I have been eager for awhile to practice the relatively recent Forrest yoga class added to Indaba Yoga’s timetable. While the regular teacher is away, today I had the opportunity to go to the class covered by Dan Matovou.
I have practiced only twice with Ana Forrest and this was almost 10 years ago, but even knowing a little bit about the Forrest yoga method and not having any specific expectations about the class, it somehow wasn’t what I expected. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I do recall having a sense that a decade ago the method was a challenging and transformational practice. My experience of the class today was that it had the potential for transformation and many of the elements were set up well by the teacher. Despite this, the overall experience stopped a little short, and as a result I found myself slightly irritated without the breakthrough that can happen in these transformational practices.
The class started with ‘core strengthening’ exercises and pranayama, including kapalabhati and agni sara with bahya kumbhaka (exhale retention). Whether or not this was intended to bring out the ‘fire’ or not, I did find myself a little agitated within the first ten minutes or so. In our first downward dog, Dan guided us to our intention, observing our thoughts and emotions as we try something different or in a different way. This resonated deeply with me, and I did my best to be aware of this and to follow the teacher’s instruction rather than practicing asanas in the way that is natural and regular for me. In other words, I was conscious of my ego playing up, and it put up a good fight; in fact, this was my big challenge throughout the class. While it was an asana class and many of the poses were similar to those I practice regularly, the Forrest method emphasizes small details in a way that other methods I practice don’t. I’m not proficient enough in my knowledge of the method to understand why Ana has developed her style in this way, but I’m sure there is a good reason. She is a celebrated and seasoned practitioner and teacher, and has integrated her lifelong experience of asana, bodywork and alternative therapies into her method. One example of this detailed and specific instruction is to keeping the toes off the floor, which did not feel very good on my hallux or the hallucis muscle group that I have problems with frequently cramping up (I have been told I have very curly toes). There was a moment in reverse warrior that Dan instructed me to bend my back leg and ease way off my front leg so that is was nearly unbent. I went with it, but remained confused about what he saw in my misalignment that suggested that kind of extreme adjustment out of the posture. Despite my confusion over this and some of the fine points of the method, I remain curious. The class was interesting, and will be one I try again.
There are different yoga classes designed for different purposes. There are classes that feel good or enable relaxation without provoking the practitioner, and others that force us to have a look at our ‘stuff’. I can imagine that practicing this method regularly wouldÂ invite a transformational journey inward that resonates deeply for some.