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Igniting the Spirit
No one forgets an encounter with Ana Forrest. Her spirit burns with adventure, strength, and contagious creativity. She is a trailblazer, and she isn't afraid to live life on her own terms. An internationally recognized figure in yoga and health, Ana pioneered her own branch of yoga named Forrest Yoga, born from the suffering and healing she experienced within her own life. This rigorous and intensive practice challenges all aspects of the self and is founded on the four pillars of Breath, Strength, Integrity, and Spirit. We are so honored that this powerhouse has joined the KiraGrace Inspiration Team, and we're thrilled to introduce to you the following interview with the amazing Ana Forrest:
KiraGrace: Why were you given the namesake of the tiger and how do you relate to the spirit of the tiger?
Ana Forrest: As a child I had a recurring dream of standing in the deep forest with my hand over a tiger’s shoulder and a four-line scar on my very dusty left thigh. I had been marked by the tiger. I was watching the people of the village slaughter each other in a war. We turned and walked into the forest. The dream varies a little bit, but as long as I’m with the tiger, I’m safe and I have a future. I took on the name tiger based on the tiger in my dream accepting me as kin. There’s a piece of a William Blake poem that I held as my personal power poem: ‘Tiger, tiger burning bright. In the forest of the night.’ My tiger Spirit was the best part of me.
KG: Forrest Yoga is so unique because of its attention to emotion and human spirit through the body. In your opinion, what is the kind of person who is drawn to your style of yoga?
Ana: I created Forrest Yoga for every ‘body’. For example, if you’re a gym fanatic or an intensity junkie, Forrest Yoga has something for you. It will make you sweat, detox and you’ll work every cell in your body. Our Forrest Yoga students love that intense level of vibrancy and care that they get from a Forrest Yoga class! We teach to feel fully — that’s very intense and delicious. We teach how to work in a way that is struggle-free and healing, that takes a lot of focus. Perhaps you have a tendency to ‘burn out’ — Forrest Yoga will help you to shift that patterning. Maybe you’re injured and you think you can’t exercise — you can do Forrest Yoga.
Forrest Yoga is not an ‘easy’ practice, but it’s for all ages and abilities. A beginner does beginner poses. An injured or sick person is taught to modify the poses for healing. An advanced person learns more advanced poses and how to go deeper into their Spirit journey. Our skilled instructors teach what is appropriate to the student.
No matter what your level or life challenges, you will earn many wonderful gifts in Forrest Yoga.
KG: You say that you don’t teach yoga to help people transcend but instead, you want to help people embody their Spirit and not live a fragmented, bereft life. What causes the spirit to become disconnected with the body and why is it such a risk to live life fragmented?
Ana: Our Spirit can be shocked out of our bodies — through physical or emotional traumas like abuse, heart break, or something like a car accident. A common malaise with people who have addictions is a disconnect with Spirit.
I’ve seen Spirits go quiescent — there, but silent. I’ve seen Spirits leave. Some Spirits come and go. My own Spirit was very elusive — it took years of hunting for me to find it! My authentic self had been smothered under layers of shame, guilt, fear and pain. I had to disrupt those layers before there was any room inside of me for my Spirit to live…Then I had to create a welcoming home for my spirit in my body. This took constant vigilance on my own habitual thinking and behaviours. I became aware of my foul thoughts or behaviour that would drive my Spirit off. At this point I had to make a warrior’s choice: between indulging in the seductive, addictive, negative behaviour, and the new unknown, of cleaning my thoughts and chemistry, and inviting my Spirit in on a daily basis.
My Forrest Yoga teachers and I pass on the tools that I’ve learned and honed so that others can navigate the winds of change and tend to their own inner wilderness. That way they can begin to live as their Spirit desires — a way that is exhilarating, fulfilling and fascinating. Don’t you want that for yourself?
The truth is, none of us know how long our life will be or when death will come for us. Each moment of aliveness becomes heartbreakingly beautiful. Don’t waste your life. Use your life for something that will make you proud of yourself. Aho!
KG: What drove you to not only find healing for yourself but become a healer in order to help others?
Ana: I once jumped off a cliff to end my suffering but impossibly didn’t die! I see this as the Sacred Ones’ intervention to save my life. Soon after, I made a jump for life. I leaped into a yoga teacher training course, leaving behind the horse world and who I had been…I was a horse trainer…addicted to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.
Another aspect of my healing was beginning to feel love for my students when I had no receptors for love at all. As I grew my receptors for love, my next step was cultivating personal relationships. I began to quest for love. Learning to love is one of my most advanced asanas… I am still learning new depths of that today.
I realized that my own healing— my moments of truth — could help others to deal with emotional and physical trauma, as well as teach them to quest into their own life adventure. That’s one of the reasons I wrote Fierce Medicine: Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit.
KG: You talk about how important it is to have a daily diet of delight. What do you put on your daily plate of delight and how does one find and incorporate this in their own lives?
Ana: Each morning I set my intent for what I want to create or bring into my day. For example, allotting time each day for my heart, Spirit and play. Sometimes I need to multi-task, i.e. I’ll jump on my motorcycle to go to a business meeting because riding my bike is play! One intent for this year is to learn how to walk with ease through my day and through challenging times. A daily intent this year is: ‘I will feel love move through me 3 times today’. I’m excited to quest for all the different ways that I can get love to move through me. I choose to focus my breath and actions to nourish and grow my neuroreceptors for love, joy, delight and ecstasy. My brain and Spirit love this! It’s easy for me to ‘get it up’, to generate love for others. This year, I’m working on getting it up for myself!
Another one of my favorite intents is to breathe and do my yoga in a way that lights up my whole brain, so that I can evolve into using my whole brain. I also want to teach more people how to romance their Spirit — that’s the topic for my 2014 book tour.
Incorporate these into your life and create your own daily diet of delight (do any or all of these!):
- Set the intent for something you want to carry through the day. i.e Hunt for different ways that give you a spark or tingle through the day.
- Deep breathing!
- Quest how to live in the truth versus your beliefs.
- Do daily yoga in a way that helps you wake up your aliveness and feed the flames of your inspiration.
- Take responsibility for designing your life into a masterpiece.
KG: What drove you to write Fierce Medicine? Do you see your book as another branch of your teaching? What is the benefit to this mode of teaching and communication for you?
Ana: I wrote Fierce Medicine with the deep desire that this book will touch people everywhere, especially the ones I don’t get to meet. I want my readers to use the tools in ‘Fierce’ that Iʼve created and discovered. THEY WORK! This book is the spiritual legacy of my life. Fierce Medicine contains the treasures that saved my life. This is my gift to you.
Fierce Medicine and Forrest Yoga teach people this: ‘Each of you is precious beyond words, you are worth caring for and fighting for. You embody a part of the Great Mystery. Live from this truth.’
KG: In our world, there’s an archetype for a successful woman - she runs her own empire, is the perfect mother, and looks like a supermodel all at the same time. To be honest, this seems very unachievable. But you’ve differentiated yourself from this constrictive mold and are a hugely aspirational model for many women in an unorthodox way. In a world where women are constantly being bombarded with images of what we should aspire to be, how did you navigate your own way?
Ana: We need to be around women that are living in a way that we admire and that we want to emulate. Who wants to emulate the housewife who is so exhausted that she’s grey and can barely get the job done. None of us want to become that anymore.
Here are my top ways on how to come into good relationship with our bodies:
- Deep breathing
- Do Forrest Yoga!
- Drink more water
- Eat foods that feed your vitality, not your addictions.
- Each day find one thing that’s worthwhile about your body, i.e. where is it strong, capable, or how about: you’re alive!
- Do lots of abdominals to clear the self-loathing and shit out of your core.
- Stop feeding yourself media poison about all the ways that you’re the wrong shape.
- Do something that feels good in your body daily and builds your luminosity from within. That’s fucking gorgeous!
I am putting out a call to all the women reading this: Stand next to your friends and encourage them. Do not indulge in gossip or tearing a person apart. Instead, be a warrior in truth about whatever discord is happening. Work together for a resolution.
KG: Who inspires you and do you look up to?
Ana: Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller, taught me how to be an extraordinary leader. She inspires her people to take action to help themselves and others.
Jose Calarco, the Creator and Director of ‘Descendance’ theatre and cultural programs is inspiring. He is helping the indigenous people of Australia. Through Descendance, they get to bring the deeply profound songs and dances of their people to the world, as well as getting meaningful employment. Descendance gives the Aboriginals involved hope for the future by connecting to, and literally dancing the ceremonial heart of their people. [Link to Descendance website: http://descendance.com.au ]
I have a personal pledge: To ignite my own inspiration and do my work from there and not indulge boredom. What keeps me going is my inspiration to fulfill my Spirit Pledge in doing my part in Mending (Healing) the Hoop of the People. When I do my work, I make a difference. That inspires me.
Aspire to inspire yourself daily. Have fun with that!
KG: What is one of your favorite places in the world?
Ana: I have a lot of favorite places! Here are a few:
Ana is an ordained practitioner of Native American Medicine, a Reiki Master, a Certified Regression Therapist, and a graduate of Anthony Robbins Master University. She is a Faculty Member at The University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic and sits on the Boards of F.A.R.E. Play (Foundation for Athletic Research and Education) and Earth & Sky Circle (organization for Native American Ceremony). She is the recipient of a Los Angeles Mayoral Commendation recognizing her outstanding teaching and healing work in the community, the first time a major U.S. city bestowed such an honor on a yogi or yogini. Ana is a regular contributor to Yoga Journal and a consultant to the USAF 48th Fighter Wing (RAF Lakenheath, UK), Exalted Warrior Foundation (Tampa, FL) and hiwecanhelp.org (Newcastle, UK). Learn more about Ana here: