A few weeks ago I looked at hunched shoulders when riding and gave you some releases to do that may help to open up your chest. http://www.equestrianfitness.co.uk/uncategorized/are-you-on-your-forehand/
I’m going to go through another exercise you can try on your horse to help you open up your chest.
As mentioned previously, hunching forward places more weight on the front of your horse. Obviously our aim is to be centrally weighted on the horse.
Another issue with being hunched or collapsed forward is our ability to breathe. If we are collapsed through the chest we are unable to take in full breaths and we are also almost definitely not using our diaphragm.
The chest must be open to allow our lungs to take in oxygen. This oxygen provides energy for our entire body not just in cell renewal but also as energy for our muscles. If we deny them of this energy we will not be riding to the best of our ability and we will become tired quicker.
We will also be aware as riders how in tune our horses are to our breathing pattern. If we are taking short, shallow breaths this mimics the kind of breathing we might do in a stressful situation and our may well respond accordingly-think invisible monsters in hedges!
Another reason to breathe fully whilst riding is to activate the diaphragm. The diaphragm flattens as we breathe in to create more space for oxygen. The Diaphragm is not directly connected to the Psoas but it for want of a better phrase “holds hands” with it as they both have attachments in the low back. Muscles work in teams and any dysfunctional muscles will inhibit its neighbours. A Diaphragm that does not contract/flatten will create an upward pull in the low back and therefore an upward pull on your Psoas. Yes that muscle you are trying to relax all the time may be being pulled upward by your breathing!
So, I have two things I want you to try out today.
The first one is an exercise to help you open your chest without leaning back or sticking your erm headlights out i.e. we are aiming to as always keep the front and back the same length to create balance and also enable our core to work effectively. Once your chest is open this will increase the capacity in your lungs to take in oxygen-as well as now having lovely alignment!
The second exercise is to look at breathing into your diaphragm and encouraging a relaxed Psoas whilst on your horse. The Diaphragmatic breathing as mentioned not only increases your oxygen inhale and therefore energy but also enables your Psoas to fully relax. This exercise is also great to do if you or your horse is particularly tense or nervous; the breathing alone will calm your nervous system down and will translate to your horse. This may be through the Psoas release or it may just be telepathic witchcraft-whichever you believe is fine.