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February 2, 2011

Yoga, Writing, and Riding

Today I had several important revelations, the most important being that my publication and trip preparation musings are linked. They can’t, and ought not, be separated. I’m a lumper not a splitter. Everyone is just going to have to deal. I had this and other revelations today because I was more clear headed than usual. And I was more clear headed than usual because yesterday I’d gone to yoga.

It was a tough class for me. My thoughts were on everything but what I was doing. The focus was on hip openers, which I most need to do. But I found myself growing increasingly impatient. The class just seemed to go on and on and on. Then we did a pose called The Firelog. You sit down, put one leg perpendicular to the other, and then raise it up onto your knee. I attempted to get my leg straight, and fell over, twice. Thunk. Thunk. I heard a few grunts and groans, which meant that others might have been having a hard time with this, but I paid them no mind. You’re not supposed to pay anyone any mind when doing yoga, so I don’t. I’m actually pretty good about this. I’ve been taking instruction now at Yoga in the Valley, on and off, for four years. And I persist. Maybe someday the Firelog will get easier. As Dori would say, “Someday your hips will thank you.”

Yes, the toughest days sometimes yield the best results. I was reminded of this several times today. This morning I was working on a query letter to the University of Nebraska Press. It then occurred to me that Raudi’s Story isn’t about Raudi or me, but rather about obsession. Yes, this is the driving force behind my seemingly incomprehensible actions. I say in my letter that this realization that leads to self-understanding. I was, as I worked on this letter, struck by the fact that this was a major insight. I’m going to have to return to Raudi’s Story and revise the final few chapters, while keeping this in mind. My final thought on the matter, that writing-related problem solving has no boundaries, was in itself, also revelatory.

Come the afternoon, I switched gears and went for a ride. I got on Raudi and noticed that my seat felt more secure. My seat feeling more secure meant that my core was engaged. My core being engaged meant that my shoulders were back. This all lead to my feeling more in charge and more confident than usual. This was fortuitous because Raudi was being a ditz. An overturned tree, a piece of fiberglass roofing material, a sailboat, all seemed to give her permission to wig out. Rather than tense up, I focused on my breathing and made whoosh sounds, which are loud exhales. I gave her neck shakes, and with my legs, gave the come on, come on cue. Her lackluster response prompted me to wack her with the crop a few times. This was not a form of punishment, but rather my way of saying that it was time to move on. She was of course praised every time she did as I asked.

We did the loop around the neighborhood and then went down Murphy Road to the turnoff. Raudi became increasingly more animated, and on the way home she gave me her full and undivided attention. We did trot and canter transitions, with a few steps of tolt thrown in for good measure. Quite clearly, we were both enjoying ourselves. It occurred to me that it’s my job to get Raudi focused, but I can only do this if I’m in the moment.

To this end, my yoga training is serving both Raudi and I in good stead. Lessons are good because a riding instructor can make suggestions, which the rider, through the use of their body, can transmit to the horse. But in the absence of such, yoga serves much the same purpose since it provides one with mental and physical self-control. Undoubtedly, Raudi and I would not have done as well had I blown off class yesterday. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not where I yet need to be. But I’m on my way, and so is Raudi. We are both looking forward to this summer’s longer rides.