Forrest Yoga 101: The 4 Pillars Explained

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You may know about various styles of yoga, but have you learned about Forrest Yoga? Named after Ana Forrest, this is a Hatha Yoga practice that is powerful, challenging, and focuses on creating personal transformation on the yoga mat. If you’re in search of taking your yoga practice to the next level, read on.

This article will offer insight into this ceremonial yoga practice:

  • Forrest Yoga’s Definition & History
  • The 4 Pillars Explained
  • What to Expect in a Forrest Yoga Class
  • Where to Find & Practice Forrest Yoga
a woman in blue yoga leggings doing a side crow pose

Forrest Yoga Defined

The first thing to know about Forrest Yoga is that it is not about a forest of trees or performing a series of Tree Poses during a class.

Forrest Yoga was created by Ana Forrest to combine ceremonial components with traditional yoga. The goal is to evoke physical, mental, and emotional transformation. What you learn from the yoga mat, you’ll be able to carry into your daily life.

When you engage in a consistent Forrest Yoga practice, expect to build your physical strength, release emotional tension, and connect more holistically to your spiritual being.

Forrest Yoga is named after its creator, Ana Forrest. She developed the practice in 1982, but it emerged as a fundamental practice in 1989. It is a style of Hatha Yoga known for holding yoga postures, intense abdominal and core work, and includes a series of standing poses. It is a slower-moving practice so you’re able to reap the physical benefits of this yoga style.

The founder, Ana Forrest’s Story

Ana was introduced to yoga at the age of 14 as a dare. Another girl challenged her to go to a yoga class with a bunch of “old people.” (Old meaning 30-something.) She accepted the dare, wanting to prove her worth and status to the other girls.

The experience, though, was revolutionary and it changed her life. At this time in her young life, she was on the brink of suicide and was suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, physical abuse, and an eating disorder. She was full of anger and rage and it was the intervention of yoga that precipitated her shift.

By age 18, she was already teaching yoga. She recognized how the practice of yoga helped steer her from chronic harm to illustrious healing. For Ana Forrest, yoga went beyond the physical practice. She was able to transform the physicality of yoga into a spiritual one. This is the foundation of Forrest Yoga.

Yoga was a source of empowerment and healing. She was able to move pain (physical and emotional) out of her body. She discovered a brand new relationship with her whole body. This evolution became the catalyst for wanting to help others heal from their emotional and physical pain.

The Healing Powers of forrest yoga

Forrest Yoga goes beyond the simple practice of moving from pose to pose. Ana Forrest enlightens the physical practice by introducing what she personally missed in her early yoga classes. She needed a direction and path to address deeper injuries that left her helpless and empty.

She desired a practice that touched upon addiction, helplessness, and suffering from trauma. Her self-discoveries and healing inspired her to share these aspects of healing with her students.

Ana Forrest believes that individuals have the power to heal themselves. Through yoga, one has the capacity to empower themselves and rid their bodies of pain, thereby opening themselves up to their highest potential. Through Forrest Yoga, one’s true gifts are revealed that can be offered to the world around them.

The 4 Pillars Of Forrest Yoga

As Ana Forrest developed her unique style of yoga, she instituted these four core pillars:

  1. Breath
  2. Strength
  3. Integrity
  4. Spirit

The intention of these core elements is to broaden the connection among the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual parts of humanity. Yoga, in Ana Forrest’s way of thinking and teaching, is a holistic evolution.

a woman doing a forrest yoga handstand on a beach at sunset

#1: Breath

Like with many yoga practices, breath is the foundation. Pranayama, or “breath control,” is essential in the Forrest Yoga practice. It is directly related to the life force and the appreciation of life. In this style of yoga, continual focus on breathing keeps the student fully present, aware, and connected.

#2: Strength

Some Hatha Yoga classes move generously from pose to pose in a Vinyasa (flow) style. In Forrest Yoga, the intention is to move more slowly and deliberately. A student will hold single postures longer to generate muscular heat, increase blood flow, and heighten the senses.

There is a segment in the class where specific core work is performed. It is an intense exercise to bring more awareness to your center while generating greater bodily strength.

#3: Integrity

Because of the physical demand in a Forrest Yoga class, you learn resiliency and integrity. You also develop skills to endure and manage fear and pain (physical and emotional).

#4: Spirit

The physical work leads to an awareness and deeper connection to your spiritual self. You experience freedom from within that allows you to walk a clearer path. Your mind and body feel more open with the ability to live your life more courageously.

What to Expect in a Forrest Yoga Class

Forrest Yoga resembles other powerful Hatha Yoga styles. Generally, the studio space is heated to roughly 85 degrees F (29 degrees C) to help warm your body.

There is opening breath work (Pranayama), some seated postures, abdominal work, and a series of asana postures. The class ends with slower movements and meditation while lying in Savasana.

The abdominal work is often done lying down with a prop held between the legs. The prop is actually a folded and rolled-up yoga mat bound together with tape. It makes for an easier and softer prop to hold. The intention of targeting your core muscles in this fashion is to generate a strong center. It will help with balance, strength, and stability not only through the practice, but off the mat, too.

Something unique about moving through the asanas in a Forrest Yoga class is beginning on your left foot. In typical yoga classes, the instructor often leads with the right foot. In Forrest Yoga, expect to lead with the left foot. It is a way to pay closer attention while you practice. Further, it stimulates the brain to foster a mental and physical shift.

In some Forrest classes, you will learn inversion poses like handstands and other challenging arm balancing postures. These, too, were designed to demonstrate how you can push to your personal edge to discover your true physical and emotional strength.

Ana Forrest believes that we often hold ourselves back when opportunities are before us. We allow fear to hinder our natural life progression forward. Facing and overcoming these obstacles are lessons learned in a Forrest Yoga class.

What makes Forrest Yoga truly unique and special is the concentration on the fourth pillar: Spirit. Ana Forrest has incorporated Native American and Aboriginal Ceremony into the yoga practice. In these traditions, there is a ceremony for just about anything. Whether one is seeking strength, peace, or healing, there is a ceremony for it.

In a Forrest Yoga class, workshop, or training, you can expect components from these traditional ceremonies. Singing, drumming, and singing are just a few examples. Inviting ceremony into the yoga practice enhances the individual and community experience. Also, attention to these elements strengthens the intention of the practice.

Setting an intention is very important when combining ceremony with the yoga practice. Students are encouraged to focus on an intention at the beginning of the Forrest Yoga class. As they move through the session, the yoga postures service that intention. Ana Forrest says that this makes the yoga experience much more powerful.

hands drumming on a skin drum

Where to Find & Practice Forrest Yoga

Even though Forrest Yoga rests in the Hatha Yoga family of practices, it may be a challenge to find this type of class in your typical yoga studio.

One needs to be formally trained in this style before calling themselves a Forrest Yoga teacher and offering classes. If you cannot find a Forrest Yoga class locally, you may want to travel outside of your area to experience this practice.

Ana Forrest and her constituents travel the world offering classes, workshops, retreats, and trainings. All are welcome to enjoy these experiences. Forrest Yoga is something from which all can benefit.

Visit her personal website to see when a workshop is possibly coming to your area. If you’re interested in becoming a certified Forrest Yoga instructor, you can register for one of her trainings.

So, if you’re looking to take your yoga practice to the next level, consider practicing Forrest Yoga. This form of yoga will certainly improve your physical body. You will also benefit from self-discovery, the release of physical and emotional pain, experience an enlightened view of self, others, and the world. It is a wonderful resource for healing from trauma to live your best and most authentic life.

You can learn more about power yoga from this explanation of power vinyasa yoga. It will give you a guide into a dynamic moving practice so you can continue your journey toward discovering the best style of yoga for you.

Photo of author
John Cottrell is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher and Certified Yoga Therapist residing in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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