Snowy’s First Fox Hunt

My day began at 3:30am. I arrived at the barn early to get Snowy ready for his first fox hunt! His white hindquarters acted as a beacon when I went to find Snowy in his field. The stars were out and there was a light mist on the land. I enjoyed a few peaceful moments with Snowy under the stars, then we headed to the barn, got ready, got into the trailer, and we were off. Lacy (my friend and the wonderful barn manager where I board Snowy) was hauling us and also going to hunt. She’s a pro, so I was thankful to have her guidance. I’ve hunted only a handful of times, and this was Snowy’s very first time. 

We were hunting with the Warrenton Hunt (for which my mom used to whip in!), and we were the first to arrive, parking in a bucolic meadow, the sun still not above the horizon. Others arrived and then came the hounds. They bounded right toward me and Snowy as they were let out, and Snowy remained quite calm, observing them without getting worked up. Lacy and I remained in the back, allowing Snowy to figure things out. We went through fairytale-like woods and meadows, water crossings, and rolling hills. Snowy got some good exposure to the hounds, a couple good gallops, and had to learn to just stop and wait. The stopping and waiting was the hardest part for Snowy. With a little more practice, Snowy will be just fine and will learn to savor the stops, kind of like how yogis learn to savor downward dog as a resting pose. Snowy tried hard, and I’m so pleased with that. Snowy had his green moments, but breathing and circles (lots of circles) saved us and made it a positive experience overall—and so much fun! I’m so proud of Snowy and looking forward to our next hunt! 

What No One Tells You About High Vibes

You’ve seen those yoga tank tops with “High Vibe” or “Vibe Tribe” or “Good Vibes Only” printed across the front, right? Don’t get me wrong, I love them. I even own one from Super Love Tees that I wear all the time. But there’s something that no one tells you about raising your vibration. You will lose people, maybe even people you were once close to. You will lose friends, and very likely some family members will stop associating with you.

So what does “raising your vibration” mean, anyway? It means taking a mirror to your soul and peering into the dark spaces you thought were unlovable, dragging them into the light, and loving your entire self, dark parts included. When you love all of yourself, you can then love others. Recognizing and acknowledging the dark parts of yourself allows you to heal and grow. When you open that door and knock down those walls within yourself, others will feel it in your presence and be drawn to it. Raising your vibration means not giving a damn about doing what others or society tells you you should do, but instead following your heart and soul on whatever crazy adventure calls to your deep, primal self.

This world doesn’t need another paper-pusher working 40+ hours a week at a job that accomplishes nothing but paying the bills. What this world needs is radical love, shameless honesty, and brave hearts to stand up against ignorance, bigotry, and fear. While most people will be drawn to your openness, there are some that will fear it and will pull away, friends and family included. Once you’re totally honest with yourself, that honesty reflects back on others, and they may not be ready or willing to see themselves without the sweet sugar-coating society tells us we need in order to be socially accepted.

Honest relationships aren’t all rainbows and unicorns—there’s a lot of pain and growth involved for a relationship to remain honest and healthy. I’d much rather have authentic, honest, open relationships than shallow ones any day. This means I’ve lost people. I’m not telling you it’s easy. It’s difficult and requires sacrifice, but it’s worth it. Yes, some people will no longer be a part of your life, but this will open up space for others to enter.

Raising your vibration doesn’t mean you’re happy all the time. All emotions actually become more intense, sadness and joy included. The difference is that your mind is able to remain calm no matter what emotion(s) you’re experiencing. These high vibes are world-changing, because the change begins within, and that’s the only kind of real change that exists. So become intensely self-aware, practice yoga, meditate, chant, spend time in nature. Parts of your journey will be suffocatingly lonely, but somewhere the magic will happen and you’ll come to embrace and enjoy the loneliness, which will then enable you to enjoy the company of friends, lovers, and family even more.

Let’s change the world together. I’ll see you on the high side.

Allowing Healing

Sometimes all you can do is allow. Yoga poses cannot be forced. Growth cannot be forced. Healing cannot be forced. These things must be allowed. With time, patience, perseverance, and compassion, these things are then allowed to happen through us. This is what it means to go with the flow. Sometimes you must work hard and row with the current, but don’t try to row against it, or you’ll end up drowning. Other times you rest, still flowing, but enjoying the the river’s eddies just as much as its rapids. Allowing is just as much work, if not more, as trying to force things. The difference is, allowing brings results. Forcing brings only frustration. Allowing isn’t easy. It requires grace under pressure, breathing into the tight spaces, and accepting when you’ve gone as far as you can in this moment. So allow yourself to change at your own pace. Allow yourself to try and fail. Allow yourself to fall. Allow your heart to break. Then allow yourself to try again, to get back up, to become stronger, to put your heart back together, to heal.

What Happens When We’re Too Busy

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. 

Dealing with the Neighsayers

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 ❤

3 Reasons to Get in Touch with Your Inner Child

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.

 

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

 

On Sensitivity and Strength

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.

 

 

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.

Speak from Your Heart

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?

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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

There’s No Rainbow without the Rain

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.

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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.

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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.

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