I am currently in the midst of a 9-day Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Ana Forrest. For any of you who have read her book “Fierce Medicine” or taken any of her workshops you have a concept of what an ass-whooper this program is. On our mats everyday by 6:45am the chanting and meditation begins around 7am. Next comes a three and a half to four hour yoga practice. Wait. Pause. I’m not kidding. I sweat so much today I think I burned my skin.
It is an interesting experience moving way beyond my perceived edge and limitations. I’ve been trying poses and assisting poses that normally make me very nervous. It has actually been a great place to take risks and I’m especially grateful to Vancouver-based assistant teacher Charles Pentland for helping me learn how to fly by supporting me physically as I jumped from downward dog into crow and back (among other things).
The afternoons are about 4-hours long and range from learning poses to practice teaching each other (which equals more yoga) to Q & A time with Ana. We have homework. We have what she calls Dharma jousts or Sadhanas (Sanskrit for committed prayer) to incorporate everyday. These include things like eating in a healthy way and not engaging in our habitual bullshit that leaves us feeling worse instead of empowered.
There is a major part of me suited for this kind of challenge. I’m pushing my physical, mental, and emotional limits. I’m being put on the spot to teach and observe and bring forth my own wisdom. And when I come home in the evenings I am whooped, in a good way.
I’m also learning how to use my ass muscles to keep my low back safe. Sometimes that involves squeezing my sit bones toward each other in a pose such as Abs with the Mat (a special Forrest-yoga abdominal sequence). Sometimes it means drawing them down towards the ground, like in a Warrior II, so the sacrum stays open and supported. I need to learn this, I think this downward ass muscle move is going to make my yoga practice more healing.
Forrest yoga isn’t necessarily for light seeking yogis & yoginis. This style of yoga is about truth, beauty, breath, spirit, integrity, and a willingness to look at your own shit. Ana isn’t a fan of “putting whipped cream on garbage” as she is so fond of saying. She’s earthy and growley and curses when she prays. She’s real. She’s a bow hunter. And she finds ways of making spiritual concepts somewhat understandable by relating them to natural processes in our bodies and in nature. I like this woman. She’s got soul. She also encourages us to go after our own lives in an authentic and powerful way. We need more of that in this world.
Say a prayer for me. I’m going to need it.