Forrest Yoga is a modern form of yoga created by Ana Forrest, which is designed to ease the aches and ailments of modern life. Today’s average Western human being spends most of her life sitting down, hunched over a screen or a steering wheel, and most likely in a state of chronic stress which has become normal. Combine that with the average Western diet, seriously lacking in Omega-3 oils and plants, and rich in inflammation-inducing refined carbohydrates, and the result is a lot of people who feel at least a bit rubbish most of the time. Forrest Yoga combines breath and movement to stretch out the tight, short muscles, strengthen the long, weak ones, and bring feeling and awareness back into the parts of the body which have become numbed out.
A Forrest practice also calms the body out of stress. When a person perceives a threat the body readies itself for the kind of intense burst of activity needed to fight or run away. The muscles of the neck and around the collarbones tighten and the breathing moves into the top of the chest, in order to drag air more quickly into the lungs. Blood flow is directed away from the digestive organs and the brain. This works brilliantly, as long as running or fighting is the appropriate response. More often, though, it’s not what we need at all, and we are left facing an impending deadline or a disagreement with a friend with shallow breath, a muzzy head and a tummy ache. Unfortunately humans also have a design flaw, in that, in sensing that the neck is tight and breathing is high in the chest, the body concludes that there must be a reason to be stressed and so it goes round and round in a feedback loop. The very useful hormone cortisol stops being helpful if it’s not just an occasional thing, and after weeks or months of the body being stuck in fight-or-flight it can lead to inflammation (which has been linked to depression, allergies, asthma, skin problems etc etc etc). By bringing the breath low in the belly, by relaxing the neck and shoulders, and by stretching out the muscles around the top of the chest, Forrest Yoga can help break the stress-loop and send a message to the nervous system that everything is fine.
Forrest Yoga begins with the assumption that pretty much everyone has some kind of scar tissue, whether physical scar tissue from injuries, or calcification around a muscle which has been held in tension for a long, long time, or emotional scar tissue, where past trauma is locked into the body. So a Forrest class always meets a student where they are at right now today, and always aims to help that student heal.
What’s more, Forrest students learn to practise in a way that is free from pain (or pain-freeing) and free from struggle. That’s not to say that Forrest Yoga isn’t a strong practice - it encourages you to work hard! You will sweat. And if you practise regularly you will get strong, like really strong. But you will get there by working at your edge with integrity, by honouring your body’s needs and its subtlest signals, and by asking yourself, every time you practise, ‘What part of this can I do right now?’
As you go deeper into your Forrest Yoga practice, you’ll find that you can listen more and more carefully to what you are feeling, not only while you’re on your mat but in the rest of life too. You’ll probably find that you’re eating better, as you engage more fully with what you’re feeling at mealtimes. You might also be sleeping better, feeling more energised, enjoying better sex, engaging more positively with other people, and finding challenges easier to cope with. As you listen more and more carefully to your body-mind, you might also begin to be aware of your triggers - the things which push you into a habitual fear or anger response - and be able to find new, healthier, ways of responding to them.
In all these ways, Forrest Yoga helps you break down the things which cage you in: physical discomfort, emotional distress, trauma locked into your body, your old stories about yourself, and the habitual learned responses which might once have kept you safe but which are now limiting you. It’s a deeply exciting journey. Are you ready to begin your transformation?