Bull riding is arguably the most dangerous profession in the world. If you can stay on the bull for 60% of your rides, you are considered a very good rider. When you are bucked off, you risk landing dangerously on one side of your body and possibly getting trampled by a 2,000 pound animal. You'll get bruises, gashes, pulled muscles, fractured bones...even if you stay on the bull for the entire eight-second ride (the longest 8 seconds you'll ever experience), there's a high possibility you'll be hit by the bulls horns, resulting in a lacerated liver, broken ribs, bruised lung. To add insult to injury, you may even get wacked in the face by a huge string of snot, flung into the air from the force of the bull's weight hitting the ground.
So how does a bull rider prepare for such a mentally and physically demanding sport? Luke Snyder, retired professional bull rider with a 13-year career, practices yoga. Though one involves tough guys in leather pants and cowboy hats, and the other stereotypically is practiced by women in spandex, the two sports are much more similar than they seem. Both require a good sense of balance and flexibility as well as full-body muscle strength, without building bulk. Big muscles will not help you against a 2,000 pound bull, but being able to center yourself over the bull and react quickly to the bull's movements will. Both sports also require a huge mental focus. The meditation aspect of yoga can help train a bull rider for the mental toughness and determination it takes to stay in the game. And the breathing techniques practiced in yoga can calm anxiety for those fearful moments before the ride. Yoga is also easy on the joints, which are most likely in pretty dire shape if you've been bucked off a bull a few times.
Though 13 years doesn't sound like a very long career, it's quite impressive for a bull rider. Between the cost of injury and constant travel, the average career span for a bull rider is generally only a few years. On top of his long, successful career, Luke Snyder has a few other accomplishments under his belt, including being named Rookie of the Year in 2001, winning the World Finals in 2001, and being inducted into the Ring of Honor after his retirement in 2015.
To read more about Luke, check out his Facebook page.