Ana Forrest, as featured in “Spirituality & Health” magazine interview.
Ana Forrest, based on Orcas Island, Washington, is the creator of Forrest Yoga, a unique method that combines physical practice with Eastern and Native American teachings. Ana believes that our personal stories as human beings are archived in our cells and that if we listen, our bodies will always tell the truth.
Beyond teaching the ability to hold a pose, or to create strength and flexibility, Forrest’s “soul’s work” is to guide people―injured war veterans, those of us feeling afraid or numb, or abusing alcohol or drugs―through dramatic transformations, using the knowledge we hold in our bodies.
In her book Fierce Medicine, Forrest writes, “Emotions have to be in motion to be healthy. If . . . they get stashed in the cell tissue . . . they morph into emotional pus balls. When you’re processing a difficult emotional situation, yoga can be powerful medicine.”
Part of what inspired me to create Forrest Yoga was the incredible pain I was in. I was using drugs and alcohol and wanted something to alleviate my suffering.
Most of us have pain because we’ve fallen into bad patterns: physical, emotional, and spiritual ones. To heal, we have to break these patterns, which can be surprisingly challenging. Like fear, pain is a red flag that says, “Proceed with caution. Pay attention.” But it doesn’t mean “go numb and stupid.”
I’ve learned some of my deepest lessons from my students. One of them, now teaching students in Korea, had lost a baby and had had a hysterectomy. She said she felt nothing below her waist but also that it “hurt.”
I’d ask her to stay in a pose long enough that it would resonate. I had her shut her eyes and do a special abdominal exercise. I put her hands there and asked her to send her breath there and to feel the muscles push against her hands.
Then this whole emotional backlog: tears, stories would come. Jumbled and crazy floodgates, the story behind the trauma.
The pain began to fade, and she began to realize her numbness was blocking her from dealing with the deeper issue: her grief about not having children. Once she confronted her pain, she walked free of it.
I wanted to study, What do I do with the story? It felt like there was a huge opportunity there. And I started working with that myself. And that was one of the things I wove into Forrest Yoga.
The most important pattern to break and reset is how you breathe. An epiphany can be a big exploding memory coming up. Or finally feeling a full, deep breath can be a breakthrough.
One of the most important parts of my practice is relaxing the neck. Those of us who live high-stress lives often complain of a tight neck and jaw. Our body reads this sign of anxiety as fear, and the adrenal stress causes exhaustion and cloudy thinking.
Relaxing the neck helps release the claw grip of fear and sends a signal of relief to the nervous system. The brain is nourished by oxygen and cerebrospinal fluid, which means that a relaxed neck allows us to make better decisions and stop reacting out of sluggishness and anxiety and confusion. The intelligence of your brain communicates with the wisdom of the rest of your body.
The most important thing that I do is to help people learn to listen to what their bodies are trying to tell them.
Thinking is not the only gear we have.
Learn more about Ana Forrest at her website.
Ana Forrest with Jose Calarco will be with us in Ottawa at PranaShanti Yoga Centre from April 28-30, 2017. Learn more HERE! Join us for a weekend experience!