there was a dazzling double rainbow ALL THE WAY. My reaction was honestly almost exactly like the guy you just heard if you clicked that last link. I experienced relief that the most difficult and stressful part of the drive home was over and I felt elation at witnessing such intense, vivid beauty after experiencing something so tremendously powerful and potentially destructive. I may have shed a few tears. I think that’s why humans are generally fascinated and awed by rainbows; they symbolize beauty, peace, and serenity blooming from chaos.
Storm clouds of the emotional sort hovered over me these past few weeks, and I didn’t know how to deal. My happiest moments were at work when I didn’t have time to think of my own personal issues. The quiet moments crept up on me and dragged me down into a darkness that seemed endless. I didn’t feel like myself. I missed being happy. Motivation to do the things I love just wasn’t there. When I found myself on the verge of despair, I clung to the knowledge that this, too, was temporary. As my mom taught me, this too shall pass. That became my mantra. I didn’t always believe it, but I kept telling myself anyway. And guess what happened—it did pass. With as little fanfare as rain clouds dissipating, the darkness began to retreat. Today I experienced my emotional double rainbow moment. Gratitude for life itself swelled within me. Joy rushed back into my being. I had lost myself in the darkness, but finding myself through all the layers of pain, uncertainty, and fear showed me that I am so much stronger than I knew. I am capable of so much sparkly, wondrous love.
So when those storm clouds approach, or if you’re in the darkness and chaos now, remember, this too shall pass. You will be okay. Your heart will keep beating even when it feels like it’s being squeezed of every last drop of love. In your most difficult, hopeless moment, that’s when the last drop of love will be revealed to you. That’s where the learning and incredible growth will occur. So don’t despair. And, lastly, READ THIS.
Winter came in with a bang this month in the mid-Atlantic. Our “winter” here in northern Virginia had consisted mostly of sunny, mild days. Suddenly, Mother Nature remembered what season it was and said, “Oops, here’s all the snow and cold you’ve been missing.” Snowstorm Jonas began rolling in about midday Friday. I got off of work early from my barn manager job and went to play in the fast-accumulating snow with my horse. We went for a ride, during which we saw a beautiful, bright red fox absolutely resplendent against the white snow. Then I tucked my horse in for the night and went home to hunker down.
When I awoke Saturday morning, I couldn’t believe my eyes—there was a wondrous amount of snow! Driving was out of the question. I shoveled our way out of the house and my mom and I walked to the barn in the midst of the blizzard.
The horses had all survived the night, but they’d have to deal with staying in, and they weren’t too happy about it. They looked longingly out of their stall windows, craving to stretch their legs and stimulate their minds. All we could do was provide them with clean stalls, hay, and water, and promise them they wouldn’t be cooped up forever.
The horses could finally stretch their legs after being confined to their stalls since Friday night. Most of the horses had never seen this much snow, and their expressions were priceless. They thoroughly enjoyed playing in the snow, for about 10 minutes, then they were worn out. It was quite a bit of work to wade through all that snow. I rode my horse again for a few minutes, pretending to be in Game of Thrones (bring it on, White Walkers!).
Watch a video of the horses playing in the snow!
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.
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.
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.”