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)

 

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.

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

fallen angel

“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