I have a quick story to tell you. (And a free video exercise!)
A young woman named Terra was suffering from pain and tension in her upper back, shoulders and neck. She often felt hunched over and uncomfortable.
How I helped her may surprise you.
Since Terra is an equestrian, I invited her to sit in her saddle.
I asked her if she felt balanced and level. Was her weight evenly distributed over both seat bones? Terra replied that she felt that she was sitting with a little more weight on her right seat bone, and she wanted to shift more weight onto her left side to even herself out.
But looking at Terra, I could see that her weight was already concentrated on her left side, not her right. Check out the photo above to see for yourself.
Do you see how Terra’s right ribs are scrunched together? This makes the right side of Terra’s torso shorter than her left side. Can you see how her uneven rib cage has thrown her weight onto the left side of her pelvis? To confirm, I put my hands under Terra’s seat bones. Yep, she was heavier on the left side.
What made Terra feel the opposite of what she was doing?
Let me start by saying that Terra’s experience is not at all uncommon. Many of us sense things about our bodies that aren’t quite accurate.
Habitually shortening one side of the trunk, as Terra was doing, is incredibly common. And most of the time we’re completely unaware that we’re doing it! Second, Terra’s sensation of thinking she had more weight on her right seat bone is also not uncommon. She may be feeling more of the inside of her right seat bone due to the uneven weight on her pelvis.
Also, people who sit with more weight on one side of their pelvis (that’s most people!) tend to do it habitually.
That means that we not only do it when we’re in the saddle, but also when we’re driving our cars, sitting at ours desks or vegging out on the sofa.
Because it’s so familiar, our nervous systems have learned to tune it out. After all, we stop noticing sensations that occur often. This means that we don’t even know that we’re doing it.
That’s why it can be futile to try to “fix” your riding problems.
For one thing, your riding challenges may not be what you think they are! You may be relying on undependable feedback about your position. Hiking up one side of your pelvis, shifting your ribs this way or that, or pulling your legs into a strained position will only make things worse for you and your horse.
So, what’s a rider to do? Develop body awareness!
Instead of trying to fix yourself, develop your body awareness. With improved body awareness, you’ll be able to feel when your pelvis is level and when it’s not. You’ll be better able to sense and control the movements of your seat, legs and hands. You’ll enjoy improved coordination, strength and balance. In short, you’ll have greater feel, something that every good equestrian strives for.
Simple exercises based on the Feldenkrais Method® can help you develop body awareness.
But before you dive into the video, check out Terra’s progress in the second photo, after her Feldenkrais® session with me.
Without trying to correct or “fix” anything, she just sat naturally balanced in the saddle. Note how level her pelvis is compared to the first photo. You can see that her rib cage is no longer collapsed.
If Terra had tried to “fix” herself, she would have only increased her difficulties. Enhancing her body awareness, however, allowed her to sit balanced without even trying.
She just naturally sat with ease and elegance. What a great feeling to take to your horse!
Oh, and Terra’s aches and pains went away too.
Please enjoy the short video exercise and then please leave a comment to let me know how it’s helped you improve your body awareness and position. Your horse – and your body – will thank you. And so do I!