Finding Balance During a Pandemic with Centered Riding Principles

Back in 1985 Sally Swift published a book call ‘Centered Riding’ and in 2002 her next book ‘Centered Riding 2’ was published. These books brought the rider a way of working harmoniously and efficiently with the horse. They re-educated the rider’s mind and body to achieve greater balance and communication and improved the comfort and performance in the horse. These tools and visualizations are as relevant today, in our own lives, especially with what is going on in the world, as they have been to riders.

Starting with the concept of Grounding, which in her second book Sally wrote that grounding gives all the other basics security. The concept is having the feeling of being solidly on the ground while in the saddle. This gives a more secure seat and ability to connect with the horse. Being grounded affects physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels and allows a person to take on life’s challenges in a more steady way. It becomes easier to process, learn, and focus when grounded.

-Place your hands on your thighs and imagine the earth’s energy flowing up into your body. Push your roots down into the earth as you grow taller. Just like the tree you will be more able to withstand life’s storms.

“Soft Eyes” is the next concept to discuss, one that helps one see and feel the bigger picture. In her first book she explained Soft Eyes as “…a method of becoming distinctly aware of what is going on around you, beneath you, inside of you. It includes feeling and hearing as well as seeing. You are aware of the whole, not just separate parts.” Riding with Hard Eyes, is focusing on one thing, perhaps the horse’s head, which causes the rider’s body to become tense with a single minded awareness. Lifting the eyes and using your periphery, seeing the whole picture, opens you up to feel and sense. The body relaxes and the rider is able to ride the moment rather than trying to force something to happen. Choosing to see the current situation as ‘happening to oneself’ will bring on anger, fear, frustration etc., but choosing to see the world as a whole, where everyone is in this together, where everyone is helping one another will bring joy, ease, contentment and the ability to see all the good that is arising.

-With soft eyes you will have fewer tensions, you will feel freer to move forward on your path, and you will be more equipped to “ride” out the storm.

Centered Riding reminds the rider to breathe to reduce tension. Breathing shallowly or holding the breath creates tension in the body. Along with the tension there will be less oxygen flowing and the lungs will not be expanding fully. This will lead to feeling more tired, foggy, and moody. Sally said, “You can breathe a horse to quietness. You can breathe him past things that scare him.”

-Breathe down into your center, feel the belly expanding as the diaphragm drops down, a nice deep breath. Feel the lungs expand. With imagination and soft eyes take the breath down into your center and all the way down your legs into the ground, feeling more grounded with each breath. Breathing into the center creates more stability, emotionally and physically. Perhaps take note of what scares you, and breathe past it. You see something awful on the news, breathe… you feel fear, breathe.

During these times bring awareness to the heart center as well. “Retire to your center and be quiet,” Sally wrote. In that space of quietness feel the body relax. The world has retreated inside and that can be a time to find center and rest. Regroup, and be prepared for what comes next as the world is shifting from what it was into a new space and mindset.

Building Blocks is another core basic. In riding this means that the body is stacked correctly for stability. If any of the parts is out of balance it throws everything out of balance and creates tension in both the horse and the rider. Building Blocks in life can be thought of in two parts. Firstly personal building blocks – good nutrition, fitness, emotional well-being, and soul connection. While isolating (social distancing), taking care of the body and mind is essential. Exercise/movement, body awareness (yoga, Somatics, etc) and nutritious foods are key. As are meditation, journaling, and connecting with nature for quiet time to reflect. Social connections will help us stay centered, so the second part of Building Blocks is community. People are working together to help each other in more ways. While many are staying home to keep others safe and healthy, essential workers are providing care and support. Everything is being done for the whole.

The final basic is Clear Intent. This gives structure to a ride, a purpose. Let each day begin with a purpose. In this lifetime there will likely never be another opportunity to spend days with this much freedom. This pandemic is giving us time to reflect, to dive deep into a topic we love, to study, to read, to BE with ourselves. What do you see? Have you been living the life you love? If not, what changes can you make? What brings you joy?

-Find something you’ve always wanted to do and do it! Paint, sculpt, read, write, garden, enjoy nature, or connect with those you love. The list is endless. Enjoy the journey.

These Centered Riding concepts all work harmoniously together for a more grounded and centered life. They provide the skills to take on what needs to be done without the stress and tension. Practice and Enjoy.

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