Trailblazer: Ana Forrest
Photos by Ashley Bilodeau
Ana Forrest has been changing people’s lives for nearly 40 years. An internationally recognized pioneer in yoga and emotional healing, Ana created Forrest Yoga while working through her own healing from her life’s trauma and experience. Forrest Yoga is renowned as an intensely physical, internally focused practice that emphasizes how to carry a transformative experience off the mat and into daily life. We can't wait to have Ana join us at Wanderlust O'ahu this February. Check out interview with her below, and sign up for one of her classes here.
WL: What aspects of yoga / meditation / spirituality do you bring into your work?
AF: All of these aspects are a part of what I teach. I’ve created a system of yoga — Forrest Yoga — for the 21st century and the needs of our people today. In Forrest Yoga we focus on what works. I travel all across the globe and consistently notice a Spiritual bereftness among our People. This deep emptiness shows up in a myriad of disturbing ways — addiction, self-mutilation, numbing out, deep unhappiness. My Forrest Yoga teachers and I help our people get strong, fit, and vital. We teach them how to quest for and connect to their authentic self and their Spirit. As each of us connect to our authentic self and our Spirit, we have the tools to build a life that we can be proud of. When we begin to explore living our life as our Spirit yearns for, then everything changes.
In my own life, I don’t have time for separate regimes for all of my different physical and spiritual needs. I have woven them all into Forrest Yoga. Here, many of my needs get met: Challenge, adventure, fun, strengthening, nourishing, vision quests, Ceremony, connecting to my Spirit, revitalizing, inspiring and love!
WL: How did you get involved with yoga?
AF: I took my first class at around age 13 or 14. It was a dare from a girl at school. We had never talked before and this quiet, soft-spoken, pale teenager challenged me to go to a yoga class, saying, “I have something you can’t do!" I was shocked to be having this conversation, so as a play for time, I took out a cigarette and tapped it down, lit it and blew smoke at her, and took up the gauntlet. Robin took me to my first yoga class and it completely shocked me. I wasn’t good at it, it was difficult for me, but there was something there that drew me in — that tapped a deep craving.
At the time I didn’t know why this girl approached me; now I think it was a nudge from what the Native Americans call the ‘Sacred Ones’. And that’s how I began the journey to save my own life.
I started teaching yoga right away. There’s an innate teacher in me and when I find something worthwhile, I have to teach it. I took a teacher training in 1975 - aged 18 - in Mexico. It was the most intense month of my life, yet gentle and healing at the same time. By the time I left, my body was clean of drugs and alcohol for the first time since I could remember. I realized that I was a healer not only of horses (at the time, I was an up-and-coming horse trainer), but of humans too. I finally connected to a reason to live.
WL: What's your favorite pose?
AF: I have many favorite poses in many different categories. I love the abdominals that I’ve created, gravity surfing through handstands, Wheel Walks (walking around in Wheel pose), Insect on a Windshield…What can make a pose a favourite for me can depend on what I’m needing from it at the time. Some of my current favorites help me make new neurological connections where there was only blank before. In each pose, I deliberately turn on the feel good chemicals, so actually, I have a love affair with many, many poses.
WL: What's feeding your wanderlust today?
AF: Teaching in new countries. Riding my motorcycle in nature. Developing new neuro-receptors for love and Mystery.
WL: If you could leave one legacy for your community what would it be?
AF: I will be leaving many more than one!..Here are the ones I’ve already established:
Photo by Ashley Bilodeau
1) Forrest Yoga! I have chosen 15 Guardians from around the world who have pledged to maintain and add to the integrity and evolution of Forrest Yoga now and after I am dead. They have pledged to protect the legacy of the Forrest Yoga and keep the fires lit. Together with our expanding tribe of Forrest Yoga teachers, they have joined me in my Spirit pledge, to help Mend (Heal) the Hoop of the People. This pledge includes teaching people to use the tools of Forrest Yoga to heal themselves physically and emotionally.
Most importantly, Forrest Yoga teaches you how to quest for your own Spirit and your purpose in life.
2) My book Fierce Medicine. I wrote Fierce Medicine with the deep desire, that this book will touch people everywhere, even the ones I don’t get to meet. I want my readers to use the tools in ‘Fierce’ that Iʼve developed and discovered. THEY WORK! This book is the spiritual legacy of my life. Fierce Medicine contains the treasures that saved my life. This is my gift to you.
Fierce Medicine and Forrest Yoga teach people how to design their life into their personal masterpiece. We teach our people this: Each of you is precious beyond words, you are worth caring for and fighting for. You embody a part of the Great Mystery. Live from this truth.
All of this is my legacy for the People.