Forrest Yoga

Jambo Truong
Written by Jambo Truong

There are many types of yoga systems out there, one of the newly developed systems of modern-day Yoga practices is known as Forrest Yoga.

Let’s be clear with what the definition of yoga is. Yoga is a practice of life. It includes several threads to it which include the more commonly known yoga poses (asana), breathing techniques (pranayama), and ideas around aligning with nature and the Great Spirit. There are many different types of yoga that are not commonly seen within modern day practises. These include Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, amongst many others.

Yogis and those who are interested in integrating the path of yoga in their lives will likely dive into the branch of yoga that helps them with what they need at a specific time of their lives. For example, when I needed to be physically healthier I did a lot of asana, when I needed more peace of mind I engaged in meditation, when I was depleted I did a lot of pranayama. When I needed to see the world beyond my own paradigms I engaged in Bhakti (devotional) or Karma (selfless) yogas.

Forrest Yoga is essentially a self-healing practice. It was created by Ana Forrest, who came from a background that included addiction, trauma, and chronic pain. As a result of her rich history in various forms of recovery, which you can read about in Fierce Medicine, she developed a method of adapting asana and pranayama practises to suit her. Now let me go a little deeper on that because to make a traditional system ‘fit us’ can come across as appropriating. What I mean is that Ana was willing to explore the subtleties of the rules, principles and dogma of yoga. She challenged them for the sake of her own healing and as a result has helped to empower several thousands of people all over the world.

Adapting the Practise

An example of adapting the practise to work with include these highlights:

  • As a result of the trauma and chronic pain Ana experienced, looking up at her thumb in Triangle (trikonasana) would set off a migraine, she noticed that if she let her head and neck relax, she was able to do the pose and not off-set herself into days of pain
  • Myth ~ People should not practise asana if they are on their periods. Ana discovered that if she did her practises like it was any other day, she managed the physical symptoms as well as her temper better during these delicate times. This resulted in her being a better human being as opposed to someone who had to live with the discomfort of being in her Moon Time.
  • The sequencing is methodical and suits modern day bodies. We don’t move like we used to, despite having more gyms and yoga studios than ever before, when we are not in those spaces we are standing or sitting. This creates a whole other set of things to consider when it comes to warming our bodies up for traditional yoga practises.
  • There is no magic without an intent. By setting an intent for each class, practitioners know what the aim of the lesson is, not necessarily just about achieving a yoga pose. This takes our attention back to ourselves, and Forrest Yoga trained practitioners are skilled at creating a theme that carries an intent such as Pick A Spot To Become Fascinated Upon, Be Struggle Free, Unwinding The Mysteries of Neck & Shoulders, Embodying Spirit.
  • Forrest Yoga is challenging but it is doable. Many traditional yoga practises include sequences and poses that seem impossible; Forrest Yoga has an intelligent sequencing system that safely takes practitioners to advanced yoga poses if that is what they wish. It also enables you to be free from pain in an approachable way.

Self Healing Practise

Forrest Yoga is ultimately a self-healing system developed by Ana Forrest, an American-based yoga practitioner who has helped thousands of people through her work. She currently teaches internationally with her husband, Jose Calarco, and continues to evolve her approach. As someone with a background in bodywork and complementary therapies, I was drawn to Forrest Yoga because of its focus on addiction, sexual abuse, and eating disorders, which were prevalent in my client group.

When I first tried the practice, I fell in love with the way it made me feel grounded and connected to my body like nothing else before. It was a transformative experience, and I knew I had to share it with my clients. I invited Ana to teach an event for the rehabilitation centres where I worked, and I was amazed at the response. People who were struggling with some of life’s most significant challenges found solace in Forrest Yoga’s grounded approach to yoga practice.

The beauty of Forrest Yoga is that it’s accessible to everyone, regardless of their body type or physical, emotional, or psychological challenges. The poses are modified to suit the individual, and the focus is on how much one can do, rather than trying to force oneself into advanced positions. The sequences build slowly, making it easier to work toward complex poses over time. Forrest Yoga sets a daily intent, which helps people journey inwards, a critical aspect of the healing process for those in recovery.

For me, Forrest Yoga has been a game-changer. It has given me a sense of strength and purpose in my physical being, helping me deal with my own struggles with eating disorders and self-loathing. It has also allowed me to set an example for my students worldwide, many of whom have found healing through this practice. While Forrest Yoga may seem intense at first, it’s well worth the effort. It’s a highly individualised approach that honours the unique needs and challenges of each person. It encourages us to explore traditional movements in ways that support our own nuances, allowing us to tap into our inner strength and build a deep sense of resilience. Behind our wounds, Forrest Yoga reminds us, lies the very gift we have to share with the world.