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
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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 Day 1: Journey to the Core Forrest Yoga Intensive

I wake up with a start.

“Oh no!,” I yell.

My husband jerks awake. “What’s wrong?”

“Do you realize what time it is?,” I scream. By now the whole hotel was awake. “IT’S 8:30 AND I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE AT THE CONFERENCE AT 5:30! THE SESSION STARTS IN HALF AN HOUR.”

“But Megan, it’s Thursday. The conference is on Friday.”

Luckily that was my nervous Wednesday night dream and not the real beginning of my conference experience. I’m happy to report that I was not late nor did I wake up the good people staying at the Sheraton San Diego. I arrived at the conference for my 5:30 AM practice with Ana Forrest and the other assistant, Brian Campbell, one of the Forrest Yoga Guardian teachers from Los Angeles.

The purpose of the early morning practice session is for us to practice one of the workshop sequences Ana is teaching during the day. It gives us all a chance to have the class in our body and get a sense of what we’ll be assisting with (and thinking ahead to props the students might need, modifications for beginners, etc.). It’s also an opportunity for Ana to tweak the class plan as needed.

Friday’s workshop was an all-day intensive, “Journey to the Core”, that consisted of a long morning session and an afternoon session after a lunch break. The fun part of this format was that we had mostly the same students for both sessions and it was a smaller group than the shorter conference sessions. That meant we were able to get around to everyone and give people a lot more hands-on attention.

The morning workshop went deep into backbends with all varieties of lunges and deep core work. Backbends are rough. In Ana’s classes, you get in deep with intense poses that demand a lot of internal focus.  As such, it was hard at first for me to gauge how students were responding to my assists. However, I could see the impact the poses were having. Looking around you could visibly see people releasing all kinds of tension and emotions.

In the afternoon, the workshop delved into the hips. Folks were definitely feeling the earlier backbend class, but going upside down in downward dog at the wall and handstands brightened everyone right up.

I felt so incredibly proud of everyone. They all worked so hard in the practices. It felt so gratifying to be a part of their inward journey (or as one student put it, “an odyssey”) as a guide to help steady them along their path. One woman looked as if a lightbulb got turned on internally and she walked out of there radiating a new sparkle.

People were so receptive and grateful. So many students came up and thanked me afterwards and several even commented on how much they enjoyed my assists. My aforementioned gratification overflowed.

After the workshop, San Diego sunshine and water called out, so Ana suggested a walk out by the water. As we walked, it became apparent to me how much Ana really walks (pun intended) the talk. In Forrest Yoga, you are constantly redirecting your attention to feeling and paying attention to what is happening. On our walk, Ana often pointed out interesting things, be it the trees with branches like curling snakes or paper-like bark or the boat skeleton being erected near the marina.

I realized how often I blow right by little details of life sometimes because I am too wrapped up in thinking and not being focused on the here and now. The whole day for me was a good lesson in remembering that I want to be truly present in my life for all those cool moments: a student releasing tension, an amazing tree that makes you want to climb it, and taking in this challenging new assisting experience.


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!