As I am writing this blog, I am sitting in a comfortable chair overlooking a polo field, next to me in the stables Argentinian music is blasting out of the radio, while the groomers get the horses ready to play polo. I got the amazing opportunity to teach yoga for one week to a group of horse polo players, at Palo Alto polo club close to Buenos Aires. I did not know that much about the horse sport beforehand, so before I went on my trip I did quite a bit of research: where do the players tend to get sore? Where/ what do they need to stretch? What do they need to improve their riding and game? I found some useful information online, however, not much on the about the combination of yoga and polo, something which goes together perfectly, if you ask me!
So what do you need to work on, and why is doing yoga in combination with horse polo a perfect match?
Horse polo players and horse riders in general have very sore and tight inner thighs, they have sore shoulders and a tight neck and their wrist & lower arms tend to be tight or sore. Besides that they need to work on their core strength to be stable and balanced on the horse. They need to strengthen their quadriceps to be able to stand up while the horse is running and they need to twist the core region of their body and become flexible in this part, to be able to twist and turn to hit the ball and have a better reach.
Yoga can help with all these challenges for polo players. There is a wide variety of poses that help players to get ready for a game or stretch out right after it. Below nine basic poses, that I noticed are the best to do when riding a horse and in particular playing polo.
Photo 1: Reclining twist
Reclining twist pose. Lay on your back. Arms are out in a cross. Bring your knees towards your chest. Make a 90-degree angle with your hips and your knees and knees and ankle. Move your legs to the right, look to the left; keep both shoulders on the mat. If you want you can place your right hand on your knees, to add extra pressure.
Loosing up the lower and upper back
Photo 2: Marjaryasana
Catpose. Come to your hands and knees. Knees in a 90 degrees angle with your hips, shoulders with the wrists. Inhale, look up and arch your spine. Exhale, look down and round your spine. Do this with a minimum of 5 times.
Strething of the legs and inner thighs
Photo 3: Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward facing dog: Come onto the mat on your hands and knees. Knees are 90 degrees with your hips, hands straight under your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and on an exhale lift your knees away from the floor. Keep them slightly bent. Stretch one knee, bend the other. Switch several times. Bend both needs slightly and push your sitbones up in the air, while you push yourself away from your hands. On an exhale push your heels towards the mat. Stay for a minimum of three breaths.
Building core muscles
Photo 4: Plank pose
Plank pose. Make it look like you are a straight plank. Have your hips aligned with your body, so not high in the air or close to the ground. Shoulders are 90 degrees over your wrists. Contract your abdominal muscles. Try to stay here for 5 cycles of breath.
Working the upper back & opening shoulders
Photo 5: Salabhasana
Locust pose. Start by having your whole body on the mat. Bring your arms back. On the inhale take both your arms and legs up. If this is too much to begin with, then start with only taking your chest off the mat. Second time only the legs. And third time both the chest (arms) and the legs.
Creating balance & strengthening the leg
Photo 6: Vrksasana
Tree pose. Put all the weight on one leg. Place the other one in your thigh or on your lower leg. Never on the knee!! Focus on a point in front of you and don’t let it go. Stand up tall. Hands in prayer in front of your chest. Minimum of 5 cycles of breath.
Stretching the legs and inner thighs
Photo 7: Utthita Trikonasana
Extended triangle pose. Straighten your front leg. Have your torso similar to the Warrior 2 pose. Bring your body weight forward. Bring your arm down towards your leg. Either grab your thigh, lower part of the leg or ankle. Make sure your torso is parallel with your front leg. Stay for at least 3 cycles of breath.
Stretching the back of the leg
Photo 8: Paschimottanasana
Seated forward bend pose. Sit on the mat. Bring both legs forward. Pull your toes towards you. Inhale bring your arms up and straighten your spine, push your chest forward. Exhale come to a 45 degree angle. Grab where you can, knee, calf muscles, ankles, toes. Inhale straighten your spine again and exhale come forward as far as you can with your back straight. Look towards your knee.
Photo 9: Marichyasana 3
Sage Pose. Sit on the mat, both legs forward and back straight. Bend your right knee and place your heel close to your hips. Have a fist distance between your leg and your heel. Inhale take both your arms up. Twist from your belly button towards the right. Left hand goes on your right knee, bring your right hand behind your back. Twist your head as last, to look over your shoulders. Stay for a minimum of three cycles of breath. Change side.