Apart from adrenaline, polo is also big on movement—something that the sport of kings and yoga have in common. To fully immerse oneself in the experience, every action should be taken mindfully. That’s why incorporating yoga in a polo player’s routine is especially helpful to build strength physically and mentally.
In yoga instructor and lady polo player Megan Llambias’ case, this holds so much truth—juggling these two practices in her lifestyle for as long as she can remember. Since her family introduced her to polo, she’s been spending her time on the field with the horse. In the 90s, she started stick and balling; the next thing she knew, Sunny Hale had been giving her lessons at White Ash Farms in Illinois. Fast forward to a few more years, and Megan had embraced and fully appreciated the polo culture and dynamics of the sport itself. She never left the scene since.
Meanwhile, she recalls her first yoga experience in Gunflint Wilderness Camp in Minnesota’s boundary waters. Megan would wake up each morning to run down to a giant platform and do ten sun salutations, followed by jumping in the lake afterward. She found it amazing; however, she only took yoga seriously when she tore her labrum in a snowboarding accident. “I recognized the immense healing benefits of yoga. I elected not to have surgery and was back on the mountain in three months,” she says.
Meghan emerged from the incident fully well, thanks to her passion and dedication to show up on the mat. This was when she started to positively encourage the polo community to discover the wonders it does to our bodies. “Yoga is a healing modality that will benefit every area of your life, on and off the polo field,” she explains. “In my opinion, the best thing about yoga is that it gives us a set of tools to use in life. We use these tools 24 hours a day. We never know which tool we may need, but I must say the greatest tool is that of the breath.”
Since establishing Yoga Après Polo, a yoga practice tailored to the polo community, in 2019, Megan has taught the likes of Mia Bray, Megan Judge, Melanja Jones, Julio Arellano, Juan Monteverde, Inaki Laprida, Gringo Columbres, Santiago Trotz, Matias Zavaleta, and of course, her husband Marcos Llambias. Each session, may it be personal or with a group, is a custom-tailored approach as she believes that there is no one size fits all.
If you haven’t tried doing a down dog or a warrior pose and are thinking of trying it out, Megan further enumerates its benefits to polo players. If you’ve been looking for a sign, consider this read your green light. Read on!
The breath effect
“The breathing is the most important. Whether you are physically playing polo and feel stressed, angry, or lacking in focus. Conscious deep breathing can create a link that allows us to consciously connect with our emotional states and physiology and access the greater potential of one-pointed focus to boost your performance. Our breath is also correlated to our endurance—therefore, it helps when our energy is down.”
Greater range of motion
“In polo, the repetition of certain movements can lead to injury over time or chronic aches and pains. In yoga, we want to create greater balance in mind and body. In carefully constructed yoga sequences, we can make overused muscles more supple and underused muscles stronger. Yoga practice or ‘asana’ also increases an athlete’s efficiency in the body, allowing for a greater range of motion.”
“In any sport, having mental focus is essential. Yoga is an ancient wisdom tradition where one goal is to eliminate impurities in the body and mind. When we have a somatic practice, we consciously move the body, and we practice intentionally breathing. Our sympathetic nervous system begins to kick in, and we drop into rest and digest. This calm state that hopefully one experiences during or after yoga creates a clearer lens on how we perceive the world around us, and we are hopefully able to make decisions from a place of greater mental clarity.”
“Increased core stability is essential for both performance and injury prevention. Stability also allows polo players to have heightened balance, which is needed when leaning out of the saddle. It increases confidence. Horses are incredibly sensitive animals; therefore, when someone practices yoga and feels more confident and stable in their own body, they take that into the saddle.”
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Mariel Abanes is the Managing Editor of POLO LADY Magazine.