Does your horse (and your back) hate it when you sit up straight?

Does your horse (and your back) hate it when you 'sit up straight'?What do you think of when you hear the word posture? If you’re like me, and most of the horseback riders who come to my Secrets of Pain-Free Riders workshops, you probably hear your Mom’s voice telling you to “sit up straight!” Or maybe you hear an instructor telling you to put your “ears, shoulders hips and ankles in a straight line”.

‘Sitting up straight’

I don’t know about you, but whenever I tried ‘sitting up straight’, with my chest puffed out, my shoulders back and my chin tucked, I could only make it last for 30 seconds at the most. And  it wasn’t comfortable at all.

Give it a try it right now, wherever you are and notice how you feel

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What to do when you hurt your back

back pain womanAbout a month ago, I wrenched my back out for the first time since becoming an Alexander Technique certified instructor over a decade ago. I’d bent over to pick up my giant tote bag and jerked myself up without thinking.

It hurt like crazy.

I had that “uh-oh” moment when it felt like a rubber band stretched in my back, and didn’t spring back into place. Yikes.

A bad case of the “shoulds”

As a back-care professional, all these thoughts went through my head:

  • I “should” have prevented it
  • I “should” have known better
  • I “should” feel better faster
  • I “shouldn’t” need help

Then I realized, none of the “shoulds” were doing me any good

The “shoulds” were just creating more stress and making the problem worse.

After the initial embarrassment, I knew I needed to get help fast.

I called my office neighbor who is an amazing Bowen practitioner and massage therapist and got on her table. I scheduled an Alexander Technique lesson for myself with a colleague and friend. I practiced Active Rest twice a day.

Within one day I got significant relief, and by the end of the week I felt like my old self again.

Tips for getting better fast—if you have back pain

  • Get relief right away from a trusted practitioner such as a gentle massage therapist or an Alexander Technique instructor
  • Practice undoing tension in your body daily with Active Rest
  • Learn how to prevent the pain from recurring with Alexander lessons

You don’t have to suffer if you get help sooner rather than later

You can download a no cost recording here that walks you through Active Rest, and contact Emily to chat about next steps that work.

“Life-Changing Stress Hack”: Entrepreneur Magazine on The Alexander Technique

Image courtesy DigitalArt,

Image courtesy DigitalArt,

In a recent article in Entrepreneur magazine, contributor Zach Ferres called the Alexander Technique the stress-reduction tool that has contributed more to his success than exercise, visualizations, laughter and “drinking inordinate amounts of chamomile tea”. As an Alexander Technique instructor in the Portland, OR area AND an entrepreneur myself, I wholeheartedly agree.

“Balance despite high-stress entrepreneurial efforts”

After a few lessons with an instructor Zach was able to put these things into practice on a daily basis:

  • Body relaxation
  • Centering mind
  • Better vocal control
  • Improved public speaking
  • Clear thinking under pressure

Check out the entire article here. To find an instructor in your area, visit, or in the Portland, OR area contact Emily at 503 505 4155 or here.

Pain-Free Arms & Shoulders: 3 Tips

ArmWavePhotostockRGBIf your arms or shoulders are tense or painful there are 3 mistakes you could be making without even knowing it.

Body misconceptions

Over the years, many of us pick up some erroneous ideas about how our bodies are put together. But we get in the habit of moving as if these wrong ideas ARE true, with tension and pain are the result.

Pam’s story

Pam had painful tension in her shoulders and arms and couldn’t figure out why. Neck and shoulder pain woke her up at night.

She needed to keep her elbows close to her sides when she rode her horse, but she developed a habit of forcing her shoulder blades together and holding her shoulders rigid. She started holding her breath without thinking and that made her upper body even more rigid.

On and off the horse, she was used to moving her arms from the the elbow joints, as if there were no other joints she could use. Things got more tense and painful. And it was a lot more work than necessary.

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Horseback Riders’ Self-Care Quiz

Woman readingCan you remember the last time you got away from it all?

Was it a vacation, a weekend retreat, or maybe it was a special occasion with your spouse, partner or a friend? If you could quantify the benefit, what did you get out of it?

Recharging batteries

I don’t know about you, but when I get away it really recharges my batteries. Something else that recharges your batteries is investing in some essential self-care. For riders, self care is an investment that has benefits for you, your riding AND your connection with your horse.

Self-care essentials

The obvious ones are eating right, exercising and getting adequate sleep. And there are 6 more to consider: stress relief, breathing (yes, lots of us hold our breath most of the time), pain relief, and injury prevention strategies as well as paying attention to your posture and mood.

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Braced Posture In the Saddle and What to Do About It

BracedGraphicHorseback riders know upright posture in the saddle helps them ride better. But being able to get there without becoming rigid can be tough.

When riders first come to my Alexander Technique practice, I often notice they have braced posture rather than a slump. They’ve been told to “sit up” but haven’t been instructed how to get and stay upright without strain, rigidity and pain.

Have You Noticed…?

  • An exaggerated curve in your low back
  • Pain or strain in your low back

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Why free breathing is essential for horseback riders – 2 how-to tips

©2014 Rengith Krishnan,

Image © Rengith Krishnan,

Just breathe. You’ve probably heard that a million times. But why is breathing so important for horseback riders? Freeing your breathing (or holding your breath) has a direct impact on your posture, safety, energy, mental alertness and connection with your horse.

Tip 1: How to know if you’re holding your breath

 You may be thinking: “I’m alive, so I must be breathing, and that’s good enough for me”. I hear you. But try this little experiment to see if you could be breathing freer:

Stand and place your hands on your rib cage. Think of your hands “listening” to your ribs. Notice if your ribs are moving.

If your ribs don’t move (or just move a tiny bit) you have a great opportunity to let go of your habit. Just read on to find out how. It couldn’t be easier.

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Connected Riding® Founder’s Must-know Posture Secret for Horseback Riders

Peggy Cummings and Friends

L to R: Lori Bridges, Peggy Cummings and Susan Cook of Connected Riding

Meeting Connected Riding® founder Peggy Cummings is always a treat. Her humor, knowledge and briliance came through at the NW Horse Expo in Albany, OR last weekend. She gave riders practical posture tips that bring immediate positive results.

Neutral pelvis is the first step. Having your pelvis in neutral is essential so your horse can access the power of his hind legs under saddle. Neutral pelvis means your pelvis is upright, not cocked forward or rolled back.

Slumped posture or braced posture (rigid “sitting up straight”) makes a neutral pelvis impossible and makes you into dead weight in the saddle. Dead weight beaks the connection between your horse’s hind end and his front end.

Neutral pelvis transforms you into live weight that moves with your horse instead of interfering with his movement.

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Oregon Horseback Riders: Stop the Stress/Pain Yo-Yo of Hip Pain and Low Back Pain with the Alexander Technique

3 Tips to Stop the Stress/Pain Yo-Yo

As a horseback rider, you may have had an injury or two in your time. Whether it’s a knee problem, sciatica or low back pain, have you ever noticed that tension in the area makes your pain worse?

Stress/Pain Yo-Yo

yoyoguycropped-Image © Guy Cochrane,

Image © Guy Cochrane,

I call this negative feedback loop the stress/pain yo-yo, because pain, tension and stress feed on each other.

  • Pain leads to emotional, and mental stress
  • Emotional and mental stress leads to physical tension
  • Repeated tension leads to pain
  • and vice-versa

For example, my client Amy had hip tightness and pain whenever she got on her horse. She suffered with sciatica and low back pain for years.

It got bad enough that she was considering giving up riding. As you can imagine, that was the last thing Amy wanted to do.

During a series of Alexander Technique lessons, Amy learned to recognize where exactly she was tensing, and to let the tension dissolve.

Whenever she released the tension in her hips, she had a better connection with her saddle and clearer communication with her horse. Her rides went from painful tug-of-war sessions to fluid, connected rides.

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Secrets of Pain-Free Horseback Riders: Posture Without Strain = Effortless Connection

For over 10 years now, I’ve been teaching horseback riders the secret to releasing persistent back, neck, shoulder and hip pain: freeing up tension in their bodies.

Riders usually have one of two priorities: achieve true connection with their horse, or become a better rider; preferably both!

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