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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Meet the yoga teacher who loves having a good stretch... with her HORSE

By Mary Isokariari

The 'Bow': Linda Guanti enjoys a yoga session with Lewis, a 17-year-old Egyptian Arabian horse

A veteran horse is still competing in old age after beating stiffness in his joints - by doing YOGA.

Super-fit Lewis, a 17-year-old Egyptian Arabian, mastered a string of yoga moves after copying his owner Linda Guanti, 35.

Linda was mucking out when she began practising her own stretches to help her bad back - and was stunned to see Lewis mimicking her.

She spent several hours a day showing Lewis how to adopt the complex poses and he can now hold positions such as the 'bow' and the 'neck side stretch'.

Lewis has even mastered an awkward pose where he kneels forward to push his nose into the ground and stretch his back while Linda stands beside him and reaches to the sky.

Their joint yoga sessions have cured Linda's lifelong back pain and eased Lewis' stiff joints so much that he can carry on competing.

X-ray technologist Linda, from British Columbia, Canada, said: 'Lewis is a great horse. I've had him since he was five-and-a-half and he loves to try anything that's fun.

'I was amazed when he began to do yoga. He really adores the stretches and it's great that we can both combine our hobby and spend time together.

'Neck Side Stretch' position: Lewis has beaten stiffness in his joints becoming a real poser after learning how to do yoga stretches

'Doing yoga with your horse is a wonderful way to make a connection with them.'

'Lewis has learned how to remain calm in vulnerable positions that would frighten most horses.'

'Plus, he's a fairly athletic horse who jumps and does dressage so there stretches help to keep him fit.' Linda turned to yoga after she fractured three vertebrae in her back falling from a horse when she was 14.

The injury was never fixed and gave her chronic health problems throughout her adult life that meant she was unable to ride properly.

Back improvement: Practising her own stretches with Lewis has helped Linda's back

Several years ago she then suffered three prolapsed discs.

But when Linda discovered yoga in 2007 she noticed a dramatic improvement in her health.

She began doing her stretches while she groomed Lewis in a bid to save time and be around her pet more often.

But to her amazement Lewis soon joined in. In one manoeuvre, Lewis kneels forward and pushes his head into the ground in a stretch that would cause most horses to spook.

The pose, named the 'Bow', stretches Lewis' shoulder forward while his other front leg is tucked behind to stretch the shoulder. The neck, back, and hind legs are also stretched.

Another pose involves Linda standing at the horse's rear and arching her back in a 'Neck Side Stretch' pose. The horse cranes his neck round to the side which helps with flexibility, range of motion and suppleness throughout the neck and also the back.

The yoga expert: Lewis has mastered a string of yoga moves after copying his owner Linda Guanti, 35

Lewis would normally have become stiff as he grew older but the stretches have kept his joints supple and he's able to continue competing in dressage, show jumping and cross county competitions.

Linda said that doing yoga with Lewis has helped to heal her bad back - and even helped with his stamina.

She has become a part-time yoga instructor and now runs classes that people can bring their horses too.

She added: 'There is nothing I can do about my weakened discs and damaged bones but the benefits of doing yoga with Lewis were unmistakable.'

'Yoga with him has helped with the initial healing process and was keeping my body in the healthiest state is could be. All the past limitations and pain from my injury were lessening.'

'I was overjoyed. My riding skills improved, my body awareness and balance improved. My outlook on life improved.'

'Yoga is also just as beneficial for horses as for humans. Horses have the same issues as we do. Stretching and body awareness reduces injury and enhances performance and pleasure in activity.'



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