Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Using the Dristhi While Riding

(This blog was originally posted on February 2, 2017)

Photo courtesy of Sara Fogan

When we practice balance poses during my yoga class, the teacher reminds us (the students) to focus on our drishti to stay in-tune with the work and control our body. Recently I asked one of the instructors about this concept. She explained that the drishti refers more to looking inward with the third eye to control behavior/habits and attention in daily life, not just focusing on a random spot in the near distance to maintain balance in the tree pose. This made complete sense to me and reminded me of something that horseman Chris Cox frequently reminds students and attendees at his training clinics.
“Ride with your eyes.”
It makes sense that when we look at something, even for just a few seconds, our attention is focused on it. The physical body makes tiny adjustments to maintain balance and mobility (even standing still). Unless you make a conscious effort to stay perfectly still or in one position, it is natural to lean toward or into the object of your fascination. Next time you have a conversation with someone, notice if you or the other person leans or moves slightly closer to each other.
If you ride horses, you are probably familiar with the warning that looking down at the ground is like picking your spot to land when you fall. Indeed, looking four, five or even six feet down from the back of an animal can disrupt balance our proprioception (body awareness) as the muscles in the body alternately tighten and release to stay on the horse. While you are distracted by what is going on the ground, you are more likely to miss what is going on around you that the horse perceives and reacts to. Before you know it, you’re on the ground wondering what just happened.
When Mr. Cox advises to ride with the eyes, it is a great way to focus (softly) on the environment around you as well as the specific direction where you want to go. This kind of focus widens the periphery of your visual field to nearly 180 degrees—the closest humans can get to being able to see the same kind of landscape horses perceive. In a way, this experience creates a kind of subconscious overload as the mind scrambles to process the various message units (perceptual stimuli) to create—you guessed it—a state of environmental hypnosis. The wonderful thing about this state is that it is actually a state of heightened awareness of environmental (and physical) stimuli even as the physical body becomes more comfortable and relaxed. When you are so focused, breathing begins to slow and the physical body relaxes while the subconscious mind remains aware of what is going on around you. You remain completely aware of your surroundings so you can communicate with and respond to your equine partner’s reactions and behavior during the ride.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy®, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.
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