How can Forrest yoga nourish your soul?
Forrest yoga is an immersive form of yoga that uses strong physical postures as a pathway to transformation of the heart and mind. Using pranayama (or breathwork), unique poses and extended holding of those poses, it invites deeper awareness of the physical body and emotions while building strength. While it is most similar to Hatha yoga, it is different from other forms of yoga due to its foundations of indigenous wisdom and the focus on growing one’s connection with their Spirit.
Forrest yoga began to be developed by Ana Forrest in 1975, as she felt that other forms of yoga did not address most of her deeper injuries or the ongoing suffering she felt in her Soul. This modern form of yoga was built through Ana Forrest’s experience living on Native American reservations, the teachings of homeopathy, pressure point therapy and African and Indigenous Australian healing knowledge amongst others. It aims to address 21st century maladies exacerbated by our hurried, disconnected lives such as depression, carpal tunnel syndrome, and poor nutrient intake by helping people sweat out toxins, bring freedom to the body and rebuild connection between people, spirit and nature.
Forrest yoga consists of the four pillars of breath, integrity, strength and spirit. With breath as the starting point, yogis are taught to connect with and deepen their breath to feel deeply and draw healing into relevant areas of their body. Yogis are also encouraged to approach their practice and limitations with integrity, as they build physical and emotional strength through the practice of Forrest Yoga. The ultimate aim is to connect with their spirit and have the courage to walk as their Spirit dictates.
The modality is increasingly practised worldwide, so to ensure you receive certified instruction of the best quality, choose a practitioner who has attended Forrest Yoga Foundation Teacher Training taught personally by creator Ana Forrest and her husband Jose Calarco, Ceremonial Leader for Forrest Yoga. Forrest Yoga Teacher Training adheres to the requirements and standards of the Yoga Alliance Registered Program.
Benefits of Forrest yoga
Forrest yoga aims to help people along a healing and transformative journey, and this intent is present in every Forrest yoga class. With one of its key pillars being breath, Forrest yoga helps people to breath deeply, creating greater focus and awareness in life. Breathwork is also intended to release tension in the neck, which is believed to better allow the “intelligence of our brain to communicate with the wisdom of our body”. Additionally, Forrest yoga contains unique abdominal exercises to build core strength, which may assist with reducing back pain and moving stuck energy.
Forrest yoga has been the subject of some research studies. A 2018 study of 79 people found that Forrest yoga, practised twice a week for eight weeks, resulted in a greater decrease in chronic pain symptoms when compared with those who only engaged in standard care. While the decrease in pain did not remain after the participants stopped practising Forrest Yoga, researchers noted ‘rapid’ improvement in pain scores while it was being practised.
Another study published in 2016 considered the effects of Forrest yoga on blood pressure. When practised over 12 weeks, the study concluded that it had “a modest but definite beneficial effect” on reducing blood pressure. Forrest yoga, whether used alone or in combination with diet and exercise advice, was found to be more effective than simply engaging in diet modification and walking.
Forrest yoga may assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Back pain
- Blood pressure
- Brain fog and clarity
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
- Concentration, focus and problem solving
- Detoxing and cleansing
- Digestive and gastrointestinal issues
- Energy and vitality
- Mobility and movement
- Neck pain
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Pain relief
- Respiratory and breathing issues
- Shoulder and elbow issues
What to expect from a Forrest yoga session?
Every Forrest yoga class begins with setting a focus for the practice, which informs the poses for that session. Each class includes deep breathing, exercises to release the neck to reduce stress, and core exercises to promote healing and toning to the digestive organs.
The classes follow a set framework and carefully designed sequences. It consists of a warm-up and breathwork segment, followed by a ‘hot’ section involving strong poses which progress towards an apex, or the most challenging pose. This is followed by a warm down and cool down intended to calm and nourish the nervous system.
In Forrest yoga, poses are held for much longer than in other forms of yoga and are practiced first on the left side of the body, in order to bring balance to our right-hand dominated world. During your class, expect to be provided with hands-on support, be encouraged by your teacher to breathe through discomfort and focus on connecting with your core being both physically and emotionally. Forrest yoga classes are generally conducted in a lightly heated room of about 30 degrees Celsius.
As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing Forrest yoga. If you have an injury or other health issue, or any concerns at all, do speak to your instructor, who will be happy to address these and explore the option of tailoring the session to your individual requirements.