Into The Forrest
What is Forrest Yoga anyway?
Every time I am asked what style of Yoga I teach, I always pause before I answer. When I answer "Forrest Style sequencing" the next question is usually "Does it involve trees?"
Oddly, you don't meet tree pose very often in Forrest Yoga classes...
Forrest Yoga comes from Ana Forrest (Notice the double "R"), it is a fusion of practices with a focus on healing the body through very strong sequences. Anatomically, it focusses in on about 12 major muscles that determine posture and can radically change a person's appreciation and understanding of their body. This is obviously a very reductive stance, but many more muscles are used in symphony but a lot of problem solving can be done by concentrating on the 12.
Forrest classes have a different feel to a flow class or Ashtanga class. Unlike these styles, core work is brought to the start of the practice, rather than the end. This gives a greater sense of connection to the core, takes pressure off of the spine during the warm up, increases gentle lumber mobilisation, and has a great impact on breath capacity from the start of the class. So, don't worry if it feels a little disjointed. You will be all the better for it!
Every class starts with some pranayama (breathwork) and intent setting. Beginner classes may work with very tangible intentions like breathing deeply in every pose, or to feel a specific section of the back. Intermediate intent setting moves into more subtle realms like feeling the energy you generate in each pose, navigating the emotional spectrum, or doing the class in a way that is without struggle. It is this aspect of mediation and concentration that drew me to the practice. 10 years of gruelling practices before Forrest and I had never been asked to feel anything!
After the breathwork and intent setting, time is taken to warm up the joints with gentle, less weight bearing movement, core work, and bridge. All of this is to assist the mental representation of muscles from the feet, all the way to the neck. Usually a few poses in, you will also notice that you are using props, not because of some lack, but because they can open up realms of possibility previously withheld!
Depending on the design of the class, sun salutations may follow or some kind of standing work. Each sequence is never random, there is usually a theme for the class like back bending or hip opening, so you don't tend to meet random poses that don't belong there. Each class is like an exquisite recipe. While you may not like what is happening in the mixing bowls, by the time you get to the end, the results are delightful. Apex poses (bigger poses that need a lot of preparation) suddenly feel more accessible and all the building blocks come together to bring a real sense of accomplishment. It brings me no end of delight to see poses that have been nemesis poses change in an instant when someone has followed a different path to the same place.
Forrest is profoundly different to what is happening on a lot of mats out there. From my own teaching origins in Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Hatha, nothing spoke to me more than when I found this practice. It has helped me connect people to their bodies in ways that have melted walls, overcome physical and mental challenges, and given practitioners the tools to get creative with improvisations.
It is my hope that reading this has made you curious, or at least, less distant from trying it.
Who knows, maybe you thought it would just involve doing tree pose amongst trees (even though that does sound rather lovely...).