What Happens When You Add Native American Medicine to Yoga?
For almost four decades, Ana Forrest has been teaching her unique style of yoga and emotional healing. The strongly physical, internally focused practice is also influenced by Native American medicine. Ana remarks, “I don’t teach yoga to help people to transcend. I want people’s Spirits to reside in their body. I literally want to help people embody their Spirit, not go through life fragmented.” Parvati Magazine’s Yoga Editor Ella Isakov, who is Forrest Yoga trained, recently spoke with both Ana and her partner, Medicine Man Jose Calarco, about transformation, ceremony and presence.
Parvati Magazine: In your book “Fierce Medicine” you write about the struggles you went through in your early years and how yoga was the catalyst for transformation. How did yoga change the ways you see the world and yourself?
Ana Forrest: Yoga helped me to find a reason to live and a purpose in life.
PMAG: Your teaching is informed by several healing modalities. What would you point to as the biggest influences on your approach?
AF: The Native American Ceremonies helped me to connect to my Spirit. Jose Calarco, my husband and co-teacher, has been my inspiration since we met in 2014. Jose has restructured and expanded the boundaries of Forrest Yoga both in and out of the yoga room. He brings teachings, songs and music from his thirty years of international experience with indigenous, Shamanic and artistic clans. These teachings appear honest and truthful. They resonate with my Spirit. Some of those teachings are:
Connection to Nature
Live with the awareness of being part of the Great Mystery
Help the tribe, give assistance where needed
Respect animals and Nature. They are the teachers.
That is why Jose and I weave the shamanic musical ceremony into Forrest Yoga and why we created ceremonies that we could bring to people on the yoga mat. We set up a sacred arena for our people to have the greatest love relationship of their lives… with their own Spirit.
PMAG: Having taken the Advanced Forrest Yoga training myself, I know you to be a fierce and direct teacher. You guide students through long, challenging practices that include shamanic ceremony, breathwork and meditation. What are you looking to amplify in your students through this process?
AF: One of the best ways for me to help teachers become extraordinary is to coach them to stop indulging in their bullshit. The Forrest Yoga trainings are specifically designed to get trainees to work through the internal chatter that often plays out in life as a lack of confidence, or arrogance, for example. Through breathwork, ceremony and yoga asana, we equip our teachers with some fantastic tools for life as well as for teaching. These tools help them to be their magnificent, authentic selves. Teaching from that place is much more exciting for the teacher and inspiring for their students.
I want our teachers and students to have a renewed sense of hope. To build the capacity to care and love. To use the tools they learn for healing and evolving. To grow in courage to make a difference in this world.
PMAG: You emphasize breath, energy and intuition in your teachings. Why these in particular, and how do they help your students become better yoga teachers in their own right?
AF: Without our breath, we are dead meat! Each individual has their own gifts and healing skills, including: running energy through their hands, seeing energy and therefore being able to assess more accurately how to teach their students, having a compassionate heart and learning to teach eloquently from that gift. We delight in discovering those gifts and developing them. As teachers get more skillful at nourishing themselves—breathing deeply, using their gifts and listening to their intuition—they begin to heal the neediness within. That makes them more whole human beings and more powerful teachers.
PMAG: Is there a guiding motto or principle that keeps you energized as you teach and heal others?
AF: I have many!
“Evolve or Die.” ~ Ana Forrest
“Does this action brighten or dim my spirit?” ~ Ana Forrest
“Love is the medicine for all afflictions.” ~ Jose Calarco
“Ride the rhythm and rhymes of the Universe, and sing to the cosmic winds.” ~ Jose Calarco
An internationally recognized pioneer in yoga and emotional healing, Ana Forrest weaves Native American ceremony into her classes and workshops. She is the author of “Fierce Medicine: Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit”. Forrest Yoga co-director Jose Calarco comes from a long history of shamanism and healing, as well as art and dance.