Recently I graduated from a Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training Course. The experience was incredible – emotional, exhausting and inspiring in equal measure. Here are five of the changes I’ve already made to my yoga practice as a result.

1. I’ve stopped torturing my neck.

“Relaxed neck” is a common cue in Forrest Yoga, and it felt alien to me. Relax my neck? As in let it my head actually hang down rather than crane my neck at a weird angle in order to get the “correct” drishti (gaze point) for the pose? Despite my initial reluctance, I found it felt really, really good. Try it – next time you’re in extended side angle pose or half moon, rather than forcing yourself to gaze up or into your hand, relax your neck instead. See how much nicer that feels? I love it, I’m teaching it, there’s no going back.

2. I love core work even more now.

Since I was about 11 years old, when my ballet teacher told us sit ups would help our balance in pirouettes, I’ve loved core strength work. But on my training, I realised that I’d barely scratched the surface. The precise, refined, and relentless (!) cues of Forrest Yoga abs seriously put me through my paces, and left me so much more connected with my inner strength. Now I do them every day. This is the video that’s my “go-to” online Forrest Yoga core practice, if you want to try it yourself.

3. I also know how to relax my belly.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t habitually suck my belly in. My ballet teacher told us to do it, my vanity and desire to have a flat stomach told me to do it, and my yoga practice prior to Forrest training was all “uddiyana bandha” and “draw your belly in and up”. So I’ve always done it. But for all Forrest Yoga’s focus on abs, the core work is an intentional practice, and they don’t encourage you to hold your belly tight all the time. In fact, in my third class, one of the intentions was to practise with a soft and spacious core. Even more than the neck thing, this felt uncomfortable. I don’t think I actually knew how to let my belly relax. But once I adjusted, it completely changed how I felt physically and emotionally.

4. I keep my lower back healthy.

I now use yoga to not only “fix” my chronic lower back pain when it flares up (it’s an old compression injury), but to heal it. The Forrest Yoga abs help a lot, but I’ve also learnt techniques such as back traction for creating space in my lower back. What’s more, I’m recognising my  tendency to jam tension into my lower back, and I’m learning to strengthen and stabilise my pelvis instead.

5. I’ve (almost) stopped punishing my body.

I want to finish on a high, but I have to admit that this one is a half truth still. After  years of abusing my body with disordered eating and exercise addiction, softness and ease are concepts I seem to need to learn again and again. What I am finding is that when I get on my yoga mat, I’m starting from a place of “having my own back.” If something’s hard, I’m breathing, not fighting through it. If a pose causes pain, I’m pulling away, then exploring what’s going on. And if something feels delicious, I’m staying there. It’s a work in progress, but even that, I think I’m learning to accept. There are some things that just take us a bit longer!

If this Forrest Yoga thing sounds like something you might be interested in exploring, watch this space, as I’ll be leading my first Forrest-Inspired Yoga workshop on Saturday 24th March 2018 at Akasha Yoga Centre. Drop me an email at info@52.209.252.246 to book your place.