This article was written by one of my mentors, Forrest Yoga Guardian Kiki Lovelace about the deeply powerful aspects of Forrest Yoga that make this such a healing practice. You can learn more about her and her studio, Innerstellar Pilates & Yoga in Berkeley, CA on her website: www.KikiLovelaceYoga.com
I've been practicing yoga for over half my life, and over the decades I've studied many different styles of yoga -- Iyengar, Hatha Flow, Anusara, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow and Power Vinyasa, to name a few. So I'm endlessly amused when I'm met with eyebrows raised and an emphatic "Really?!" when I meet another seasoned practitioner like myself and tell them I'm a Forrest Yoga Guardian.
The story about Forrest Yoga is often that it's "too intense," "the teachers are mean and opinionated," "all that abdominal work is not yoga," and my personal favorite, "they'll make you cry." The truth is, Forrest Yoga is the kindest yoga I've ever practiced. Compassionate, inclusive, accessible, even FUN. I swear!
Here are my top five reasons why:
1. IN FORREST YOGA, WE TEACH OUR PEOPLE HOW TO DO YOGA THAT'S PAIN-FREE (OR PAIN-FREEING DEPENDING ON THE KIND OF DAY YOU'RE HAVING).
We do this in myriad ways:
- Through deep, soft, absorbent breathing
- Refined and intelligent pose sequencing that helps you release tensions, hunt your weak areas and access your endorphins
- A huge emphasis on joint space
- Encouragement to track your inner dialogue, hunting and stalking all the shitty ways you talk to yourself so you can learn a different way of relating internally.
2. FORREST YOGA IS DEEPLY STRENGTHENING.
Most of our people are very weak, at least in certain parts of their muscular-skeletal and nervous system. You may shake or quiver, and you're probably going to sweat, but through it all you'll be coached to work with a kind and spacious breath. You'll get stronger (which is a huge part of healing pain and injury) AND dial down your nervous system at the same time.
3. IN FORREST YOGA, WE GENERALLY WORK IN A HEATED ROOM.
For my beginners I set the temperature around 72 degrees, for my more advanced people (or beginners who can tolerate it), many of whom have already released a lot of physical toxins and toxic behavior patterns, it's 80-85. I can hear some of you groaning, "oh, hell no." But the heat is really key to your success here. It helps you breathe deeper and sweat more (two ways your body can release those toxins). It helps ease stiffness in the muscles and joints so you don't injure yourself. And it helps thaw out your emotional body, aiding you in processing undigested anger, grief, irritably, sadness, and resistance, which can inhibit your ability to feel joy, love, pleasure and freedom.
4. SPEAKING OF UNDIGESTED EMOTIONS, FORREST YOGA TEACHES YOU HOW TO NAVIGATE AND SOOTHE EMOTIONAL INJURIES.
We house our entire history in our cell tissue -- all the stress and trauma and shut down and tenderness. In Forrest Yoga, your teacher (and your deep breathing) will help you coax out all that deadness and numbness inside from your emotional scar tissue. And yeah, you might cry. But you'll learn how to be present with yourself and your relationships in a way you've probably never imagined, with your heart strong, resilient, responsive and intelligent.
5. FORREST YOGA WILL TOUCH YOUR HEART AND HELP YOU DEVELOP AND DEEPEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO YOUR SPIRIT.
This is truly the brilliance of the style. We work with themes in each class like "Struggle Free," "Heal Your Back," "Ignite Your Healing Fires," "Build Your Vitality," and "Nourish Your Heart."
Who of us hasn't struggled or felt pain or stagnancy before? Who of us doesn't need to learn better how we can nourish our hearts? These themes are rich and yet totally relatable, and will put you on the path to breakthrough territory.
Ok, I'll admit it, Forrest Yoga is not for everyone. If you don't like to sweat or challenge yourself, or if you go to yoga to escape from your life, or if you don't like it when your yoga teacher swears (ahem), yeah, you'll hate it. But if you have been longing for a yoga style that is creative, healing, supportive, grounded, authentic and intelligent and helps you connect to your intuition (which is really the voice of your Spirit), look no further. You've found your yoga, and it's woven with the threads of kindness and compassion.