“Move and the way will open.”

Zen Proverb

REMEMBERING THE RESTORATIVE: FROM CLIENT-CARE TO SELF-CARE

As someone who has guided clients through the intrinsic healing experience of yoga from yoga studio students to combat veterans I know how amazing and rejuvenating it can be.  Likewise, when I integrated yoga into the equine therapy practices I felt this light of finding a combined practice that resonated so profoundly for people that I wondered how I could bring this gift to every client I ever worked with that day forward.  Combat veterans and other trauma survivors seem to find drastic levels of healing in the experiential practices of mind/body medicine with a yogic edge and relational therapy through the silent compassion of a horse.  I had seen this therapeutic magic in action, seen the teary eyes of a modern day warrior gently petting the flank of his equine companion.  I knew this was something un-ignorable and I wanted to spread the concepts and conjoined practices to every place of pain I could, and to every person in need of connectedness. 

In my fervor, however, I had still never been a participant so I had never experienced the combination of body scans, somatic attunements, centering and grounding exercises, yoga, and horses all in one gloriously zen package.  I got the chance to see the results as a therapist and take part in the clients’ processes but not indulge myself in the participant role.  By the time I was packing up my boots and jeans for my trek to Arizona I was ready for a temporary role shift and some horse & yoga indulgences of my own.  Perphaps even a few revelations and epiphanies of my own as well.

I knew there would be mind/body practices in Shelley and Nancy’s equine program but when I received the email 3 days before leaving for Arizona stating, “Bring yoga clothes for the morning,” I nearly wept from excitement–seriously.  I had been putting self-care on the back-burner for a while; a fact that came fully into focus while giving my “Room to Breath” self-care workshop to a room full of women desperately in need of self-care a few weeks prior.  I was exhausted, I was drained, and part of me was wishing to be on the other end of the room–to be more participant than guide (although I love both roles in their own way). 

What is it about the nature of a woman that makes us constantly take from our own personal well of energy long past the time that every drip has been ladled out of it–until we are digging up moist dirt looking for water?  That is a mostly rhetorical question because I could give about 50 answers off the top of my head–ones that always come up when I give self-care workshops and ones that always resonate with me being someone who preaches far more than I practice when it comes to self-nurturing activities.

Well, I thought, I would, finally, give back to me.  And the deliciousness of yoga mornings, greeted by a dawning sun in the guesthouse of a cozy Arizona farm, was definitely enough to bring tears to my tired eyes.  Since ending yoga school for my teacher training life had caught up with me fast between a new job, private practice, workshops, and fine-tuning materials for upcoming trainings, not to mention 3 weeks of a killer sinus infection.  I had not even had time to maintain my own personal yoga practice in any way.  I needed a dose of the yogic in a big way.  I always felt the response of my body, mind, and spirit when I fell into a yoga drought–my brain got more distracted and white noise crept in, my body stiffened up, and my shoulder muscles tightened to rigid blocks of muscular tissue.  I felt distanced from any semblance of soulful peace.

CHECKING INTO THE OM HOTEL…

So, you may be wondering, what is the Om Hotel?  Is it a place? Is it a state of mind? The answer is–yes.  You create the space in a place and it becomes the conduit to a state of mind.  The place can be as simple as a yoga mat or a wooden floor or if you have a penchant for improvisation, it can even be on the back of the horse.  It can be a squared off corner of a room, or a particular room in a house, or an Arizonan guesthouse down a quiet dirt road with plenty of sunlight, soft yogic crooning, and a singing bowl or two.  The latter is where I laid myself at 9:00am on the first day of the “Riding Your Way Into a Mutual Relationship” workshop which Shelley and Nancy had crafted with the Epona Method as a base and the flavors of their expertise sprinkled throughout which, to my great delight included a very qualified psychotherapist yoga teacher at one end (Nancy) and an expertly intuitive horsewoman at the other (Shelley).

My “Om Hotel” experience began every morning for 3 days with a fluid, peaceful, and restorative yoga practice led by Nancy which was such a gentle yawn into the morning I could have spent about 3 hours in the guesthouse studio.  Nancy wove together the best of somatics and language from both psychotherapy such that the merging was seamless and helped evoke people’s true states of self without feeling invasive or probing.  Her postures were gentle and meditative, bringing the practice to a room full of horsewomen without yoga background in such a palatable way that it left them all wanting to go home and begin a regular practice of their own–which I always love to hear.

The studio walls were coated in a sunlight shade of yellow and mats were lined across the cream tile urging anyone entering to melt into the cool earth and let their yoga take them away from the external and come back to the root of themselves.  As I always like to quote e.e. cummings, taking us equine yoginis on a journey to, “…the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life.”  There were sun salutations, light meditations, restorative postures, and soft melodies; the perfect sampler of the practice to a room of beginners and one lapsed-yogini in need for a lot of softness in her practice.

The “Om Hotel” practice provided me with a return to my inner yogini with a side of self-reflection and introspection.  I loved the morning practices and relished a return to my private practice every evening, returning to the Xanadu Ranch and taking my practice to a comforting place–for muscles sore from saddle sitting and other unfamiliar farm-related aches.  Another beautiful revelation was the increasing level of yogi in each of the workshop participants leading to the creation, by Cathy (one of the participants with a very earthy sensibility and highly attuned intuition), of such equine/yogic terms as “om trot” and “spiritual legs”.  I was in love with the blossoming of vocabulary and the embracing of the yogic in the equine.  Although my ability to achieve my own “om trot” later in the week was quite a difficult thing.

THE PRANA EQUUS IN ACTION…

Prana, in yogic terms, is the vital life-sustaining force that is the root of our root and is embodied in our breath–life begins and ends with breath and, in my study, how we breathe says a lot about how we live.  The same can be said about how we ride.  Our breath acts as a barometer for our emotional experience and while riding your horse, part of the communication in the “mutual relationship” and the language we silently convey to the horse, comes in the forms of movement and breath.  Much like in yoga it is in the movement and breath that all communication and all of the emotional experience is acted out.  So to find your yoga in the equine is crucial in my opinion–and luckily, it seems, it also is the same for Nancy and Shelley’s work and workshops.  I loved how much they integrated body awareness, emotional experience in the body, and our body and breath language into their workshop–for me it proved to be even more revelational than I expected.  And resonated so much with the work I had been doing integrating the two practices together in my own little South Florida pietry dish of life.

My riding, I have learned, brings out all of the survival mechanism responses and discomfort spoken in physiology which I will discuss more in the next few posts.  This was a vital deepening of my own body awareness and attunement to how the oldest of habits die hard.  I carried my om with me and my breath skills as much as I could but my personal mounted equine work definitely tested my yogic capacities.  

I am one of those people for whom it is difficult enough to, say, tie my shoes and chew gum symultaneously let alone find my horseback seat, balance, breath, and hand placement–this I am going to need to work on.  Perhaps I need to chew gum and tie my shoes more often to build the tactile multitasking.  For now I am going to try a few oms to recalibrate my brain after an already long week–even longer while reminscing and longing for days spent alongside roundpens, on horseback, or on a yoga mat.  There is something diminishing about the return to an office-based week and paperwork-laden life.  Here is hoping all of you find a little bit of “The Om Hotel” in your daily life!

Stay tuned for the upcoming posts in this series:

  • RUNAWAY BRIDLE: THAT WHICH IS LOST & FOUND AMID HORSES
  • FEET FIRST: A HORSEWOMAN-STYLED REFLEXOLOGY
  • REFLECTIVE ROUNDPENNING & BOUNDARY GOATS
  • ….& ending with a NEW interview with yoga & equine enthusiast, Margaret Burns vap of COWGIRL YOGA & BIG SKY YOGA RETREATS!

“The infinite is in the finite of every instant.”

Zen Proverb

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