What is your experience with horses?
As a lifelong yogi and long-time horsewoman, it was only natural that I applied yogic principles and practices to my horsemanship from ground to saddle. I’ve been teaching yoga for 31 years and approximately 12 years ago created a program called Body, Mind, Equine. This program teaches how to use the whole of authentic yoga (not just postures) to improve our horsemanship and our lives in a multitude of ways. I offer this program nationwide as clinics, demos, and retreats. In 2020 Horse and Rider Books/Trafalgar Square Books published my comprehensive book, Yoga for Riders. In 2021, WeHorse launched two of my courses: The Mindful Equestrian and Yoga Mat Work for Equestrians.
My approach is to teach the many parallels of yoga and horsemanship in a fun and learning way. Some of those parallels include: Present Moment Awareness, Slowing Down, Using breathwork on the Mat and in Horsemanship, Body and Energy Awareness…to name a few. I view the yoga mat and meditation cushion as a place for, “Collection and Groundwork for the Human.” I am excited about helping mature riders ride more safely and confidently as they age (As I turn 57, and have many mature riding friends, I understand firsthand some concerns).
As this concept of pairing yoga with horses gains popularity I see it taking many spins, (some favorable, others not so much) however, I am truly one of the pioneers in introducing this concept in an authentic, safe and beneficial way and am passionate about sharing how the use of true yoga can enhance life on many levels.
What do you do?
- Trainer or Instructor
- Amateur Rider
What is your business name?
Cathy Woods Yoga, Home of Body, Mind, Equine
When did you begin your business?
Why did you begin your business or pursue your passion?
As a lifelong Yogi, it was a clear path for me to pursue my passion and share it with others to enhance living on all levels as true yoga helps us to become more, skilled human beings. As yoga became more mainstream, I saw it losing some of its authenticity and essence and becoming more about trends and catchphrases rather than a path to become more Self-realized, so I felt it was important to keep the roots of the tradition alive.
What is unique about you or your brand?
I’m a true, Cowgirl/Yogini and the pioneer of combining yoga and horsemanship (not just yoga postures on a horse). I also bring decades of yoga experience to my brand and teachings.
How does your brand or business positively affect other equestrians or horse welfare?
My work enriches the relationship and connection between horse and rider and it’s NOT all about riding!
- Creates a more mindful equestrian which is a win/win for horse and rider
- Raises awareness of body, mind and spirit on and off the mat
- Gives the equestrian tools to manage their energy in a more integrative way
- Creates physically stronger, more balanced and flexible riders
The teachings naturally expand beyond the yoga mat and beyond horsemanship and enrich daily living.
What challenges have you faced in life or business?
Combining yoga and horses was not a popular concept when I first introduced it to the industry 12 years ago. The industry like much of the world is opening up to wellness and mindfulness practices.
I live in very rural Appalachia and yoga itself was not an accepted practice. I gently introduced it into our local community and saw it become more accepted and beneficial to people by improving their overall wellness.
Others copying my work and putting unsafe or confusing spins on how to combine yoga and horsemanship.
What keeps you motivated or inspired?
The, “ah ha” moments when people get the teachings and improve their yoga, their lives and their horsemanship, and their relationship with their horses.
Seeing students come into class or retreat, perhaps a little stressed or unsure, and seeing the clear, positive difference/shift when they leave.
Seeing women come to retreat and think, “we’ll do some yoga and ride some horses” and the retreats very often become women’s empowerment experiences as women support women. Also sometimes, unexpected stuff comes up for women when they are in that safe environment and many breakthroughs occur.
I LOVE creating, curating, and cultivating positive, rich experiences for people.
Giving students tools to enrich living beyond the retreat or clinic experience.
The support I’m receiving from the equine industry also keeps me motivated.
Who has influenced you and why?
My teacher/Guru, Yogi Amrit Desai who is now in his upper 80s. I was honored to learn from such an authentic yoga master from India what the true roots of yoga were about at a very young age.
In the horse industry, Stacy Westfall, with her tackless riding. She embodies yoga and horsemanship even though she does not call it that. I had the honor of spending a weekend with her while we were both presenters at an event. She’s amazing!
How could your story benefit others?
My story is one of authenticity, perseverance, following your passions/interests, right livelihood, women’s empowerment, overcoming adversity, navigating the seasons of our lives with grace, and listening to and honoring our inner voice.
What advice would you give to someone starting on a new adventure or business? What advice would you give?
Follow your interests even if they don’t always make sense to you or others.
Trust Spirit’s timetable…everything is, right on time!
Know and understand your intentions for wanting to start a new venture. Those that come from a genuine place rather than a place of ego are usually more fruitful.
Have a spirit of adventure and interest in, what’s next or how something might turn out.
Are you working on anything currently?
Always! I am currently promoting my book, Yoga for Riders, and launching my second online course with WeHorse. I am also booking 2022 events, writing articles, exploring additional book ideas, and focusing on ways to support the maturing equestrian.
Learn more about upcoming courses and clinics with Cathy on her website.