Loosening up

The seat is more than an aid:
It is the aid of aids.
On its quality
Depends the implementation
Of the two other aids.

RELAXATION

Is the master word.

Apart from the fact
Of sitting back
As you keep your navel forward,
Don’t foster any strict position prerequisites
Whose only effect
Would be to make you stiff.
Especially
Don’t try to give any particular place
To your feet:
Let them be where gravity places them.
If they are too far forward
It means that you are contracted,
And the same if they are too far back.

Page 13, Another Horsemanship

by Jean Claude Racinet

I’ve left loosening up until now as different activities require different balances of tension and relaxation. Swimmers, for instance, need a degree of looseness and range of movement in their shoulders and of rigidity in their hips that is irrelevant to riding which requires loose hips and quiet shoulders. Only now that you have practiced these exercises enough to start wanting to improve your performance can you discriminate between what is lack of familiarity and strength with what is truly unrelenting tenseness.

Here are some Qi Gong based exercises that you can do on the ground to help yourself along the way. Being aware of and able to differentiate the movements of your shoulders, waist, and hips allows you to develop conscious and precise responses to the horse’s movements. Like most martial arts, the point of these movements is to free our bodies of tension and harmonize the movement of energy, of Qi , throughout our bodies. Anytime there are problems you always start with the Horse Stance, so get out your trampoline and:

  1. Take the Horse Stance (click here)
  2. Pay attention to your breathing,
  3. become aware of your inner environment (click here)
  4. alternating breathing into your upper chest, diaphragm, and lower abdomen
  5. allow any knots or stagnations to dissolve.
  6. When you can stand balanced and breathing with your eyes closed
  7. Slowly compress your entire body into a slightly crouching position
  8. Feeling the soles of your feet connected deep into the earth
  9. and then quickly release your entire body all at once
  10. stay calm and quiet in the Horse Stance
  11. until the trampoline is still once again

To loosen up your shoulders and upper chest:

  1. Arch your back so your torso is slightly inclined forward
  2. Set each hand on the opposite shoulder
  3. Raise your elbows so that your arms are level with your shoulders
  4. Tuck your chin into the ‘x’ between your wrists
  5. Breath in
  6. As you stretch one shoulder as high and as forward as you can
  7. Exhale as you relax
  8. Breath in
  9. As you stretch the other shoulder as high and forward as you can
  10. Exhale as you relax and
  11. Twist your waist as far to one side as you can
  12. Making sure that your back is still arched so that your torso is slightly inclined forward
  13. And your chin is tucked in
  14. Hold that twist while you
  15. Breath in
  16. And stretch one shoulder as high and far to the same side as you can
  17. Exhale as you relax
  18. Inhale as you stretch the other shoulder as high and far to that same side as you can
  19. Return to the center
  20. Making sure that your back is still arched so that your torso is slightly inclined forward
  21. That your chin in tucked in
  22. And breath in
  23. As you stretch one shoulder as high and as forward as you can
  24. Exhale as you relax
  25. Breath in
  26. As you stretch the other shoulder as high and as forward as you can
  27. Exhale as you relax
  28. Twist your waist as far as you can to the opposite side
  29. Making sure that your back is still arched so that your torso is slightly inclined forward
  30. Breath in
  31. As you stretch one shoulder as high and far to that same side as you can
  32. Exhale as you relax
  33. Breath in
  34. As you stretch the other shoulder as high and far to that same side as you can
  35. Exhale as you relax

If your lower back is rounded instead of arched and/or your head is tilted back, you will find these moves much more difficult. Leaning forward at more than a 45-degree angle is also counterproductive. Do your stretches slowly and deliberately, checking your posture constantly. Once the stretches become easy, you can try doing the whole sequence as one smooth flowing figure-eight movement.

Many people confuse their waists with their hips and are practically immobile from their knees to their armpits. To gain awareness, strength and discrimination in this area of your body, start by relaxing your waist, the area between the end of your ribs and the iliac crest or the top of your pelvic bones:

  1. Standing balanced on both feet
  2. On your trampoline
  3. Toes straight ahead
  4. Knees slightly bent
  5. Inhaling while
  6. Slowly pushing your navel forward
  7. Lifting your chest and
  8. Arching your back
  9. And shoulders
  10. And pelvis
  11. And knees
  12. And ankles
  13. Until your heels rise up off the ground
  14. And you are rocking on your toes
  15. Then exhale
  16. Slowly sucking your navel backwards
  17. Rounding your back
  18. and Shoulders
  19. and Pelvis
  20. And knees
  21. And ankles
  22. Until your toes rise up off the ground
  23. And you are rocking on your heels
  24. Continue slowly rocking back and forth this way
  25. Until you have a feeling of warmth (Qi) between your navel and the small of your back

Once you are comfortable with this movement:

• bend your elbows at 90 degrees and
• softly curl your fists as though you were holding the reins
• keep rocking
• until you are able to feel warmth (Qi) in your hands

This constant rocking movement develops the core body flexibility and strength that is essential to a secure and resilient seat and soft following hands, so practice it anytime anywhere until you can do it with your eyes closed.

Now we get to the actual hip joints. No, they are not up by the waistband of your pants; that is the iliac crest or the highest point of the sides of the pelvis. For most people, the actual hip joint is about level with their wrists when they let their arms hang loosely at their sides. Find the hard bony projection on the sides of the widest part of your behind, and you will have found your hip joints. The hard bony spot you can feel is the fulcrum or greater trochanter of the femur (thighbone) where it inserts into the pelvis. Stretch and strengthen your hip joints by:

• Standing balanced on both feet
• Toes straight ahead
• Knees slightly bent
• Setting your hands palm down along the crease where your thighs meet your pelvis
• Your longest( middle) finger should lie in that crease
• Swaying your hips in a gentle figure eight movement
• Rolling your hips
• Rotating around your central core
• Allowing your waist and shoulders to gently follow
• Breathing slowly and calmly
• Deep into your belly
• Until your lower abdomen ( Dan tein) feels full and warm
• End by placing both palms over your Dan tein
• And rubbing them clockwise
• Until your belly and
• Your hands are warm

Finish the whole set by:

  1. standing on one foot
  2. and tapping the back of your calf with the other foot
  3. nine times
  4. changing legs
  5. standing on one foot
  6. and tapping the back of your calf with the other foot
  7. nine times
  8. repeat the whole sequence 9 times
  9. then return to the Horse Stance
  10. As always – BREATH!

A complete Qi Gong practice can be found in Dr. Baolin Wu’s 9 Palaces system, and is definitely worth practicing. Whether you only do this abbreviated set or have an ongoing full Qi Gong practice, do practice outside. Remember that it really does all apply to your riding because:

It remains understood
That the correctness of position
Must come second
To the necessity
Of pliability
On horseback…
Page 13, Another Horsemanship by Jean Claude Racinet

When you can, practice where your horse can observe you. Qi Gong emphasizes our connection with nature and experiencing how your horse responds to your energy can be quite illuminating. You are doing it right when your horse is a calm and curious companion. If your horse responds by avoiding you or becoming agitated, focus on your own clear calm center. It may take a few sessions to establish a clean clear flow of energy and communication, but working through challenges and disruptions between you and your horse while on the ground makes for a much smoother transition to mounted work.

Encouraging that process of relaxation before you ever get on your horse is helpful a relaxing on top of a large slippery creature with a mind of its own that is also capable of moving at speeds up to 40 mph is one of the basic paradoxes of horsemanship, and it doesn’t just happen of its own accord. Work on the longe line, where all you have to do is attend to your seat while someone else handles the horse and gives you feedback on what you are doing is the next step and one of the best means of developing a supple resilient relaxed seat.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s