I knew the moment I completed a three hour workshop with Ana Forrest back in the early part of 2011 that if I got the chance to learn from her I would jump at it….even though I could barely make it back to Newcastle Rail Station as my whole body seemed to be wobbling and shaking! That last train back to Manchester took a very long time but I did get home in the early hours of the morning, unlike the poor young woman who slept through her station and had to travel back and wait for a very long time.
Ana Forrest was to come to the UK to do her four week Foundation Course!! Here was my opportunity and boy did I procrastinate until finally, my lovely husband simply sat me down with the laptop and told me to fill in all that was necessary.
The form and photo (not one of my better ones) were submitted and that was it…so simple, a
button pressed and a major, really major as it turned out, life-changing event was set in motion.
That was last winter and then I simply got on with my life with little idea of what June 2012 would be like. A visit to India came next and was my priority but somewhere deep within I was aware that I needed to deepen my yoga practice. Ana is well known for urging you to your edge which means long holds in postures and breathing, breathing, breathing.
At some point I had taken up Bikram Yoga and decided that it would be useful to get right back into that Bikram Studio in Manchester because, if for no other reason, it would prepare me for the hot sessions of Forrest Yoga. Mr Bikram Choudray insists on temperatures touching 40C give or take a degree whilst Ana settles for a reasonable 25C. A long while ago we lived in the Lowveld of Zimbabwe where it is HOT for 9 months of the year and two years of living in temperatures of 35C+ has left me with a deep attachment to being hot, which I perceive as being absolutely perfect and allows my body to function really well. So, the heat of Bikram was a good training ground but it didn’t in any way prepare me for all that Forrest Yoga has to offer.
I had bought both of Ana’s DVDs and her set of CDs covering 5 days, each day being a 2 hour class, which comes with a great manual. I set about practising early in the mornings. Oh my goodness, Day 1 and an hour in I was wondering if it was actually possible to do both hours in any 24 hour period without total collapse. I did complete that first day but had to wedge myself against the kitchen bench whilst making a pot of tea as my legs seemed incapable of being still and upright! And so the days passed and then it was time to go. I left my husband, John, having cunningly organised for the entire house to be rewired during my absence and off I went to Peterborough where the training was taking place at Equilibrium Yoga and Wellbeing Centre.
This was a 26 day process and we began each day at 6am, which meant alarms going off at 4.45. Meanwhile, Ana and her 5 assistants start their personal practice at 3am! I did mention you are urged to your edge!! On the twelfth day we began 3 days of anatomy and physiology which for some of us meant a later start! Then off into the final 11 days with a business day at the end.
As it turned out I found the Morning Intensives, which are for your own personal practice, to be great. I loved the meditation and drumming and slowly but very definitely I could feel my body getting stronger. There were mornings when I lay there on my mat and wept but always there was someone watching over you, a gentle hand to ease away the hard knot in my shoulder, a voice (Ana) telling me to release my neck from the stranglehold I had on it and she assuring me I certainly did not need to see her in order to do as she suggested! Time to shower, eat, shop for food and read notes or rest came next and then off we went into the learning-to-teach bit. In Forrest Yoga you begin teaching on day one and every day thereafter you will at some point be standing on the teaching mat. We also taught the public and received feedback.
I admit to having at least two huge meltdowns whilst on that teaching mat….it all felt too much for me but from some place deep inside and with huge support and love from all those present I got up and got on. Encouragement from both my husband and daughter was vital. We all did it!
It was physically very challenging but that was fine AND I did manage my first handstand accompanying it with an enormous lion roar. There were many more roars and inversions and how good that felt is hard to describe….absolutely brilliant.
The training was over and back I came to my world, but so many layers of stuff had been loosened, released and peeled away that that was only the beginning. The process goes on and the months since July have not all been easy; moments of darkness developed into black spaces full of no energy. Anger and sadness in shiploads enveloped me but I am so very glad I did this work with Ana and I would change nothing. There was always support available had I asked for it but I needed to be alone with all that I had learnt and work through it slowly and carefully. I realised as the days passed that working with Ana is about complete transformation and that can feel really hard….just too much sometimes. On those days the struggle was simply getting back on my mat and staying there! Forrest Yoga is about healing the whole and helping people to live more completely and harmoniously and by doing that you become part of Mending the Hoop of the People, which is explained in Ana’s book “Fierce Medicine”.
The house rewiring was completed during my absence…..great! And I now feel that my spirit has been woken up and had the breath put back into it, almost as if I too have been rewired. Forrest Yoga is not just about the physical body – there is so much more. Find a class near you (or come to mine!) and start breathing and feeling!!
I could tell you so much more but will leave it there, and perhaps some of you will go off and experience all that Ana has to offer…it is life changing. Then perhaps you too can become involved in Mending The Hoop of the People.
Here are some contacts that offer Forrest Yoga classes;
I also offer Forrest Yoga classes in South Manchester, click here to see my class timetable >