From Thinking to Feeling – A Journey into Forrest Yoga
Forrest Yoga teacher Rosalind Southward looks back on her very first Forrest class and her journey into a style of yoga that would transform her life…
It was back in early 2009 I first found myself on a mat in a Forrest Yoga class. It began when I was on holiday in Bali getting my ‘yoga fix’. Honestly, this class choice had been a completely random selection on my part, it was quite simply the next class on the schedule. Furthermore, I knew nothing about Forrest yoga. As I sat on my mat, my English teacher’s over-analytical mind couldn’t help but wonder if the studio had made a typo spelling forest with two ‘r’s! Also, what did it have to do with trees?! I would later discover the style was named after its creatrix Ana Forrest. Unknown at the time, this would be the yoga practice to transform my injuries and attitude. If I only I know at the time it would change and my entire life!
And so it began!
Throughout the class, we were encouraged to relax our neck. This was a really delightful discovery! Computer work had left my neck habitually tight, tense and often annoyingly uncomfortable. Truly, it was fascinating to feel the tension gradually unwind in this area as we moved through the sequence. Moving on, we did abdominal exercises that connected me with deep low core muscles I’d never even known existed. Next, standing poses taught in a way that enabled me to actually feel what was happening in my body as I held them.
At the time, my life was all about pushing myself to be better. I pushed myself hard at work, at the gym, at yoga. Annoyingly, my low back pain would niggle at work an I’d take painkillers to numb the pain so I could get back to my busy tasks. Mainly of thinking and analysing work, life, myself. Certainly, there was no time to feel. As the class went on, Forrest yoga slowly started to draw me in. I’d never considered that feeling my body might actually help prevent me from injuring it more. This was a whole new approach and quite an eye-opener that definitely had me interested to know more!
Forrest Yoga found a new way…
Above all, though it was the breath that pulled me in, and had me completely enchanted. The teacher breathed a deep ujjayi breath that resonated around the room. It was rhythmic and reassuring and when I tried it for myself it felt really good! Honestly, it was like breathing life back into my weary body, mind and soul. There was one moment that really stuck in my mind.
Towards the end of the class, we were lying on our backs doing a supine pose, the teacher came over to me and placed her hand on my shoulder. It was exactly in the place that had been bothering me for a while. I wondered, ‘how did she know’?! Softly, she asked me to breathe into her hand and this tight area. Suddenly, I realised I could use my breath to heal my body, a reality that gradually began to sink in. To end, savasana at the end of that class was like no other. I left the studio intrigued that I had found a practice that provided a physical challenge, yet also an opportunity to create the softness my injuries needed.
The Rest is History…
Two years later I took my first teacher training with the very same teacher, and a year after that I finally got to train with Ana Forrest herself, and became a fully-fledged Forrest Yoga teacher! Forrest yoga helped me get rid of low back pain from a herniated disc. Even better, it gave me the tools to control anxiety attacks! I found the courage to change my life from a profession that made me unhappy to a career where I share my passion with other people.
One of the things that I love about teaching Forrest Yoga is that it is a practice truly relevant for daily life. By dealing with the stresses people live within their 21st-century lives. neck and shoulder tension from working on computers and mobile phones, low back pain, anxiety and stress to name a few. Ana Forrest has been teaching yoga for almost 40 years, developing a practice using her own healing journey of overcoming physical, mental and emotional trauma. This is a style of yoga based on real experience and really shines through! Truly, that is what I feel makes it so effective for helping people both on the mat and in their everyday life.
Hows and Whys
Forrest Yoga uses deep breathing to oxygenate the body and feed its cells with fresh energy. Intelligent sequencing helps students to build strength and flexibility. Furthermore, learning how to work the poses in a way that supports their body’s needs. This means students progress in the poses at their own rate of release. Ultimately, learning how to work honestly at their edges. This self-awareness helped me to maintain the integrity necessary to develop my practice. Amazingly, whilst healing my injuries at the same time! Along with Breath, Strength and Integrity, Spirit is the final of the four pillars on which Forrest Yoga is based.
“We also crave and need a challenge, adventure and a daily diet of delight. In my own healing quest, I recognised my loss of Spirit. Something I now see in others – this modern-day sense of bereft Spirit. Through Forrest Yoga, you get your physical health and strength and also a place in which to welcome your Spirit back home. And by this, I do not mean a spiritual practice but rather being your authentic self.”
Forrest yoga provides students with tools to overcome fear and struggle. The practice develops the tools for helping to access their authentic self and trusts their intuition. For me, this gave the confidence to work towards creating the life that I really wanted to be living.
For me the beauty of Forrest Yoga is its inclusivity; there really is something for everyone. It’s a dynamic practice that helps cultivate strength, it supports those working with injuries, and creates the space to go deeper and connect with your authentic true self. Last but not least, it’s also really good fun!