The Horse Ride

Heritage of Yoga

Hatha Yoga Pradipika: Describe my most significant experience in my yoga practice.

The Horse Ride

Floating.  Floating like a mist above, around and through my body.  I am not out of my body nor in it.  The Rap music pulsing through the window from the house next door, beating the waves of the soft breeze.  Not here, not separate, just present.  No words to describe, just present.

Was it only this morning I was experiencing a moment in my childhood?  Deep in the trauma of an event.  Images, sensations merging with memory.  Remembering.  I knew this happened.  Heard the stories, believed the power of yoga to release memories, trauma held in the cells.  How appropriate I muse, cells.  Little prisons holding captive events too painful to face in the moment.

How many times had I told the story of crying even at the thought of the big backbends, Urdhva Danurasana, Wheel pose.  Watching others lift effortlessly, their arms and legs unfolding as their spine lengthen into an arch.  Up they went in one smooth movement while my own body struggled to find the strength to lift and then could barely hold the pose.  They made it look so simple.  Fluid motion, not chunky and straining like my own.  Then the fear I felt each time before backbend practice and the relief when it was over.  Relief that barely covered the disappointment.  Relief  that this part of the week was over (1).  I had made it through without falling apart.  I wouldn’t have to face that pose again.  I could go home and maybe from time to time try it again.  Sometimes it seemed like I was making progress, but always the dread.

I told my students that it was because of opening the heart.  It was a big heart opening pose.  That wasn’t it, I knew that now.  True it had taken a long time to shed the layers of clothes I wore covering my chest and shoulders.  I could do that now, wear sleeveless tops that left my shoulders bare.  That was the clue I never grasped.  I was always so sure it was my chest I was hiding.  Big breasts I thought, too vulnerable.  It wasn’t big breasts, it was shoulders.  Bare shoulders that exposed my secret.

Ten percent less mobility in the left arm my teacher had told me.  That was good to know.  Reasons why it was hard to do some asanas.  The accident I would say.  I broke my left arm as a child, no physical therapy in those days.  An event that was hardly a blip in my family history, not anything anyone would recall years later.

Knowing I had to work that arm had made improvements.  I stood straighter and learned to do handstand and other poses.  Yoga had taught me to find a core strength and work from that awareness.  But still the fear, dreading each time I had to attempt wheel pose again. I knew now,  my body had finally released its secret.

I wanted to ride the horse, Beau Crest El Dorado Genius, Elmer for short.  Funny, I was afraid of big horses and Elmer was a big horse, sixteen hands at least.  Somehow that day was different, I wanted to ride him.  My sister had been riding him that morning and I wanted a turn.  The stirrups were too long but my sister wouldn’t help, too much trouble.  I got on anyway.  It was just around the track, it would be ok.

What spooked him?  A car, other horses, I don’t remember.  The reins pulled away only the ends in my hands.  Bouncing on the saddle, barely staying on.  I watch the cars on the freeway on-ramp as I passed them.  Dreamlike, details in slow motion as Elmer moved at a dead run.  Then the sharp turn into the trees, still on.  The fence, ready to jump but he stops and I fall hard onto the packed ground.  Then lying on the cot in the dark, cool room off the office.  Someone is rubbing horse liniment on my shoulder.  My red and white seersucker blouse open.  Embarrassed, there are men in the room and I am a young girl.  Someone calling my mother.  Maybe they’d asked, “Do you want your mother?” “Yes”,  I would have answered.  When my mother comes she is angry.  She hadn’t wanted to drive to the stable this morning.  I sit in the back seat of the Ford station wagon.  Was I crying?  I can’t remember.  Mother asks, “Do you hurt?”  It doesn’t hurt but I say, “Yes, it hurts.”  We go to the doctor where the x-ray shows a break at the top of the humerus.  I feel relief.  There is now a justification for wanting her to come get me.

I wear a cotton ribbed stocking that goes around my body and holds my arm to my side.  Left hand sticking out as the shirt sleeve hangs loose.  Then the hives whenever my skin is exposed to the sun.  Strange they all think but don’t make any connections.

Present time. My friend is with me.  She holds me and we gently rock as I tell the story.  Sobs shake my body as the images pass.  The betrayal of love.  Love I, the child, expected, wanted, but couldn’t ask for.  The holding, cuddling and care I longed for from this new mother, new sister.  I wanted to belong to this family I had gotten since the death of my birth mother.

I am floating.  Floating in Savasana.  The events of the morning are gone.  There is no quality, no texture, just being.  Maybe it’s a beginning.

(1)  The Summer Intensive in Berkeley, CA is a week long yoga practice where backbends were generally done on the Thursday of the week.


One response to this post.

  1. […] guessed that I have tight shoulders and I over work my lower back to compensate.  (See post: The Horse Ride) Now my goal had changed: I no longer was willing to just have the form of the pose, I wanted the […]


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