So last Friday was my second Desert Horse Yoga class, specifically, White Horse variety, down at dancinghorse‘s Lipizzaner farm, and I’m finding it a fascinating and joyous addition to my regular yoga practice.
How White Horse Yoga works–the humans do yoga, led by instructor Jenny. The horses–do horse things, wandering in and out of the herd of humans as they deem appropriate, and as the instructor observes them and listens to what their body language is telling her, she modifies what she asks us to do in turn.
And every so often, as one is doing a pose, a big white horse comes up to help, and even without being told to, we would modify our poses in response. There’s nothing quite like, say, stretching into a warrior pose, only to find a horse at your back, and leaning against same in order to adjust your hips properly–pulling the horse into the pose, and learning things about same as a result.
But it’s not only about modifying the poses themselves–there’s something incredibly joyful about reaching out a hand, and finding a stretch of silky horse beneath it–a reminder not to leave that joy out of one’s practice, even on days when there are no horses about.
The other thing that struck me both classes about yoga-with-horses is that it’s also yoga-with-eyes-open. I’m used to closing my eyes a lot in yoga, drawing my focus inward. But, well, there are a herd of giant white horses about when doing this class–closing your eyes isn’t quite safe or wise. So instead one works on balancing inward and outward, focusing on one’s own body, but also being aware of the positions and actions of the horses around you, and of the humans too.
And of the landscape. Because this is the southern Arizona desert, and so one is practicing yoga with gaze open to the blue sky, the tall mountains. Every time I rose out of a forward bend with arms outstretched, I felt like I was trying to hold all that sky in them–and in so doing grounding myself to the land beneath my feet and all around me, too.
Desert yoga, indeed.
(Not yoga, but you can see some of the same white horses in action in this trailer for Caitlin Brennan’s House of the Star. :-))