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 that I first found myself on a mat in a Forrest Yoga class. I was on holiday in Bali getting my ‘yoga fix’; this class choice had been a completely random selection on my part, it was quite simply the next class on the schedule. I knew nothing about Forrest yoga, and 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, and what did it have to do with trees?! I would later discover the style was named after its creatrix Ana Forrest, and that this would be the yoga practice to transform my injuries, attitude and indeed my entire life!
Throughout the class we were encouraged to completely relax our neck. This was a really delightful discovery to me as computer work had left mine habitually tight, tense and often annoyingly uncomfortable. It was fascinating to feel the tension gradually unwind in this area as we moved through the sequence. We did abdominal exercises that connected me with deep low core muscles I’d never even known existed, and standing poses taught in a way that enabled me to actually feel what was happening in my body as I held them. My life at that time was all about pushing myself to be better – I pushed myself hard at work, at the gym, at yoga. My low back pain would niggle at work, so I’d take painkillers to numb the pain so I could get back to my busy tasks of thinking and analysing work, life, myself – there was certainly 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. It was whole new approach, quite an eye opener and definitely had me interested to know more!
Above all though it was the breath that pulled me in, and had me completely enchanted. The teacher breathed a deep ujayi breath that resonated around the room. It was rhythmic, reassuring and when I tried it for myself it felt really good – it was literally 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 she knew. She asked me to breathe into her hand and this tight area. As I did the realisation that I could actually use my breath to heal my body gradually began to sink in. The relaxation in 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 at the same time an opportunity to create the very 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 has helped me get rid of low back pain from a herniated disc, given me the tools to control anxiety attacks, and gave me the courage to change my life from a profession that made me unhappy to a career where I get to share my passion with other people.
One of the many things that I love about teaching Forrest Yoga is that it is a practice truly relevant for dealing with the stresses people live with in 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, and developed the practice using her own healing journey of overcoming physical, mental and emotional trauma as the basis. That this is a style of yoga based on real experience really shines through, and is what I feel makes it so effective for helping people both on the mat and in their every day lives.
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 whilst learning how to work the poses in a way that supports their body’s needs. This means that students progress in the poses and go deeper at their own rate of release, learning how to work honestly at their edges. This self-awareness helped me to maintain the integrity necessary to develop my practice 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. Ana says:
“We also crave and need 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, helping them to start to access their authentic self and trust their intuition. For me, this gave me the confidence to work towards creating the life that I deep down 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!
You can join our amazing teacher Rosalind on one of our yoga retreats, where you can experience Forrest Yoga for yourself. To see Rosalind’s upcoming retreats, click here.