Last week I had a bit of a yoga book haul, finally getting my hands on the nigh-on essential Yoga Anatomy alongside Kino MacGregor’s the Power of Ashtanga and Ana Forrest’s Fierce Medicine. Fierce Medicine was published in 2011, but it really caught my eye recently. Unlike Yoga Anatomy, which is very much a factual textbook, Fierce Medicine is partly autobiographical, taking you through Ana’s life in her journey towards founding Forrest Yoga, alongside yoga tips and short sequences.
Forrest yoga has become a global form of yoga with a large following. It is described as a powerful form of yoga with an emphasis on emotional and external healing. Whilst influenced by traditional healing practices and has certain spiritual connotations (Ana refers to the “Great Spirits”, with religion or faith being ambiguous), Forrest Yoga has been designed with the modern yogi in mind, helping to heal addictions and modern ailments in a way that appeals to a wide audience. Ana’s life’s work is to “heal the loop of people”, referring to a Native American way of thinking. I have associated the style with practitioners of all ages usually able to perform strong physical asanas.
Whilst any international yoga teacher is likely to have an interesting story, I was not prepared for the wild, transformative journey that Ana had been on. From a childhood of alcohol, smoking and drugs, Ana became a yoga teacher at the tender age of 18, which enabled her to find sobriety. It wasn’t plain sailing from there unsurprisingly, but over the intervening years Ana travelled as she studied yoga and healing, largely influenced and taught by Native American groups.
The starkness of Ana’s younger years, followed by the richness of her life really took my breath away. Far from gaining a few qualifications and then opening up a new studio (not that that is easy, either) Ana has really grafted and grown to become an experienced, intuitive teacher with a unique insight. I found myself totally hooked, and the book cover to cover on my train journeys to and from London last week. The yoga sections are focused on postures to help with specific ailments of target areas, which I found to be in useful bitesized amounts, especially as I was keen to read more of Ana’s story as the book went on. There’s also a couple of sections that are based around meditation or really getting into your own head, but I’ve left these book marked as I felt they needed a more private and safe space than a busy train carriage.
Until now, I hadn’t really considered practicing Forrest Yoga, but now I would be really keen to have a go. I kept wanting to come back to the book for the first few days after reading it, as if there would be more stories to captivate me. This book is as much a telling of a story as it is an explanation to the concepts and philosophies behind a powerful form of movement and connectivity. Read it if you want to lose yourself for a while in the honesty of someone else’s life, but leave if you want a more straight forward yoga book with many series of postures. Ana does talk about her spiritual, or other worldly experiences, so do pick up the book with an open mind (or pinch of salt, depending on your scepticism and personal beliefs). There’s little I can fault the book with, hooked by it as I was. Reading about how Forrest Yoga came into being whilst listening to Nahko and Medicine for the People totally transported me far, far away from the stretch of railway I was travelling along. It changed my way of thinking, enlivened my passion for yoga and, for a moment, took me into another world, and I couldn’t ask for more than that.