I have practiced a couple of times with Blossom's resident Forrest Yoga Instructor, Sharon Dawson and just love her class! Coming from a completely different background, I enjoyed the opportunity to interview her and learn more about Forrest Yoga and what inspires Sharon to share this style of yoga with our community.
Tell me specifically about Forrest Yoga and what makes it different than other styles of yoga?
Forrest Yoga is a strong, modern style developed by Ana T. Forrest. Emphasis is on connecting to the subtle muscles of the core, deep breath, and pose sequences to build heat, flush out toxins and release stuck emotions. Ana studied with many of the living masters and traveled through India. She translated their teachings and made them relevant for Western culture. What we need is to relax our necks, strengthen our core, and work more deeply with our breath, and so she’s brought all that to her style. She’s done a lot of research within her own body to find what works for her. And there’s also her personal story- she came from a hard life, started drinking at a young age, experienced sexual abuse, drugs, eating disorders, and she tried to commit suicide. This is all in her book, Fierce Medicine - it’s all public knowledge. She also broke her back. So she had a lot to overcome emotionally, physically, and spiritually- she was really broken and her yoga developed from her life, from her experience and so it’s really all about healing. That’s the cornerstone of Forrest Yoga. What we agree to as Forrest Yoga teachers is to “Mend the Hoop of the People.” This comes from a dream that she had about a rainbow hoop of people which was inspired by the work she was doing with Native Americans. She lived on tribal land for a while and studied the culture and became a Medicine Woman. She was a Ceremonial Pipe Carrier, and a lot of her healing traditions are steeped in the Native American ceremony. We use a lot of Native American ceremony when we get together as Forrest Yoga people. I don’t really bring that into the simple classes that I am teaching here because we only have an hour or hour and fifteen. Every now and then, I’ll do a smoke ceremony with sage or I’ll spray the room with sage for cleansing and clarity.
That leads perfectly to the next question...if somebody comes to your class as a Forrest class, what can they expect?
I like to have the class somewhat warm, not hot, somewhat warm because that’s better for our muscles. I will generally open with breath. Breath is so important for healing our bodies, our souls, our spirits, our emotions, so there will be a lot of emphasis on it. If I have time, I will do a little pranayama exercise, like maybe alternate nostril breathing and that’s partly for breath, also for the brain- for how we can rewire the brain, calm the nervous system, and prepare for our yoga class. So generally a little pranayama, some opening warm up, I almost always do core work in the beginning- Forrest Yoga core work, which is very specific and very safe, and then we’ll move into more active practice. We’ll generally do some sun salutations, Surya Namaskar B, which is a little bit more vigorous, some standing poses. I’ll often have a theme for the day which might be hip openers and arm balances or it might be that we’re working towards back bends, so I’ll try to sequence the class in such a way that we’re well-prepared when we get into our apex back bend and that we warm down appropriately, so it’s very safe for the body. The overarching theme is calming and quieting the mind, and healing - the emotions and whatever stress we need to let go of.
So of course, I’ve taken your class and I love your it! I think it’s really good for my body. What is really good for you about teaching? What do you love about it?
I love watching people arrive, and I can read energy pretty well. Watching people come in and they’re just scattered, they’re stressed out, their shoulders are up by their ears and they’re not breathing. They’re all hunched over and pissed off, and by the end of class just watching them open and unfold and maybe even smile. They start to breathe and feel their body and finally, in shivasana to see their energy become soft and relaxed. That’s beautiful for me. I love that! I also love over time watching people change and shift and be able to do some poses that they didn’t think they could do and that’s really super fun. And just seeing people, watching people- how they change!
Enjoy Sharon's Forrest-style class on Wednesdays at 9:00am. The class is a mixed-levels class for all members of the community (not just pre or postnatal). Limited childcare is available onsite for $12 ($10 members).