We are at a very interesting crossroads in the history of American Yoga. The Titans are rising and falling around us. I know that many yogis have been deeply wounded by the Anusara happening, but it was bound to happen. Why? Because where there is light, there will be a shadow—we need only to look for it. You have a shadow. I have a shadow. To think that you do not is delusional; to think that your beloved teacher does not is crazier yet. And, to hold the existence of their shadows against your teacher is only to do violence against yourself.
Ana Forrest has fierce Kali energy. She prowls the shadows of life. Behind her, she leaves lives transformed. For this reason, I believe, you either love her and her practice, or you hate her, or you just feel hot, tremendously sweaty, and don’t really “get it.” It is a certain person at a very particular point in their spiritual development that is ready to take a deep, hard look at their shadows. As Nietzsche says, “When you look into the abyss, it looks back into you.” Be prepared to hold its gaze.
I am a Forrest Yoga Guardian: someone Ana has entrusted with the duty and privilege of seeing that the lineage endures. As a student of the Shadow Lady, I am aware of her shadows—her humanity, if you will. She is no deity. She certainly is no Guru (never call her that! She will yell at you!). I love and respect Forrest Yoga and its Creatrix, but will never idolize it, or her, because doing so is incorrect thought and action.
Though I will not suggest that Forrest Yoga is the correct practice for you (that is for you to find out), there are certain standout characteristics I believe worth noting.
First, Forrest Yoga encourages you to take a deep look into the abyss, for you to find yourself. It never tells you what you will find. It only creates the structure in which you can locate yourself. This is immensely valuable. Systems that tell you who and what you are, or should be, are not trustworthy.
Second, Forrest Yoga places a premium on feeling and breathing. Only by feeling, and knowing your body, can you come to know yourself, and therefore make better decisions, be in clearer communication, and make good choices for your body while you are practicing. By breathing consciously you begin to find the roots of your habitual ways of behaving. I find that many of my students give me feedback that after studying with me, they really feel safe in other classes because they’ve learned tools of discernment and how to actually feel for themselves. They can decide when and how to up level or down-level. They begin to “see” themselves on the mat—the Witness wakes up. Forrest Yoga creates independent thinkers and practitioners.
Third, there are not a lot of Forrest Yoga instructors. This must be annoying to Ana—she pours the depths of herself into intimate, intense teacher trainings, and I bet would like to see the fruits of that in the form of many, many Forrest Yoga teachers. But, why I think that this is actually a good thing there are so few, is that it is evidence of how Forrest Yoga teaches you to be true to yourself, and to find yourself. Sometimes this means doing other things with your life, or teaching a different form of yoga, or just teaching “yoga.” For example, I was recently teaching at the Bali Spirit Festival, and had an opportunity to lunch with Les Leventhal, a fellow Forrest-trained teacher. He said Ana noted, “You’re not really teaching Forrest Yoga, Les. What’s up with that?” to which he replied, “You told me to find my voice. So I did.” Boo-ya. Many a great teacher is indebted to Ana for finding their voice; to see this, you just have to start looking for her tracks.
These are just a few of the really precious gifts of Forrest Yoga.
Ana Forrest’s life mission is to “mend the hoop of the people.” As far as I can tell, her life mission is not to make a lot of money, or be a super-star (though she can be a serious diva—check that wardrobe! Have you SEEN her on her Harley???), or get a spot on T.V., or have thousands upon thousands of Facebook followers. Truly, she is absorbed in her dharma and this makes her very refreshing and lovable. Having assisted a number of her shorter teacher trainings, let me tell you, “mending the hoop of the people” is a serious, deep, and exhausting undertaking. Her practice authentically is all about mending, and not so much about marketing and commerce, which may well why YOU have yet to actually be in one of her classes, or one of her teacher’s classes, or attend a teacher training.
Ana’s star is rising, though. She recently published her first book, Fierce Medicine, which is in its third printing. Have a peek. This year will mark the first all-Forrest festival, Wind Horse, held August 17-20 at Snow Mountain Ranch in Colorado. I will be there teaching, as will many of the other Guardians. If some of what I’ve already written has not convinced you of the merit of attending, allow me to appeal to some other factors.
There will be amazing, amazing teachers there! Every last one of them. Ana Forrest hand-picked all of these people, each who has very unique and special gifts, some with their hands, some with their sight, some with their ability to intuit and empath deeply. They might not be names you know (yet), but consider it a chance to discover fresh voices.
It will be one-of-a-kind opportunity to feel and see what Forrest Yoga as it is interpreted and expressed through these very special, funny, sincere, authentic, no-nonsense human beings, my tribe, colleagues, and the people who Forrest Yoga will become. Think about it. At Wind Horse, you will be present for the inception of the next stage of development for Forrest Yoga, and important and landmark event in the history of American Yoga itself.
The event schedule was recently published, and there promises to be very special classes that speak to the talents and proclivities of each Guardian there. I will be teaching one titled “Heart of Darkness—The Shadows and the Light,” a back bending class where we will really take a look at the things you fear most and hold them close. I will also be teaching a class on “Smart Sequencing for Your Body,” where you will learn about how we put together Forrest Yoga classes, and why, and in which you will begin to write a class for yourself.
It is my deep wish that Wind Horse attracts practitioners from near and far, and generates massive enthusiasm for and excitement about Forrest Yoga. It is also my sincere hope that as the Forrest Yoga community grows and matures, it can skillfully apply the shadow work in which the practice engages, and therefore sidestep the scandals and heartbreak that so many spiritual communities inevitably endure. This work I believe must be a group effort, not a “top-down” affair. Making the work the sole burden of the master teacher is both unfair and unrealistic. As students in a lineage—ANY lineage—it is our job to study ALL parts of ourselves, and to see how our light casts shadows, and how we project them onto our teachers. Spiritual evolution is accomplished through “together action” and this necessarily includes our teachers. So, when your teachers are in your classes, touch them—even if you are scared to, even if you think their practices are so perfect—love them up. If you see your teacher doing something you consider unethical, respectfully correct. To allow anything else is to be complicit in wrong action. We need to “spot” one another; everybody needs a hand getting to the next level. Teachers are students and students are teachers. All of us are fallible, human. Remember this.
See you at Wind Horse. A-ho!