I Just Got in From the Yoga Journal SF Conference…

…and boy are my arms abs tired!
Whew! For the past three days, I’ve been assisting my teacher, Ana Forrest at the Yoga Journal Conference San Francisco. This was the second time I’ve gotten the opportunity to assist Ana (my first time assisting was this past July). Right now my brain is in the process of taking in the whole experience: learning new poses and assists, bonding with my fellow assistants, and the connections I made with students and friends, and of course, getting more pearls of wisdom from Ana. As my brain is also fuzzy from days of getting up before 4am for the conference, look for a more coherent recap of my amazing weekend soon.

Oh, and GO NINERS!

fyyj

Here I am with my two amazing friends and Forrest Yogis, Abbie and Sandy

Windy Wind Horse Conference: Saturday Recap

Sometimes Ana makes these general comments to the class in workshops where it feels like she’s looking right into my brain. “How does she know?”, I wonder, when there’s a comment that feels directly exactly towards me.

Ana set the intention for the practice to have us select an area of the body to focus on for the morning practice. “Easy”, I thought. My right hip has been a bit tweaky lately. There’s my spot. Then Ana said, “If your hip is tight, but there’s an ache in your heart, your hip is not the thing you need to focus on.” So much for easy.

Breathing into my upper back and heart is an ongoing challenge for me. As we moved through the practice, Ana cued us to, “breathe into the spot where you self-deprecate and limit yourself.” Again, I wondered if she might be reading my mind.

The practice hit an apex head to ankle pose with an up-level to move into weather vane. I worked pretty deeply into the pose, so a few poses later when we went into savasana, my hip and lower back did not feel right. I took a laying down spinal twist and shifted around to try to ease it. Just then my mentor teacher and guardian, Colleen, gently eased me to stay still and she breathed with me. I focused on my area and sending the breath there and exhaling it down to my hip. Colleen stayed with me and I felt my back and hip easing. Flooded with gratitude, I left the practice with a new understanding about how that tight spot in my hip has some other origins.

Colleen in Twisted Weather Vane pose

My first afternoon workshop was some juicy arm balances with Catherine (Cat) Allen and Ann Hyde. I was expecting a sweat-fest of killer arm balances, but instead Cat and Ann really broke it down to the basics and we did a number of poses to help us engage the chest and arm muscles and the abs to work into arm balances versus just using momentum to muscle up into the full pose. We spotted each other in forearm balance and handstand. The point wasn’t to balance, which many people could do. Rather it was to sharpen our partnering skills. We practiced using a partner and a block under the foot to pike (not jump) up with one leg.

The block came into play again when we practiced eka pada bakasana by placing the block under the toes of the bent front knee and worked on hiking the hips up to lift the back leg. Cat and Ann also did a terrific job of explaining transitioning from eka pada bakasana into astavakrasana and turn signal into astavakrasana. For the first time, I feel like I really got the right form of turn signal. I came away with all kinds of information and tips for how to guide my students in many of the preparatory poses as well as the arm balances.

Cat Allen in Turn Signal

Heidi Sormaz’s workshop on sparking the desire to practice was my last workshop of the day. Heidi started with a loving-kindness meditation where we called up an image in our minds of something that fills you up with love and compassion. She gave an example of picturing a box of puppies with a, “take me home” sign, but invited us to use any imagery that worked for us (or change imagery if an image stopped working for us). “You are more likely to show up to the mat when you can work in away of self-caring. If you’re beating yourself up the whole time, you’re not going to want to be on the mat. The practice is about longevity: showing up on the mat and being okay with how you show up that day and trusting that you’ll continue to progress over time.”

We moved into a backbend practice loaded with poses that are likely to trigger you to mentally move into a place of suffering. Just as we were moving into the practice, nature intervened with an added challenge. It began raining, lightly at first, then pouring down all the while with the wind howling in the background. We were in an outdoor tent with astroturf on the floor so while we weren’t getting wet, it was very cold and a mic was brought in so Heidi’s voice didn’t have to compete with the wind.
I think this nature was having a good laugh at us because this could not fit in more perfectly with the theme. What do you do when circumstances are making you shy away from the mat? How do you not let yourself off the hook from practicing, yet still keep it from being a miserable experience? Can you say to yourself, “You poor thing, you’re cold. frustrated. How can this pose care for you”?

I was incredibly cold. I kicked myself for not having my fleece in my yoga bag and debated whether it was worth venturing out in the rain to grab it from my room. Arrow lunge felt agonizing. But I stayed. I kept breathing. Midway through the class, the rain stopped, the wind died down, and the tent began to warm up. Just as sadness, frustration, or whatever emotion it is can pass, so to can the rain. And we can breathe through it.

Top 10 Ana-isms from the Wind Horse Conference

Photo credit: Forrest Yoga

10. Forrest Yoga is about feeling

9. If you’re leg is quivering, congratulations! You’re moving energy.

8. Ask yourself, “What can I do in the pose? What part of this pose can I do?”

7. Yes, I said put the block on your crotch. Crotch, crotch, crotch

6. Those of you cranking your neck up to the ceiling, this is a particularly ugly ceiling to look at. Nothing to see here. Relax your neck

5. Don’t try to do it perfectly without a mistake because that would be a mistake

4. Many of us look for other people to do us. Learn to do yourself. You can take that however you like.

3. Some of you are using your neck to get in the pose. Good try, but wrong set of muscles

2. Re-shaping your mind is one of the best kinds of flexibility

1. When you are feeling like you aren’t enough, can you accept that for the mental racket it is? It’s just not true. Let where you are be enough.

 

You can check out some of my past Top 10 Ana-isms here and here.

Wind Horse Conference! PS: I’m Scared


It’s hard for me to believe that it is mere days before I leave for the Wind Horse Conference, the first ever Forrest Yoga conference. I’m going to get to meet up with old friends, connect with many people who I’ve only heard of or met online, and take classes with senior teachers that I’ve always wanted to learn from. It’s amazing and I am excited.

And I’m scared.

Perhaps it would be logical that I would be scared about all the yoga that I’m going to be doing: three 2-hour workshops a day. But after completing Ana’s foundation and advanced teacher training, this amount of yoga seems like small potatoes by comparison.

No, what has me scared is being around so many people all day, all evening, and all weekend long. Which doesn’t make much sense. After all, I’m a very outgoing person. I get really energized from being around people. Plus, I was around people all day in the aforementioned intense and rigorous 24-day foundation training. But here’s the difference: at the end of each training day, I could go home and be alone if I wanted to. At Wind Horse, there’s dinner and evening ceremonies each night. Everyone stays in the lodges. That means people are around me for a long time.

Even when I’m having a great time in social situations, there’s this rising sensation in me that is wary of having it go on too long.  At a certain point, part of me wants to go escape and be in a little hole all by myself. There’s my fear that if others were to be around me for too long they’d see right through to the real me. Then maybe no one would want me around. They’d be shaking their heads that they could ever have had such a false, favorable impression of me.

I realize how ridiculous a lot of this sounds as I put it in writing. Still it remains a very real fear in me. Since Forrest Yoga is all about facing up to what we fear, this conference is an opportunity to face up to what scares me.

While I was thinking about the conference, I got curious and looked into the Native American tale about the Wind Horse. It’s a beautiful story, but there was one part that struck a cord in me:

The Boy, who had no name, could not believe that this beautiful Horse would come to him as a friend. All his life he had lived alone, for with his bad leg no one wanted him. As he rode the wind on the horse, he could feel the good feeling that Wind Horse felt. It was as if he were whole and that he was with family.

It occurred to me that in spite of my fears, this beautiful Wind Horse, like the Wind Horse of legend, has come to me as a friend. I will be with family: the Forrest Yoga community. And I can feel the good feeling it is to be a part of it.

Yoga Journal Conference San Diego Day 3: Forrest Yoga Celebrate Your Practice

Image credit: Cleavland Groove via Yoga Journal

It’s amazing how the third day of getting up at 4:30 AM can start to feel normal. Today we prepared for the morning’s workshop: Celebrate Your Practice.

Backbends were the order of the day. Which meant many juicy lunges of more varieties than you thought were possible, getting into places in your thighs and hips you didn’t know existed. This being Forrest Yoga, you know there were also a lot of abs. Throughout the weekend, I got to meet several Forrest Yoga teachers and reconnect with a few folks that I knew from my teacher trainings. Having them in class only added to my enjoyment of being there to assist.

I was sad this was the last workshop as I felt like I was just starting to get into a groove with assisting. Just as in yoga, you are challenged as an assistant to move out of a place of thinking into a place of feeling. Ana caught me at one point getting caught up in thinking, hesitating as to what student to attend to next. “Put your hands on someone,” she said to me. That did the trick–from there on out, I felt very connected and moving more intuitively, sensing for where an assist would be helpful. I found it to be an ongoing process of keeping a wide perspective on the room, but at the same time narrowing your focus in on the more subtle details of a pose.

I learned a lot from assisting with Brian. Brian would calmly observe the room for a few moments, sense someone whose energy was blocked in some way and go in for the assist. He is a brilliant body worker and anatomist so it was instructive to watch him out of the corner of my eye as he worked with students. It’s a skill to be able to see and read the energy of students, not just whether or not their feet are in the right place (although that is important too). My ongoing intent is to tap into and continually strengthen the kind of energetic seeing of which Ana and Brian are so masterful.

Following my own seeing, I did a neck assist during savasana for a student who I had observed had a lot of tension in her neck. After class she came up to me and said, “I don’t know how you sensed what I needed, but my neck feels amazing. It feels so much better.” Needless to say, I left the workshop on a high note. Helping to facilitate an experience where people can find relief and even delight in their yoga practice, well, that’s something to celebrate.

 

 

 

Yoga Journal San Diego Conference Day 2: Revitalizing Arm Balances and Inversions

The inchworm only looks innocent
Image credit: http://nopsa.hiit.fi/

Saturday was a nonstop conference whirlwind! Right after the early AM practice, we were off to back-to-back workshops followed by Ana’s book signing.

The morning practice was rough for me. I can do some pretty advanced poses in my practice, but the class we did incorporated some of my most challenging poses. Ana introduced us to a new pose called inchworm. It was a pose that did not look like it should be that hard, and yet it left me frustrated and pissed off that I couldn’t do it. In some ways, my frustration was a good thing as it gave me an understanding of how students might be feeling when trying the pose.

Ana kicked things off with an Arm Balances and Inversions workshop that brought a packed room full of intermediate and some very advanced yogis itching for some serious arm balancing. They were not disappointed. Handstand straddle, scissors, and insect on a windshield, were among the poses making up the sweaty upside-down goodness. I enjoyed watching some very accomplished students moving into some beautiful poses. My favorite part was spotting a student up to handstand and helping another get the hang of twisting scissors pose.

And yes, Ana taught inchworm pose. My frustration came up again as Ana and the other assistant demoed the pose. “I should be able to demo this too,” I scolded myself. I observed many of the students, even those who were executing advanced inversions, struggling with inchworm.

Later Ana said something to the class that was almost as if she was speaking to me directly, “When you are shown advanced options of a pose, some of you may be going into internal dialogue of criticism and self-judgement. Can you choose not to go there and instead get fascinated by what version of the pose you can do?”

Revitalize Your Health and Well-Being was next up. Ana had students pick a spot in the body in need of revitalization as a place to focus on and brighten up through the practice. She led the class deep into the hips with poses like twisting shoelace, bird of paradise, and cross-bow. Students were pretty cooked (especially the ones that had been in class with Ana on Friday or in the first Sat. workshop). The challenge for me as an assistant was negotiating the right amount of push: encouraging students to stay with the pose and ride the breath through the intensity, but also honoring their limitations when they’d had enough.

Image credit: Cleavland Groove via Yoga Journal

Ana’s book signing was a success! In fact, she had to stop signing as they sold out of copies of her book, Fierce Medicine. I recognized a number students who’d been in one of the workshops in line to buy the book. After experiencing some fierce medicine firsthand, it was heartening to see them inspired to receive another big dose through the book.

 

Yoga Journal San Diego Here I Come

Getting ready to head to Yoga Journal San Diego where I’ll be assisting Ana Forrest for her workshops. The up-side of the long car ride down there is that I don’t have to worry about packing light! There’s a lot of gear when there’s sweaty yoga going on!

The big things on my packing list:

  • 4 pairs tie-dyed yoga pants, plus 2 other pairs of yoga pants
  • Bright yoga tops
  • Mat
  • Strap
  • Block
  • Rolled-up mat
  • Large water bottle
  • Laptop (for blogging the event!)
  • Deodorant
  • Notebook & pen
  • Forrest Yoga Teacher Training Manual for reference
  • Awesome hubby willing to drive down with me AND shuttle me to conference in the wee hours. That’s love for ‘ya.

Stay tuned for more updates from San Diego!

I’m assisting Ana Forrest at the Yoga Journal conference

Photo credit: Forrest Yoga

Wow. I just found out that I will be assisting Ana Forrest at the upcoming Yoga Journal conference in San Diego.

Holy crap.

Ana is my main yoga teacher and phenomenally skilled teacher and healer. To be a part of the energy she weaves in her workshops is an amazing experience as a student and I am beyond excited to take part this time as an assistant.

Ana is also hardcore. I’m not quite sure when she sleeps or if she ever gets tired. Rare is the week that she is not traveling somewhere conducting workshops or teacher trainings. and trust me, both of these are intense.

So what business does a person like me have assisting her? Can I really do this? Will I be able to do a good job assisting students–even in an all-day intensive? Despite my excitement, these are the kinds of questions running through my head.

It occurred to me today that I actually have a choice about being nervous. Ok, maybe not about whether I feel nervous, but what I do with that feeling. I can be nervous and spin into self-doubt. Or I can acknowledge, “Yup, I’m scared and nervous” and choose differently. What if I tapped into my nervous energy and directed it towards dedicating myself to being 100% present to the best of my ability to the students, Ana, and the assistant team? What if I decided to believe, or at least act as if, I can be a great assistant? And what if, just maybe, I exceeded what I thought were the limitations of what I could accomplish?

 

 

Get on your wind horse this August


If you’ve ever been to a class with Ana Forrest, you know it is not your typical yoga class.

The Wind Horse conference is not your typical yoga conference.

Wind Horse is the first-ever international Forrest Yoga conference. Held this year from August 17-20 at Snow Mountain Ranch, out in the Colorado Rockies (outside Denver, Colorado), the conference brings together Forrest Yoga teachers, students, or anyone just curious about yoga.

It’s a chance to take classes from the Forrest Yoga guardians. Guardians are a group of hand-selected individual teachers for whom Ana has chosen to carry on the Forrest Yoga lineage. Being a guardian takes a truly special person and involves no small amount of dedication, skill, and hard work. At the conference, you’ll be able to experience the teaching flavors of different guardians and see how they have infused the Forrest Yoga tradition with their own unique spirit and approach. If you want a little sneak preview of some of the good guardian stuff in store, go read guardian teacher, Erica Mather’s moving blog post on why you should attend.

Forrest Yoga incorporates many elements of Native American medicine and ceremony. Wind Horse offers the rare opportunity to experience Ana’s Native American Medicine brother and sister, the Native American Medicine chiefs, Alex Turtle and Chenoa Egawa who will be leading participants in ceremony.

So what does the name of the conference, “Wind Horse” mean? In Forrest Yoga terms, wind horse means riding your breath into vision quest and the great mystery of your self. In practical terms, that often means that moment in class where you think you can’t hold that dolphin pose any longer or you couldn’t possibly breathe any deeper and your mind and body both want to bail. It’s the point where your regular horse is physically and emotionally pooped and wants to retreat. That’s when you have to call upon the wind horse and ride it even when you think you can’t. It’s at those moments of intensity where you go deeper and crack open these areas in yourself you might not have even known you had.

Most conferences will tell you in their brochures and informational materials what to expect from the various sessions and what your take-aways will be. At Wind Horse, you only know that you will dive into and explore some powerful medicine. Beyond that, you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen or how it’s going to go. There’s no telling what surprises, challenges, or insights might surface for you. As Ana puts it, “I don’t know how it will work specifically for you, but it will work in a good way because that is how Good Medicine works. (PS, that is part of the juiciness and why it’s called a Great Mystery– we don’t know!)”

If you’re ready to dive into the Great Mystery that is Wind Horse, register away! Early bird registration ends May 31st. Check out further information on lodging, travel, scheduling, and other details here. You can also to join the Wind Horse Facebook group which is a great way to connect with other attendees, find lodging roommates, talk travel plans, etc.

Giddy Up Wind Horse!

Snow Mountain Ranch