Ana Forrest is coming to Seattle, Wash. this October 2016 at Shakti Vinyasa Yoga! If you have practiced with Zakkry Endicott or Hope Clunie in the Seattle area, you have most likely been exposed to the Forrest Yoga practice. Ana Forrest developed Forrest Yoga to mend the hoop of the people. She has been sharing her practice with the world since 1982.
The Forrest Yoga practice has roots in Hatha Yoga and is commonly known for its intensity and complexity. Some poses last for as long as 20 postures on one side before the second side gets its turn. Zakkry Endicott has written a great article about Forrest Yoga.
We had a chance to connect with Ana and learn more about why and how she teaching Forrest Yoga. We also touched on trauma, which is a commonly felt sensation during her classes and workshops.
Seattle Yoga News (SYN): I’ve heard many times that the Forrest Yoga practice “mends the hoop of the people.” What does this mean?
Ana Forrest (AF): Mending the Hoop of the People is my personal Spirit Pledge. This excerpt is from my book, Fierce Medicine.
It describes how my Spirit Pledge came to be:
“One day I was sitting with my pipe by the Columbia River, looking down at the water rushing over the round river rocks. My head throbbed from a migraine. I was fasting from food and water, which is traditional. I worried about stressing my body so much that I would bring on an epileptic fit. Maybe I was just too toxic for the Sacred Ones to bother with. Heyoka had always prayed so respectfully, but in my state of mind, all I could manage was, “Sacred Ones, what the fuck am I doing here?”
You know how the air feels different when there’s a rainbow or lightning or the aurora borealis? Suddenly I could feel the opening of gates. I got quiet and stopped my growly energy long enough to feel the shift. My hair was standing on end. I scanned the rocks for predators. Rattlesnakes? Lynx? Cougar? Bear? Then up, over the river, I saw a vision. It was me, a gigantic me, standing, arms outstretched, hair down. My feet were planted in the earth, rainbows were radiating from my hands and feet, criss-crossing around the planet and back through my legs and through and around my body. I was surrounded by the sun and moon and stars…
… In that moment I felt the wall of ice around my heart breaking. My heart surged, even though it was brittle and I feared it couldn’t stretch without shattering. I allowed myself to truly feel my deepest desire—to be able to do something good in the world, whatever that was…
… Now I felt there was something mysterious, something magnificent, inside me. What I was seeing was an invitation from the Sacred Ones to accept and move into doing my part in healing the world.
Reading about Black Elk’s life’s work helped me to articulate my own Spirit Pledge—I call it Mending the Rainbow Hoop of the People.”
In the beginning I was alone in fulfilling my pledge. Now, 40 years later, Jose Calarco (my life partner and director of www.descendance.com.au) and I have joined forces. Together we are Twin Flames. Drawing on our personal experiences and learning, our united offering is a rich feast of Forrest Yoga, culture, music, philosophy, spiritual intelligence, adventure, Vision Questing, healing and the path of learning to love again.
We also teach about the relationship between nutrition and ecology. The way each of us eats, impacts our world profoundly. This is one of the reasons why Jose and I choose to be vegan.
In addition I have a network of Forrest Yoga teachers around the world who have joined me in helping to Mend (Heal) the Hoop of the People. This pledge includes teaching people to use the tools of Forrest Yoga to heal themselves physically and emotionally.
This network of Forrest Yoga teachers, my book (Fierce Medicine), Jose’s contributions, and advances in technology and social media are all helping me to fulfil my Spirit Pledge. Making a difference thrills me.
As part of their continuing education, Forrest Yoga teachers are required to take Forrest Yoga to communities who would otherwise not have access to yoga. We are working with the military, people who have been abused, people with debilitating illnesses, those who are marginalized in our society, disadvantaged young people, people with injuries and in pain, folks in prison. I’m proud of the positive influence that we are having on the planet.
Jose and I are currently exploring new ways of working with the Aboriginal people of Australia, the First People. I am learning so much from this culture, thanks to Jose.
We now have the opportunity to bring the healing tools of Forrest Yoga to the First People. It really is a beautiful two-way exchange of discovery and healing.
The Australian Aboriginals are the oldest living culture, dating back over 40,000 years. We all have a lot to learn from them. Jose and I have drawn much inspiration from their teachings. We believe that the principles contained in these teachings can help everyone in the world regain balance. As we choose to align with our Spirit and with Nature, we are Healing the Rainbow Hoop of the People.
This coming together and sharing knowledge is at the heart of my own evolution, so it is really important for me to use the skills and influence I have to generate good energy in the world. This takes many forms. It may be by educating people about how they are starving themselves (i.e. by not breathing deeply) or malnourishing themselves from eating junk food, or by highlighting where the First People of the world are experiencing horrible abuses. I want people to pay attention because it is all correctable. We can do something about it.
I encourage you to nourish your own Spirit. Then find out what your role is in making a difference in this world.
SYN: As a medicine woman, did your yoga practice come before or after the medicine? And do you think that this order was pivotal in the development of Forrest Yoga?
AF: I started yoga in 1973, was teaching in 1974 and full time by 1975. I have always been drawn to the Native American way ever since I can remember. As a small child I lived in the Dreamtime, in the wilderness as a free person.
I began studying Native American medicine with Rosalyn Bruyere in the late 70s, I think, and moved onto the Inchelium, WA reservation in 1981 or 1982.
Forrest Yoga began to emerge in the 70s. At that time much of the yoga world seemed fake and sickly sweet to me. I was suffering from spiritual diabetes. Yet, there were core principles and teachings that resonated as true, even although they were shrouded by human foolishness and my own prejudices.
I studied healing through nutrition, hands-on work, homeopathy, naturopathy and Chinese medicine. My guiding principle was to follow what worked through experimentation and failure, by making breakthroughs and by exploring the wisdom of the Native American First People for ways of healing soul sickness and addiction. From this I created ceremonies for people who have lost touch with nature and their own Spirit.
This is the tapestry of Forrest Yoga. Forrest Yoga is the way of change.
SYN: What is a typical Forrest Yoga class like? Does the clearing of toxins happen immediately? What are the effects after class?
AF: The healing path starts with your very first class. Many of our people have abdominal problems, constipation, poor assimilation of nutrients, low energy, depression, lower back pain, tension in the neck and shoulders, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, stress, emotional backlog archived in their cell tissue, delusions of not being ‘enough’… many people are disconnected from their Spirit. This creates a gaping emptiness inside. I have created poses and ceremonies that help heal these issues.
In Forrest Yoga you sweat out the toxicity that builds up from all the pollution in your life. You de-stress, refresh and move deadness out. You learn to build your aliveness. Here is why you will begin to feel the benefits straight away:
Every Forrest Yoga class begins with setting the intent and focus for the practice. Each class includes deep breathing, releasing the neck, and strong abdominal work. The hot part of class varies depending on the chosen apex pose (i.e. the most challenging pose of the class). All Forrest Yoga classes are carefully designed and sequenced to warm people up for the more advanced poses and warm them down in a safe and intelligent way. The last few poses of every class are designed to down-regulate and deeply nourish the brain and nervous system.
Focusing on the belly: many cultures today are chronically constipated due to eating foods that the body cannot easily digest. The food sits in the stomach and creates a toxic swamp that degrades the immune system and literally makes our thinking smoggy and cloudy. Forrest Yoga abdominal work brings healing and toning to the digestive organs, heals the back and improves elimination of old issues — both digestive and emotional.
Focusing on the neck: neck release (relaxing the neck in poses) and deep breathing brings stress levels down. Learning to set an intent and focus on an area of the body that needs attention retrains the brain from its chronic habit of scattered attention into a steady way of focusing. This benefits everything you do!
Forrest Yoga is also a fun, sweaty, sexy work-out. It gets the endorphins going, which is healing in itself. Endorphins uplift our mood and sparkle up our life. You and your loved ones will feel the benefits of that immediately.
Building and wielding your own power is incredibly healing. It’s thrilling to learn how to work with and heal your injuries and trauma, to learn how to move from pain and stiffness to a place of freedom, and build vibrant health and strength.
SYN: Clearing trauma in a class setting can be intimidating yet very healing. How can someone prepare for that? What is some advice you can give them?
AF: My advice is to work in class with a Forrest Yoga teacher and also to work outside the class with a therapist. Be willing to move the emotional backlog – cry, rage, do lions breath, ask your teacher for help. When you need to make a big noise pick up a towel or blanket to yell into, this way the rest of the students aren’t jolted by the noise. Deep breathing and sweating helps wash the chemical residue of trauma and numbness from your cell tissue. Treat yourself with great care during the cathartic times, eat high vitality foods slowly, get rest and stop poisoning yourself. Forever.
SYN: How can a teacher begin to use Forrest Yoga as medicine to clear disease and trauma?
AF: Good places to start are to read my book, Fierce Medicine, and to take a teacher training with me. I’ll be in Seattle for workshops this October, join me then!
SYN: Are Baptiste and Forrest Yoga related? Baptiste is a prevalent in the Seattle area.
AF: Baron was a student of mine long ago and he also taught at my Forrest Yoga Circle. We are long-time friends, although I don’t know what he is teaching these days or if he is using any Forrest Yoga.
Ana Forrest and Jose Calarco will be teaching at Shakti Vinyasa Yoga in Seattle, Wash. this October 14, 15 and 16. Join them for Forrest Yoga and sacred ceremony of song, dance, and smoke blessing. Visit forrestyoga.com for more information.
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