I went to the European Forrest Yoga conference this weekend – the Big Web. It was in Peterborough, and anything that can draw 60 people from as far as Moscow and South Kensington to Peterborough has got to be kind of a big deal, right?
Well, yeah. I was pretty psyched to be in Ana’s class. She moves with feline precision, stepping lightly through a forest of sweaty people with all the composure of a big cat. Then she’ll demo some outrageous pose, and show something of an inner grasshopper in the way her legs will fold in and wrap round and turn up in a completely natural way that’ll put foot next to the opposite hip, ear, jaw. Then there’s the way she has of speaking directly at you from across the room, or seeming to, at least. You get the feeling that she knows. Which is all sorts of terrifying, naturally. Here are some things I learnt:
It’s really fucking hot
Like really. (Oh, and it’s OK to swear, too, obvs). It’s the sort of hot where the sweat pools in your ears as you lie down, drips off your eyelids as you sit up, leaves little slick pools on the floor where you just were. It’s intense, and my mat couldn’t handle it. I was slipping and sliding all over the place – annoying, yes, but it forced me to rethink the way I use force in certain poses. For instance, the way I’ll rest up on the stickiness of the mat to hold me in warrior 2 didn’t work – I had to start really focusing on getting the balance of force and counter force, of pressing feet down and in and out all at the same time. A whole different level of complex.
You hold everything for ages
I put my head down for the fourth dolphin pose at 8:12am, and when she let us out of the pose it was 8:16am. Not that I was clock-watching or anything – clearly my level of sensory withdrawal and deep inner concentration is as honed as any self-respecting yogi with a brain frazzled from too many hours on the internet. A good rule of thumb is to get in the pose and prepare to be there for a full five or six cycles of ‘I can’t do this / I’m doing this / I can’t do this’. Then move on. Difficult to get on with, coming from a vinyasa background, but that’s the point right?
The adjustments are awesome
It’s another level of being adjusted. You’ll be hanging out in a pose thinking ‘yep, that’s my hip right there, being all focused on and stretched out and stuff’ and an assistant will come over and open up all sorts of different feelings in there, spotting the bits you’re holding on to, the muscles you’re not getting enough from, and so on. Savasana was something else – maybe because of the heat, the exhaustion, the total relief, but also because the skilled and caring touch, the bliss of having your head cradled, trusting the responsibility of it to someone else’s hands. Two minutes of total liberation. Worth the two and half hours of testing everything to the shaky-shaky point.
There’s drumming, and singing, and howling, and yelling. Oh, and a big ol’ fire and teepee too
Forrest Yoga incorporates Native American ceremonies, rituals, and medicine. There was a full-on fire ceremony at Moon Henge on Saturday night (the rest of the weekend was at Equilibrium), which sounds super hippy and suspect to the big skeptic in me, but – fuck it – it felt good. And after the drumming and the singing ended, we listened to the fire crackle and the birds sing. It was all pretty beautiful. Then, of course, we mobbed the place for yoga photos and handstands and star jumps and cartwheels in the last light of the setting sun. Thanks to the Forrest Yoga tribe for having me along, it felt great.