Master Teacher Roundtable: Ana Forrest

Tonight I attended a talk by Ana Forrest.  I didn’t know much about Ana, other than her brand of yoga was, in part, conceived in her quest to work through sexual abuse.  I’ve taken a few Forrest yoga classes over the years — and only remember that they kicked my ass.  Really kicked my ass.

With little background, I attended with no expectations or preconceived notions of what to expect or what she might say.  I simply brought my curiosity, plus a bottle of water.  It’s exciting — and rare! — to walk into a situation so virginal.

Well, virginity be damned.  At one point tonight, Ana had us on our feet, grabbing our genitals with one hand, ass with the other.  No time for modesty.  It was time to confront fear.   And that was the theme woven throughout tonight’s talk: fear.

Ana Forrest told us to “stalk” our fear.  On and off the mat.  She didn’t encourage us to simply confront it.  She carefully chose the word “stalk.”  This implies tracking it in the same way a hunter would track its prey.  Expanding upon this metaphor: Ana told us to stop being a victim of our fear, living in it, reacting to it without question.  And instead be a hunter of it, exploring it, questioning it, getting to the root of it.  Do the poses on the mat that scare the shit out of you.  Embrace the sensation that comes with that emotion, rather than let it control you.  Off the mat, disobey — don’t let fear dictate what you think you should do.  Sometimes you need to do the exact opposite.  Disobey fear.

It was an empowering message, coming from her mouth.  Ana carries a wild medicine woman intensity.  In fact, she called herself a “medicine woman” at one point during the night.  She’s lived an uneasy life — including in her talk references to sexual abuse, broken family, drugs and violent binge drinking — and you can see traces of this “hard” life on her face.  But she found her strength through it, and because of it.  And now she channels this strength to help others.  I so admire that.

Her honesty was intense and incredibly raw, too.  She shared with us the trigger she experienced while on the mat that led her to “stalk” the abuse she experienced while young — something she apparently buried deep, deep, deep.  While in dolphin pose, Ana said, she had flashbacks to someone grabbing her hips and violently raping her.  What a highly charged thing to experience on that mat!  I cannot even begin to imagine …

Note: It seems like the most profoundly empowering yogis have endured tortured early lives!  I suppose it’s part of what makes them a living example of how yoga can save even the most seemingly down-and-out-and-confused soul.  I’ve had such a blessed life so far; what does that mean for the impact I may have?

… Attending this talk piqued my curiosity about Forrest yoga.  While it scares me a little, especially knowing it was born of this holy-shit-she’s-tough-as-nails woman, I wouldn’t be taking Ana’s advice to “stalk” my fear.  Why am I scared of it?  I need to take a class and find out.

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