Today, when I had finished teaching in Frankfurt, I opened up the floor for questions as I would in most classes. As usual, people were reluctant and I suggested that perhaps they had a question that some others would like the answer to as well and that they would be gifting it to more than one person. Someone plucked up the courage and asked,
“Why Forrest Yoga?”
“What do you mean? The poses? The sequencing?”
“Not really, what was the draw? I’ve read Ana’s book and she seems really interesting.”
This part threw me a little as I could see people wanted to go to the next class and that the next teacher would be outside wanting into the room. I answered anyway.
I told of my time doing Ashtanga Yoga and the time I spent using philosophy as a path for inaction. Let me backtrack a bit. When I did an Ashtanga practice, it was feeding a compulsive energy within me, it became a training ground of control and regulation, familiarity and repetition. Something that I could do and space out. I quelled most of my emotional needs and aimed to emulate the instructions set out in books. The sadness that I felt, the hurt that lay dormant, was bricked up and hidden away by a blank white wall, one that I was proud of for its strength and fortitude. I breathed this in every day. When I got injured, I would blame myself, push harder, perseverance for the sake of cleansing. Looking back, it was pretty messed up.
When I went along to a class with Ana Forrest, within the first few moments, everything changed. I struggle to express just how profound it was to be asked to feel something (I mean, we are not talking, feel this trauma etc. Just something basic like, feel where your hand is). The cueing was formulaic in the way that each breath had guidance on sensation both physical and emotional, that led us through a way to work an intent for class.
At the end of that class, I felt devastated. I was shaking, staring at my own hands after saying “Namaste.” I was questioning how I had been practicing for so many years, began to question how I was teaching people and the pressure of inadequacy tried to crush me. Ana was being hurried out of the room by her team but she turned to ask if I was ok. I just shook my head, barely able to meet her eyes. She said, “You need to cry and then you need to sleep.” That was how I spend the break between the classes.
This moment was a turning point for me. It felt like the wall had broken down, and the parts of myself that I had hidden, the emotions and even basic sensations like pain and pleasure were back and needing attention. All from being asked, for the first time EVER in a Yoga class, to feel something. This was the profound difference for the practice for me, not even the sequencing can top that.
To take a deep breath, and to be present at that moment, to feel what is happening and to feel the change that a deep breath can make. This is the gift of Forrest Yoga. It is simple, but it lets us get underneath the story that we tell ourselves about the world and how we fit into this world, the stories about our bodies. It means that taking that next intentional deep breath can move you out of a reactive, self-limiting story and racket and to accept change as a possibility. Once you can feel a change, real change at that moment, your body, imagination, and spirit can be free. Free of what you have been told is possible and shifts the way that you feel about your body in relation to its past and potential.