Hi PYC yogis! I hope you’re all well! I’m writing this blog to explain a little more about Forrest Yoga, a style of practice that has hugely influenced my life and my teaching. I’m really happy to deliver another Forrest Yoga workshop at PYC on 20th May and I would love to see you there.
Simply put, Forrest Yoga is a style of practice created by Ana Forrest, who, after studying with world-renowned yogis such as B.K.S. Iyengar and spending time with indigenous tribes in America, developed her own approach to deal with her traumatic life experiences. This, in turn, makes the practice brutally honest, and one that can be deeply healing both physically and emotionally – if you let it.
If you are interested in Ana’s incredible life and how she turned it around, I recommend her book Fierce Medicine. In her own words, “I developed Forrest Yoga as I was working through my own healing. I took poses and modified or created new ones to address today’s lifestyle physical ailments… Through Forrest Yoga you get your physical health and strength and also a place in which to welcome your Spirit back home. And by this, I do not mean a spiritual practice but rather being your authentic self.”
When I first joined the Forrest Yoga Teacher Training I didn’t know it would be such an emotionally intense experience. Having not gone through the traumatic life experiences Ana or other trainees had, I wondered if the practice would apply to me. Yet, I came to realise pretty quickly that I too had been feeling an urge to connect in a deeper way to life – but aren’t we all?!
So, for me, Forrest Yoga became a practice of relationship – first to myself, to my breath, to how I feel, to the earth/sky/sun…then to others. Every day. We all want to lead a life that is whole and connected, that is not dictated by fears or insecurities, and I believe Forrest Yoga is a transformative practice that gives us the tools needed to clear all the bullshit that hardens us so we can walk (as Ana says it) in a ‘Beauty way’ – to walk through life in a healing way.
What makes Forrest Yoga unique compared to other Vinyasa practices?
Unlike more traditional forms of yoga we do not maintain a ‘flow’ in a Forrest Yoga class. Instead, we practice in a slightly heated room where the teacher slows down the pace to encourage students to hold the poses for longer than the usual five breaths. As a result, students are not rushed through asanas (such a wonderful feeling!) and have plenty of time to go on a quest to connect and feel. Forrest Yoga is known for emphasising core strength – if you haven’t experienced the joys of Forrest Yoga abs, you’re in for a treat! We work with the core at the beginning of class to bring focus to the centre to stay connected and keep moving from that place throughout the class. The practice is intelligent and the poses are carefully sequenced with the aim of guiding students through a journey – whether physical, mental or both! Another signature move is to work with a relaxed neck, picture Trikonasana with a completely relaxed neck (like in my photo above)… It’s a pretty weird feeling at first, but I absolutely love it now.
If you’re interested in slowing down your Vinyasa, learning how to authentically connect and bring life to your practice – and get insane core strength along the way (ha!) – jump on board!
See you on the mat!
Lately the news has been full of stories about mindfulness and the Government is starting to trial mindfulness programmes as part of the curriculum in state schools. But what is ‘mindfulness’ and why do children need it?
Mindfulness is training one’s mind to pay attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental and curious way. It develops three core skills – concentration, helping to understand one’s feelings, and sensory clarity. It has been proven to reduce stress, depression and help with emotional regulation in adults and children.
But how does it do this? Yogis have long known about the power of the breath and with mindfulness training there is an emphasis on breath awareness, co-ordinating movement with the breath and using breathing techniques to calm down and control impulses. Children are taught techniques for relaxation and getting to know their own ‘monkey mind’ and how to concentrate more effectively.
In the children’s yoga classes at TPYC there is a strong element of mindfulness in everything we do. Each class begins with breathing techniques and an emotional ‘weather check’. Breathing is co-ordinated with movement in sun salutations and other poses and children are encouraged to notice the sensations in their bodies. The interactions between students are full of kindness – competition is discouraged and students work at their own pace to put in their best effort. And finally, every class ends with a guided relaxation/ meditation where the children ‘float up in the clouds’ or ‘fly with magical birds’, for example. They leave the class very relaxed and centred.
But classes are not the only thing you can do for your children. Practicing mindfulness at home will greatly help them and you. Take time to notice things around you – smell, see, feel, eat slowly, pay attention to the present. Sometimes less is more. Encourage your kids to notice their breathing. Any pranayama practice from class can be worked on at home – count your breaths, try to make them audible, feel your breath in your chest and tummy. And we all need more savasana time in our lives! Model self-care for your kids by sitting still or lying down for 5 minutes with some gentle music or a guided relaxation. Kids love the Calm Kids meditation CDs- great for kids struggling to sleep at night.
Make mindfulness a part of your family’s life and you will see the reward of happier, more focused and calm children.
Kids yoga classes at PYC are on Tuesdays at 4:45pm (ages 5-7) and Wednesdays at 4:45pm (ages 8-12). The all-level adult class is on at the same time in the studio below. You can sign up your kids for a full term (10 weeks) for £90.
The City Actuarial Systems Developer turned yogi began his yoga journey back in 2002 as a means of injury prevention. David first found yoga via Bikram. His love for the physical and mental balance of the class later served as a springboard for three yoga teacher training courses: 200h training in Ashtanga Vinyasa and Rocket, 50h Advanced Rocket, and 100h Yin with The Yoga People. Not one to do things half-heartedly David is heading off to Goa in March to do 100h Mandala, and another 50h Rocket in May. Safe to say that he has definitely got the yoga bug!
We are now stocking Rawreos – the delicious brainchild of Embrace the Cake’s founder Beckie Bird. Rawreos are just one of many cleverly named and healthy takes on some of the most popular unhealthy snacks – oreos, snickers and pecan pie amongst others. Naturally, all of the products
Naturally, all of the products are free from refined sugar, dairy and gluten, and packed full of 100% natural ingredients. With only gluten free oats, cashew nuts, dates, coconut oil & nectar, almond milk, vanilla extract and either cacao powder or lucuma powder, these healthy bites pack quite the nutritional punch, leaving you satiated for hours compared to store bought oreos that contain high quantities of fructose sugar, cornstarch and palm sugar, all of which contribute to the dreaded ‘sugar crash’.
So how did Beckie come up with this brilliant idea? She tell us – “I set up Embrace the Cake in 2015 after moving back to the UK from New Zealand. I adopted a much healthier lifestyle whilst living in New Zealand and realised I had a real addiction to sugar. With so many wonderful healthy cafes over there it was a great place to start learning about how to fuel my body with real food and cut out the refined stuff! I figured if I wanted to keep eating dessert and treats I would have to experiment and fill them with satisfying whole foods. I documented everything on Instagram and over time became obsessed with creating the most indulgent desserts that were made with simple natural ingredients. Fast forward a year, I moved back to the UK and found a real lack of good quality refined sugar- free treats so decided to follow my dream and set up a business to help others to embrace cake as much as I do!
You can find both the original and salted caramel varieties in our refrigerator. We think they are the perfect healthy snack option to get you through until your next meal.
You may have noticed that many of the wellness cognoscenti have swapped their post-yoga coconut water for birch water. But what exactly is birch water? In simple terms, it is pure sap from birch trees. And while it may still be somewhat new to the UK, there is nothing new about birch water. We wanted to know more about this health elixir so we turned to Charlie, our TÅPPED supplier and yogi at PYC, to tell us more about birch water and what makes is so unique.
In Scandinavia and the Nordics tapping trees is a centuries-old springtime ritual, with people enjoying the vitamin and mineral rich birch sap as a cleansing and rejuvenating post winter tonic. Sourced predominantly from the forests of Finland, where TÅPPED works with local farmers and foresters, TÅPPED is the UK’s only birch water to be made with this high-quality Nordic birch sap.
What does this health elixir contain?
Birch water is naturally low in calories with only 4kcals per 100ml. A 250ml carton of TÅPPED’s Pure Organic Birch Water contains a mere 10 calories from naturally occurring fruit sugar. It also contains a long list of vitamins and minerals, including manganese, xylitol, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, natrium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, iron, natural fructose, glutamine, amino acids.
Why should you drink this superwater?
Based on our research, some of the stand out reasons include: it removes unwanted chemicals from the body 10 times faster than water, it hydrates faster than water and it has four times less sugar than coconut water. Some studies also suggest that it helps to eliminate cellulite and prevent cavities. While all of these claims have not yet been scientifically proven, our own PYC tests confirm that it tastes great!
We offer TÅPPED in three distinct flavours: Apple & Root Ginger, Original and Bilberry & Lingonberry.
Many paint an incomplete picture of the core, associating the core only to the commonly sought after aesthetic of a well-defined ‘six pack’. In truth, the abdominals form only one of several components that make up the core. The core is essentially the whole central chunk of the body, allowing functional movement in all three planes of motion as well as being a stabiliser and force transfer centre. Imagine your core as the sun and your limbs as beams of light radiating off this centre.
I have been teaching a kids class at the Power Yoga Company for over a year now and the more I teach the more I learn from the children.
When I was asked to write a blog entry I thought for a long time about what I would say, and I couldn’t decide… should I share the benefits of yoga for kids, or my thoughts on the importance of keeping the classes dynamic and fun? Well yes, I could, but what I really want to talk about is comparison and competition.
As adults we constantly compare and contrast; we measure ourselves against other people, and we are bombarded with so much choice in everything – which brands to buy in the supermarket, what clothes to wear, which route to take to work – in everything we do. For children life is very different – there is not much choice in their everyday lives, so much is mapped and planned for them. From how to get to school and at what time, their timetables at school, what they eat, to what time they go to bed. The adults in their lives make most of the decisions. But children are still subjected to comparison and competition just as adults are. They compare themselves academically in class, they compete for attention from the adults in their lives, and they measure themselves against their peers in sport.
So what does this have to do with yoga?
Well in yoga there is no competition, there is no measuring or clamour (except when everyone is excited about a yoga game). Instead, everyone is encouraged to do as much as they want to and to make suggestions for the enjoyment of the whole class. The games we play aren’t competitive, they are collaborative. There is no “I’m better than her” but sometimes there is “I’m better than last week”.
The partner poses we practise are reliant on both children giving it a go and seeing what they can do. Each of us has our favourite breath exercise but there is no prize for the best breathing! Relaxation or Savasana is as important in a kids’ class as it is in an adult one. It is often hard to lie still and let go, to let the mind drift and the body relax, to just be, but the children often tell me it is their favourite part of the class.
It is crucial for children to just be – no hurry, no worry, no comparisons or competition and yoga can supply this. What a gift.
Serena Lillingston teaches yoga for kids aged 8 – 11 years on Wednesdays at 4:45. To find out more about Serena, visit her website.