Talking Shop with Ana Forrest

Ana Forrest started doing yoga at the age of 14. These days, she
travels extensively, teaching yoga as an integrated practice and sacred
personal path. Though she lives in Los Angeles, home is on her land on
Washington’s Orcas Island, where she spent just six days this year.

Yoga Journal: Your teaching comes out of having struggled to get
to where you are. You’ve had some injuries, right?

Ana Forrest: I
used to be in constant pain, had frequent migraines, was epileptic,
sexually and physically abused, and suicidal. I struggled with bulimia,
drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Yoga saved my life and made me resourceful
enough to look elsewhere. It got me to go into therapy and become a past
life regression therapist.

Therapy taught me a way to track the
terrors of the sexual abuse and physical violence by getting behind the
pain curtains and recalling the story I couldn’t remember. I often work
with people who’ve been sexually abused and teach them that they can
move out of despair and fear and find another way to live.

YJ: Do you do this in conjunction with yoga?

AF: Everybody
that works with me in therapy must work with me in yoga. Yoga in
conjunction with good therapy helped me get a handle on what was driving
me insane. I learned to use yoga to work rage, pain, and struggle out of
the tissues in my body where they were being stored. Yoga combined with
very directed and intentional breathing brought life into areas of my
body that were shut down.

YJ: Do you think you can do yoga and
not do the deep emotional work you encourage with your students?

AF: There are people who come to class to feel good, and that’s
enough. Then there are people who are in pain and they want to get
through it. There has to be this readiness to do that. But there is a
point when you’ve cleared some space in your body and life and you have
to take another level of responsibility, which is scary but sweet: What
do you want to put there now that you’ve gotten rid of the toxic gunk? I
teach people to move the gunk out and fill the spaces with magic and the
mystery of aliveness. If you don’t put the energy you want inside you in
those spaces, they just fill up again with garbage.

YJ: How does
asana practice facilitate emotional work?

AF: I look at my
students, and I can see where energy is blocked. For example, for you,
one of the places your energy gets bogged down is around the throat, C6,
T1. If I were to work with you, I’d go after that in poses, maybe
unleashing a memory of falling out of a tree or somehow injuring

YJ: I had a neck injury in 1992. Did you always have
this sensitivity?

AF: No, I worked with Rosalyn Bruyere, a seer
and hands-on healer. I listened to her and had the idea that seeing
energy was like a muscle that we all have which has atrophied. So, I set
about reawakening the ability to see.

YJ: Does having such
sensitivity require you to work one-on-one with students?

Well no, I work very intimately even in big groups. One of the things I
talk about a lot is the “struggle syndrome.” We are taught that putting
up a struggle is the way to proceed. To me struggle-mode is like pouring
out your energy and then trying to achieve some great deed but failing
because all of your energy has been spent.

YJ: Can you give me an

AF: What’s a hard pose for you?

YJ: Eka Pada
Rajakapotasana I.

AF: The next time you’re about to do this pose
and your muscles tighten and flight or fight syndrome sets in, as soon
as you want to pull away, wait for the next breath. Try taking your time
and waiting for your body. Give it the breath support to release.

Otherwise your body is saying no, your mind is saying go, and it’s a
bit like cellular rape. Take the brave-hearted path, which is to go into
it slower and respond appropriately instead of shutting your eyes and

YJ: How important is a sense of humor?

think it’s crucial. I noticed in working with my spirit that I didn’t
get the message right away because I’m a very hardheaded woman. However,
my spirit kept saying, “Romance me, delight me, I don’t always want to
be in battle.”

Ana Forrest can be reached at the Forrest Yoga Circle
in Santa Monica, California, at (310) 453-5252 or through