“Building the Warrior Heart” – Frankie’s Weekend with Ana Forrest

“Building the Warrior Heart” – Frankie’s Weekend with Ana Forrest

“Building the Warrior Heart” – Frankie’s Weekend with Ana Forrest

I was really excited about taking this workshop with Ana Forrest and her husband Jose, not to mention amazing assistants including Edinburgh’s very own Janet McInnes. Thankfully, despite dashing for my train, I was smoothly transported to Newcastle in time for ‘Building The Warrior Heart pt.1’.  “Have fun doing yoga in the forest” was another voicemail, this time from my other half, but that was not what was in store for me….

I first heard of Ana Forrest from a massage client of mine quite a few years back. I’d been practicing Hatha yoga on and off for a while and he kindly burned her DVD for me. I got about 10 minutes in and decided I couldn’t hack it…a lack of core strength being quite noticeable. I found that same DVD again recently-I still haven’t returned to it, instead I feel fortunate to have been instructed by Ana Forrest in person. Just like the title of her book, Forrest Yoga is ‘Fierce Medicine’. It’s a strong practice in terms of the intensity of the experience, for example at no point was I daydreaming about where to have dinner-you can’t help but stay present, the ‘elbow to knee’ core exercises left my abs aching and it teaches you so much about the breath.
On rolling out my mat I looked up to see 3 ladies cosily sitting on white fur rugs laid out on top of their mats. I had received the information to bring a block, a strap and a ‘roll’ (a rolled up blanket or mat taped up which is used quite a bit in Forrest Yoga) but I hadn’t been told anything about a fur rug. I was honestly baffled and asked the lady next to me ‘why the rugs?’, ‘Kundalini yoga’, she replied. Those rugs were quickly cast aside as we got into the sweaty asana practice, however the main focus was on self-inquiry in order to try to release the inner trappings of our hearts.
Each workshop was a ceremony that started with Forrest Yoga Guardian, Jambo Truong’s instruction to deepen our breathe and really connect to our ujjayi. After this, the aboriginal beat of Jose would begin and Ana would walk around clearing the energy of the room by wafting the fumes of burning sage. Coming from Australia, Jose shared the traditional music and teachings of the ancient aboriginal tribes over the course of the weekend, topping and tailing each workshop with a song.
During the workshops we were guided by Ana, who has an amazing way with words, to breathe our ‘exquisite’ (isn’t that one of the best words to describe anything about ourselves?!) breath into our hearts and explore what was stored there. Ana encouraged us to feel into our heart space and clear out the ‘puss pockets’ (strong words!) of ‘stuff’ that we’ve stored there from previous experiences. The workshops aimed at supporting us to deconstruct the armour we build up around ourselves under the pretence of ‘protection’, as by ‘numbing out’ our painful or uncomfortable experiences, we carry them around becoming more and more disconnected to ourselves.
I didn’t find this easy at all. I could feel my breath in my chest but it’s going to take a lot more work before I really start to gain a deep insight into what’s going on in there, however I did come to discover certain things.  Physically, it was intense however afterwards I felt so open in my body. You know when you practice and practice and wonder when you’re going to see any progress? Well with these workshops there was no focus on physical ‘progress’ or achievements, it was all about taking our awareness to areas in the body, illuminating them with our breath and ‘letting sh*t go’ and through that I must have definitely released some ‘baggage’ as afterwards I found a new sense of ease in my asana practice.

I particularly liked the suggestion to make an alliance between our hearts and our minds. So often we see these as completely separate. We ask ourselves ‘do I follow my heart or should I act on what my mind is telling me?’ This kind of rhetoric embeds the idea within us that we have to choose and as a result, the two are quite often in conflict with each other. What else will I take away from these workshops? Well, the reminder not to waste the precious moments of our life on our neurosis (or on looking at the ceiling during our practice!). I also think that we all need to stop and ask ourselves from time to time what we yearn for and realise what our heart’s true desire is and then remember that we are worthy and deserving of whatever that may be.


Janet McInnes will be hosting a Forrest yoga workshop on the 20th of August (please see below) and regularly runs weekend classes here, at Meadowlark. 

Frances Culpin