Angela Nuez has taken her yoga practice off the mat and into the wild, posing on the back of her 9-year-old Appaloosa horse named Snowy and sharing the impressive postures on her aptly named Instagram account, @horse_yoga_girl.
Based in Middleburg, Virginia, the barn manager and yoga teacher credits her upbringing for her unique approach to horsemanship. Her mother managed an equestrian center and taught her from the tender age of eight that horses, just like humans, are living beings with physical limits, requiring careful consideration and rest. Nuez devoted her childhood to learning as much about the animals as possible–especially how to work with them to build "harmonious, mutually respectful relationships," as she notes on her website.
It was many years later, as a college freshman, that Nuez first began exploring yoga, experimenting with a variety of different disciplines and eventually receiving her 200-hour teacher training certification. She grew curious to see how her separate passions for hatha and horsemanship might mutually support one another, and her unique combination practice began.
Snowy serves as the ideal collaborator, and Nuez is careful to refer to him that way–as a partner, not a prop. In a response to an Instagram comment from an admiring fan, she explains that she has trained him since his birth using "natural horsemanship methods, always treating the horse with kindness, respect, and dignity, treating him as a partner and not a slave. I’ve spent a lot of time with him doing things other than riding–groundwork, grazing, going for walks, grooming–really working on building our relationship." Though each of her final photos appears stable and serene, she acknowledges that every pose requires hours of practice. She says, "Remember that everything you see here is the culmination of tons of hard work and patience. So be kind and patient with yourself and the poses you’re working on."
There are numerous physical benefits to pairing the pastimes. As she explains, yoga builds "improved balance, strength, and endurance, and a calmer, more centered mindset" that lend themselves nicely to equestrians–but there seems to be some deeper synchronicity between her two passions as well. In her photographs, Snowy's calm but disciplined demeanor stands as a symbol for the well-trained yogi mind, and Nuez expresses the essential spirit yoga through her work. She reminds us all that if we hope to find nirvana, we need only open our hearts wide to the true nature of the world and dare to trust that we are held.