Yoga for two




allow, connect…


(And then repeat!)


"It’s not about the end of the pose - it’s about the journey through it."


Bikram is the basis of  Linda Guanti’s yoga programme which she developed for both horses and humans.


By Camilla Alfthan, all images from Linda Guanti.


My routine combines some of my favorite yoga postures with some of my favorite horse stretches. Combined, they provide a fabulous whole body stretch and balance each other out, ” tells Linda Guanti – a Canadian by birth who moved to British Columbia in 2005 where she currently resides in Pemberton – a place known to be a horse haven which has allowed her to connect with her love for both horses and yoga.

Each of her poses is modified to each individual animal, she tells.

“I am a strong believer in taking your time and feeling your body as you move through each pose. It’s not about the end of the pose  – it’s about the journey through it. The horses all seem to really enjoy the yoga time. Even the most fidgety ones calm right down and most start yawning. It’s an amazing feeling for all involved.”


Horses and yoga are nevertheless an unusual combination. Could you tell us how it all began?


“I was teaching yoga with horses before I had any official yoga training. Later, I went to the Nosara Yoga Institute in Costa Rica which I found to be an amazing school. Today, I attend classes, workshops, trainings, read books, watch videos whenever possible for my own interest and to enhance what I am able to share with others.”


What is your equestrian background?


“No one in our family had anything to do with horses, so it was a struggle to have them understand my passion. We lived in suburbia and I was just one of those girls born with an inner love of the horse. It felt like a lifetime… but around age 12 I was finally able to take riding lessons. I worked for the owner of the stable in exchange for lessons. I did that for many many years, learning a lot in the process.


“Body awareness is one of the best things you can do for you and your horse.”


I was able to compete at shows through one owner who paid for me to show her horses. I didn’t own my own horse ,Lewis, until I was in my early twenties. I still have him. He turned 19 this year and is the star of the photo’s you see. He’s not only a yoga horse but takes friends out on trail rides and teaches friends and children how to ride.


The horses also helped you when you had an injury, how exactly?


“I’d only been riding a couple of years when I had a serious fall and injured three vertebraes in my low back. I was on bed rest and then in a brace. My only desire was to get well and ride again. It was quite a physical toll on my body though and my rehabilitation was lacking. I ended up with very bad discs as well and another compressed vertebrae. I’d say it was the desire to still be with horses that kept me concerned about recovering my health.”


And psychologically; what impact have they had on you?


“The horses were a huge help ! I was very shy and didn’t have a lot of self confidence.

Horses have that way of supporting you yet demanding that you stand up and be yourself so they have someone to believe in.

They are amazing creatures! Whenever I get the chance I introduce my horse to young children because I feel that every child should experience a horse. Every human for that matter.

The horse, as a prey animal, is so extremely sensitive that it truly reflects what is around it. If you are being fake, they know and you can see that they know. When you stop being fake they respond and you can’t help but recognize that you were being fake and thus become more present with yourself. It’s a beautiful thing. Only when we are present and true with ourselves do the best then things happen and we can be happy. Very yogic. They just naturally tie into each other.”


Most riders feel empowered by the horse – does yoga give the same feeling?


“Yoga with horses is an exceptional experience, for one, because we are sharing something with a horse without riding it or asking it to perform in some way. Many of my clients have a love of horses and want to spend time with them but don’t necessarily want to ride them and why should they have to?

In my program we not only do yoga with the horse but we guide the horse into stretches to help them. It is a mutual experience and just like the satisfaction of seeing a dog wag its tail when it sees you or a cat purr, we see the gratitude and happiness of the horse in this shared experience.

Sharing love and happiness with any being is empowering to not only those involved but indirectly to the whole world. Not to mention the great feeling of stretching your own body and them stretching theirs.”


Do you also work with riders who passed down their tensions to the horse? 


“Absolutely. In doing yoga with horses you start to really become aware of your own body and it’s imbalances. You also become more aware of your horse’s body and it’s imbalances. Sometimes discovering that some of horses imbalances might be  – and most often are – caused by you.

As you work with yourself and your horse you can acknowledge and improve these imbalances which not only improves performance but personal satisfaction and will decreases stress you put upon yourself and/or your horse. Not to mention the psychological benefit of yoga practice and what that can do to help solve many issues.”


You based your program on Bikram exercises and constant repetition.  Could you tell a little bit about the reasons behind this as some of the exercises in your pictures seem rather elaborate?


“Some of my pictures are just me playing with my horse after years and years of doing that. Those poses aren’t really what one would be doing in a class. Anyone can do them though. The more you play with your horse it will just happen.

I don’t really want to say that my program is based on Bikram. Rather that Bikram enabled me to recognize that the benefit of doing certain poses with awareness and repetition can be just as beneficial or more so, then doing many many different poses.


“In doing yoga with horses you become aware of your own body and it’s imbalances. You also become more aware of your horse’s body and it’s imbalances.”


I have more recently trained in what is called Foundation Training which is a revolutionary practice that really connects the whole body and it’s muscle chains to help re balance and strengthen. I have incorporated it easily into my program and the results are fantastic. Same idea. Not a lot of different postures but done in a certain way with repetition and awareness and the whole body starts to work as it was intended. Posture improves. Pains are eliminated. Performance improves.”


What horses are best for this program?  


“Almost every horse. There are always exceptions. I think the only one that wouldn’t do well is the one that is extremely scared or uncomfortable around humans. Even so, this practice can help these horses become comfortable around humans. My horse is an Egyptian Arabian but I have used all different breeds, ages, sizes. Depending on my location I have different horses available to provide for those who don’t have their own.”


Striking a classic yoga pose with Lewis