Do you spend many days complaining about back pain like me? Or are you one of those people who have carpal tunnel syndrome? These physical ailments are so common today.
But what if I tell you you’re just a yoga class away (really a few) from saying goodbye to these modern-day pains? Plus, you get to have a guardian. Of course, I’m talking about a Forrest Yoga class.
What is Forrest Yoga?
Forrest yoga is a style of yoga created by Ana T. Forrest. It’s a feeling practice and emphasizes connecting with your feelings to work through emotional and physical traumas. Forrest created her system to work through her challenges in life—anorexia, alcoholism, bulimia, epilepsy, and sexual abuse.
Forrest yoga focuses on core work, a series of standing poses and holding yoga poses for an extended period. Some aspects of it are similar to yoga lineages which Forrest studied intensely: Sivananda yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, and Iyengar yoga. However, she found that these styles of yoga are lacking.
The root of that was a disconnection from the spirit of the practitioner. So, in 1989, she founded Forrest Yoga to address this spirit disconnection while also addressing our modern society’s common physical and emotional traumas.
Teachers or guardians lead Forrest yoga classes. The classes are in heated rooms (85°F, 29°C) and begin with pranayama or a breathing exercise. They are then followed by some seated yoga asanas and core work.
After this, the “hot part” of the class will flow through a series of asanas that prepare the body for the “apex” or peak pose.
The Four Pillars of Forrest Yoga
Forrest yoga follows four pillars which we listed down below:
As with any style of yoga, focusing on the breath is essential in Forrest yoga. The breath helps you to connect with your feelings and bring healing into your body.
Forrest yoga improves your emotional, mental, and physical strength through asanas and meditation. The asanas focus on strengthening the core and holding poses for an extended period to increase endurance and the mind-body connection.
Forrest yoga classes are structured to develop integrity in your life. You will be working around your emotional and physical traumas so that you can be stable emotionally, mentally, and physically. You will not push yourself too much in yoga asanas that will cause injury, but you will challenge yourself.
Reconnecting with your spirit is the final pillar of Forrest yoga. As you continue with your practice and reconnect with your spirit, healing will begin. This healing will bring you freedom.
Should You Try Forrest Yoga? Why?
Yes, you definitely should try it. Here are just a few reasons why you should try Forrest yoga.
You Can Reconnect with Yourself
Many of us are lost souls. In fact, even Ana Forrest herself who started Forrest yoga, claims she was once a lost soul. Forrest yoga will help you reconnect with yourself. The emphasis on the spirit is to help you prepare for whatever challenges life may throw at you.
Each class will be a safe space to connect with your most authentic self. You will leave each class with confidence and more compassion toward yourself.
There’s Emphasis on Balance and Strength
Forrest yoga classes emphasize building core strength. The core is what holds everything together in the body. When the core is weak, there will be instability in your lower and upper body. Balancing will be difficult. When the core is strong, yoga asanas will become easier.
The intense core sequences in Forrest yoga also help in supporting your spine, especially your low back. In addition, your practice will relieve the most common physical pains we experience, such as wrist pain and back pain.
You Don’t Have to Be an Expert
If you have no experience in any style of yoga, you should try Forrest yoga first. Forrest yoga focuses on the integrity of the poses, which is how we should move through poses. Yoga asanas must be stable.
In Forrest yoga, that’s what they do. You don’t move at a fast pace from one pose to another. Instead, you hold poses until you can find your balance and integrity. Guardians or teachers in Forrest yoga also will not force you to go beyond your limits.
Still, they will encourage you to explore your edge. You are also welcome to use props, which are life-savers.
If you love practicing yoga with music, you will love practicing Forrest yoga. Music is an integral part of this style of yoga. The classes usually start with contemporary ceremonial music inspired by the native American ceremony and prayer to honor the First People and the Land.
The music will help heal your traumas and connect with your soul when words fail.
You Will Feel More Relaxed
A unique element of Forrest yoga is the emphasis on relaxing the neck. We hold so much tension in our necks because of our modern lifestyle. Ana Forrest says the neck is the bridge that connects the wisdom of the body and the intelligence of the mind.
Relaxing the neck releases tension in the mind, in the jaw, shoulders, and other parts of the body. As a result, blood and oxygen will flow more freely to the brain, which helps develop more mental clarity.
You Will Be More Connected with Your Breath
Yoga focuses on the breath, but Forrest yoga takes pranayama even more seriously. Breathing exercises are longer in Forrest yoga. The classes start with different breathing techniques in a specific sequence of repetitions.
8 Basic Movements in Forrest Yoga
The physical practice of Forrest yoga consists of eight basic movements. You can find these movements in other styles of yoga, while some are unique to Forrest yoga. These movements are incorporated in every yoga asana to form a strong practice.
Ujjayi breath or “ocean breath” is a pranayama technique that is not unique to Forrest yoga. But Forrest yoga classes emphasize using this breathing exercise in every yoga pose you do. Ujjayi is practiced by slightly constricting the glottis, or the back of the throat, as you inhale and exhale.
It’s a great way to regulate the temperature of the body.
The hands are always active in a Forrest yoga class. Active hands help to have a more robust and more stable foundation in yoga poses, especially arm balances. To activate the hands, you must spread your fingers wide and balance your weight on all corners of your hands.
Doing this will help avoid wrist pain, which is very common in yoga, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Forrest yoga classes incorporate many standing poses. The foundation of standing poses is the feet. Therefore, it is crucial to make your feet active and use your pada bandha to be stable.
To do this, you must spread your toes wide, distribute your weight on all corners of the feet, and lift your arches. Activating the feet will protect your ankles, knees, and hips in yoga.
Telescoping the Ribs
It’s challenging to visualize how to do this movement. But it’s a very common cue in Forrest yoga. Telescoping the ribs means expanding the rib cage as you inhale.
This movement will give space for the diaphragm to come down, which is the most efficient muscle to use when breathing. This movement will also help in using the lungs to their fullest capacity, making them stronger.
Tucking the Tailbone
Tucking the tailbone helps in engaging all parts of the core, including the pelvis. The emphasis on the core in Forrest yoga means you have to use all the core muscle group parts, not just your rectus abdominus (six-pack). Tucking the tailbone also lengthens the spine and helps in relieving low back pain.
Relaxing the Neck
In a Forrest yoga practice, guardians will guide you to relax your neck. Intense pose sequences should not put tension in the neck, so the oxygen and blood can flow from the body to the mind with more freedom. Relaxing the neck will improve your mind and body connection and relax the face and shoulders.
Wrapping the Shoulders
This basic movement in Forrest yoga stabilizes the scapula. Wrapping the shoulders means keeping the shoulders from shrugging by bringing them down and away from the ears. Doing this releases tension in the neck and makes you efficiently use the strength of your shoulders.
Expanding the Ribs
This is the type of breathing in which you direct your inhale into the belly and to the back of your ribs. Doing this expands the ribs sideways. It engages the diaphragm and relaxes the neck and shoulders.
Forrest yoga is a style of yoga that anyone can practice. It encourages you to feel more so you can connect with your authentic self. It also motivates you to keep your playful curiosity so you can grow and become stronger. Lastly, Forrest yoga will help you treat the common physical pains you have.