Regain Your Training Focus with This Simple Exercise

Moving your body doesn’t always mean smashing out a high-intensity gym session – in fact, learning to unwind and relax is just as important. Try this incredibly soothing yin yoga pose to set yourself up for success in the saddle:

I don’t know what time warp January was in, but for me, it seemed like the longest month in current memory. I have a degree in exercise science, I’ve been a personal trainer for almost a decade, and I am a two-hundred-hour yoga teacher. I cannot stand the gym in January. I will almost avoid it like the plague. I think I went to the gym once in January and that was to catch up with my husband, who’s an avid four-day gym-goer, come hell or high water.

In Virginia, where I’m based, temperatures were miserable. I’m usually very active, and though I worked my barn job throughout January (which included trying to ride in these frigid temperatures!), I did not spend any more time outside than absolutely necessary. All this goes to say, somehow I survived January — but I lost some fitness in the process. But as the temperatures in February were hovering around 50 and we move into March, we’re asking our horses to do more, it’s important to bring some of the stillness we found earlier in the year. I do this through yin yoga.

What is Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga isn’t new. Paul Grilley, the modern father of yin, explains it as such: “Yin Yoga is a natural healing practice that talented yoga teachers have always been rediscovering and integrating into their practice.”

Yin Yoga is categorized by long, static holds in which we use gravity to do the work of tractioning the fascia and connective tissue of the body. While this is a more subtle form of exercise, you are still working the body in a very specific and targeted way. This form of yoga is different from restorative yoga, where your goal is simply to relax. The two are commonly confused as the same thing, when in fact they are not.

Yin poses are held anywhere from three to twelve minutes. During a yin hold, you will typically feel a light sensation. Over time, that sensation will become more subtle and then will come back to you in waves. The goal is to remain centered during this rollercoaster ride of sensations.

Yin holds are a great way to cultivate a mindfulness practice in which you focus on your breath — and everything else that comes up, you try to let go of and regain your focus on your breath. The benefits a consistent practice like this can have on our riding or training are numerous; staying present in the saddle is not always easy, and this practice can help.

Start on you back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Keep your feet together and your knees out wide.

Here’s a simple Yin Yoga hold to incorporate into your routine:

Reclined Butterfly

The Reclined Butterfly is a very good exercise for the inner thigh. This is a more passive exercise, so you might not feel too much sensation, but don’t worry if this is the case. This hold targets the inner thigh and groin, and you are also in a subtle back bend, making this useful for the lower back as well.

1. Start on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.
2. Keep your feet together and bring your knees out wide.
3. Set a timer and hold this position for 3-5 minutes.

Set a timer and hold this position for 3-5 minutes.

I recommend doing this hold at the end of the day, instead of at the beginning of the day. This is a great way to start a wind-down ritual in the evening.

Try this and feel the mental and physical benefits!

Laura Crump Anderson is a certified as a personal trainer by the American College of Sports Medicine and is a Registered 200 Hour Teacher with the Yoga Alliance. She specializes in working with riders of all ages and disciplines through her business, Hidden Heights Fitness, and is also the author of Ultimate Exercise Routines for Riders. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science, and has evented through Training level. You can read more of her fitness columns on our sister site, Eventing Nation.