Professor Laura Douglass
Yoga: Theory, Culture and Practice
10 October 2010
For my yoga studio visit I decided to go to my home town and go to a yoga class there. When I am in the city I always feel like my guard is up, my mind is in a million different places, and I feel like I can never fully relax. I come from a small town in New Hampshire and when I am home I feel at ease and 100% myself. I know that when we practice Yoga in class, I have a hard time getting to a point where I can let go of all my thoughts and just focus on my breathing. I wanted to come back home to see how my yogic experience would change depending on my location.
I went to a yoga studio in Wolfeboro New Hampshire, called Earth and Sky Vinyasa Yoga Center. I had never been to the studio before, it sits on the back bay of beautiful and peaceful Lake Winnipesaukee. The practice room was spacious, clean and I think it really helped make and impact on my experience. My instructor was very welcoming into the class, she was interested in our yoga class, and was very helpful while I struggled with this new form of yoga.
The class I signed up for was called “Forrest Beginner Basic.” I had no idea what I was getting into, I had no idea what “Forrest” was, and what I should be expecting. I was totally oblivious, I wanted to go into the studio not knowing what I was getting into so I would have no judgments and no criticism.
About Forrest Yoga
Forrest Yoga is an invention of the West coast discovered by Ana Forrest. She is considered a pioneer in yoga and emotional healing. Ana began her first yoga class after a dare at age 14, and at age 18 she became a certified yoga instructor. Wanting to absorb as much knowledge as she could, she studied Native American medicine and ceremony, Homeopathy, Hands On Healing, Martial Arts, Psychotherapy, and Regression Therapy. Being a woman who had been through many struggles in her life, (i.e. abuse, epilepsy, alcoholism, and bulimia) she decided to create an intensely physical vinyasa-style practice that aims to heal psychic wounds. The Forrest philosophy and focus is on guiding the student to use Forrest Yoga in a meaningful way for the exploration of truth, wholeness, and health. Forrest Yoga pays special attention to abdominal work and breathing. A powerful sequence of poses are intended to raise your body heat in order to sweat out toxins and release emotions stored in the body. Forrest yoga is intended to challenge the student to access their whole being and to use this type of yoga as a path to find and clear the emotional and mental blocks that dictate and limit their lives.
"My intent in teaching Forrest Yoga is to do my part in 'Mending the Hoop of the People'; to inspire people to clear through the stuff that hardens them and sickens their bodies so they can walk freely and lightly on the earth in a healing way, in a Beauty Way." - Ana Forrest.
To me, Forrest Yoga was designed for the Western Body today. The person who leads a crazy life, rushing from one project to another, and the person who carries the stress which takes a toll on the body. When yoga was created the average person didn’t have to sit at a desk job for 8-10 hours a day, they didn’t have to travel hours on a train, bus, or plane for work. Forrest yoga is very mindful that most people carry stress in their necks. Forrest is very conscious of keeping the neck relaxed, opening the hips and shoulders and strengthening the core. There's a deep focus on the breath to get students into their own bodies and to help flush out toxins. Poses are held longer and your encouraged to find your edge yet respect your limits.
I had never been to Earth and Sky Vinyasa Yoga Center prior to my visit. I have known, Stacey Gibbons, the owner and director of the studio, for a few years now. Stacey is certified in Forrest Yoga, Power Vinyasa and Hatha Yoga. She is a certified Reiki Master, a certified Karuna Reiki Master, and is certified as an Advanced Kolaimni Healer. I received my Reiki certification from her, practiced a bit of Yoga under her, and studied Native American Medicine with her. She is very involved in the community, Stacey is the Holistic Health Educator for The Kingswood Youth Center in Wolfeboro, NH, and is responsible for creating "The Wilderness Within.” This is a nine week credit course offered to high school students that combines a Reiki certification, Native American Wisdom, Yoga and yoga philosophy, and meditation. I completed this course with her back in 2007.
I took a friend along with me to the class who I thought would benefit from the experience. We walked into the studio where we were welcome by Rhonda Alden. Rhonda completed her Forrest Yoga Teacher Training in 2008, an intensive 200-hour program taught in 24 days. She has been studying yoga since February 2006. She explained to us that she embraces yoga for the connections between the health of body, mind and spirit and for the potential each of us can reach through yoga. As we settled onto our mats, there was only one man in the room. Soon the class started to fill and we realized that we were the only women under 25. I know that my friend and I were both very intimidated about being in a class with so many older women who seemed to know what they were practicing, but we soon found everyone to be very welcoming. Rhonda explained that like the yoga we practice in class, breathing is going to be very important. She told us that breathing is the only way we are going to be able to participate and achieve the intense poses we were about to take on. Then she explained that when practicing Forrest yoga, we are very mindful of the neck, as this is where most people carry stress. In Forrest yoga you don’t strain the neck, or look up, you keep the neck very relaxed. Throughout the poses we were taught to “Telescope our bodies, and keep our feet and hands spread.” The spreading of the hands and feet lets the negative energy flow out of the body, keeping your body relaxed lets the energy flow without being blocked. We practiced for about two hours. Each pose we practiced was held for a good 5-8 minutes, even pushing some to almost 15 minutes. I quickly realized that all the older woman in the class were in better shape than my friend and I both were in. Rhonda was great, she adjusted us, making sure that we got the full experience with each pose we tried. She encouraged us to learn what our limits looked like but to also test them. I was able to partake in a handstand, which at first I was nervous about, but Rhonda really helped me and made me feel comfortable.
I loved practicing Forrest Yoga, even if my body didn’t love me the next morning! I felt like unlike the Yoga we practice in class, Forrest was tailor just for me. It was a fast enough pace for me to be able to focus on what I was doing. The “pain” my body felt made me aware of what I was doing. It made me feel like I was achieving more than just the physical, I was becoming aware of my body. It was challenging, it made me sweat, and I enjoyed feeling like my body was being worked. I appreciated that this form of yoga was very accepting. I never felt like I had to be an expert in other forms of yoga, or that I had to be flexible and strong. It was all about knowing your limits and being open about challenging them. It was about being honest with yourself and having the willingness to learn. I enjoyed that it was really about self-awareness, knowing your body, and being curious about what your body can achieve. I felt like it exercised not only my physical body, but my emotional body too and made me curious about my limits. It was a very inspiring practice and visit, and I can’t wait to go back to Earth and Sky Yoga Center again.