After a string of teachers telling her she wasn’t good enough for yoga, Natalie Edwards learned to listen to her body, who turned out to be the best teacher of all…

When I first started practicing yoga a few years ago, I was always left feeling out of my depth. I was told I wasn’t flexible enough and was advised not to go into certain poses due to my scoliosis. Whilst students around me were doing the perfect Wheel backbend or launching up into handstand, I was told to ‘sit this one out’. After several teachers telling me this, not surprisingly I stopped practicing and decided I’d be better off sticking to swimming or other regular exercise I already knew how to do.

That was until I met Charlie Speller, my first Forrest yoga teacher, who completely changed my outlook on yoga, and exercise for that matter. Charlie focused on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t and worked with me to show me that by learning to listen to what was going on in my body I could actually deepen my yoga practice to a degree that other teachers told me I would never be able to (I am now doing wheels and handstands no problem). This is the foundation of Forrest yoga, learning to connect with feeling deeper inside, listening to what your body is telling you, and focusing on building on what you can do rather than what you can’t, making it an incredibly empowering and accessible practice for everyone.

Ana Forrest developed Forrest Yoga over 40 years ago after practicing different types of yoga herself but finding that a lot of them were prone to injuries. She took her first yoga class at the age of 14 as a dare and was a qualified instructor by age 18. She wanted to create a yoga practice for the modern world, one to cope with people’s stresses and challenges and one to help people embody their true spirit, enabling them to work through their life’s challenges and heal themselves from within.

Forrest yoga has a huge emphasis on breath and core work, and students are challenged to learn to move energy through their bodies using the breath to do this. It’s a grounding, healing practice, but is also very physically challenging and motivating, so there’ll be no hanging in downward dog or relaxing in child’s pose in a Forrest class! Ana likes to keep her students moving, and therefore it’s a great workout! You’ll leave a Forrest class feeling refreshed, reenergised and inspired!

Forrest yoga is becoming increasingly popular in the UK as people look for more from their yoga practice. Expect a Forrest class to be different each week, you’ll never be bored and it’s always a mental as well as physical workout, sometimes even an emotional roller coaster on the mat as you deepen your practice with Forrest and are able to shift emotions which are ‘stuck’ as Ana refers to them as being.

Before I went away on my training, my teacher Charlie told me to get ready for some tears and some amazing emotional breakthroughs. ‘Tears?’ I said, very confused. I didn’t really understand what she meant until I’d got deeper into the Forrest teachings, but once there I finally understood and fully embraced the practice. During our intensive classes in the mornings with Ana, which were also open to the public to attend, it wasn’t unusual for each of us to often have a breakdown or a little cry in the middle of a yoga pose. That sounds insane to most, but during a Forrest yoga class the poses are held for much longer than usual, allowing students to really connect to what’s going on inside their bodies, unwinding years of stress and tension, and working through it on the mat. Ana encourages her students to ‘stalk their fear’. So when a pose becomes intense, rather than running away from it, you face it head on and breathe through it, working out what’s really making you afraid of the feeling the pose is giving you. It’s the most liberating feeling once you’re through with the class, and it’s this focus and intensity that’s made me a fan of the Forrest practice. Not only is my body stronger than it’s ever been, but Forrest has also taught me so many lessons that I use both on and off my mat, and whilst not all of them are easy things to do – being true to yourself and learning to face your fears head on for instance – they are certainly helping me become a better person and go deeper within myself to find out what it is I really want and need in life.

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not all intense and certainly not always serious! Forrest classes are as playful as they are challenging and there are now several very experienced Forrest teachers within the UK with many studios now offering Forrest as part of their weekly program, including the new Life studio in Shoreditch, London. So go and give one of the classes a try and I’d love to hear your feedback, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

If you’d like to find out more visit www.yogawithnatalie.co.uk

Natalie is a Forrest Yoga teacher living in London, she completed her 200 hours of training with Ana at the beginning of this year.