Yoga by Ceci, Dacia and Gina in Rogers Park, Chicago IL

Break on Through







“A breakthrough is available to you in class today,” Ana Forrest will often say at the beginning of a workshop.  Breakthrough?  The uninitiated will look around wondering what the hell she means.  Those who have walked this path with Ana before cheer, groan, or cock an eyebrow: “who’s it going to be this time?”

Breakthroughs are common in the Forrest Yoga practice, and tears, shouts, screams and laughter all fall within the “ecstatic spectrum” that we tap into when we practice in such a visceral way, and Ana bids us to experience emotion openly on our mats.  These sounds, our emotive issuances, are indications of the power of the work that we do, and it is very common in Forrest workshops to hear a cacophony of sounds erupt from the floor as people begin to go deeper, seeking their “edge,” ultimately finding something unusual/painful/intense there in the shadows of their bodies.   As unique as the person experiencing it, a breakthrough is a piece of sequencing that presents you with “more than meets the eye…”  It is a moment of deep psycho-somatic (mind-body) connection.  In my experience, the breakthrough is a moment in which the language of the subconscious becomes physical sensation, like a bodily epiphany!

If you can imagine your yoga practice as an expedition through the meandering recesses of a mysterious cave, (your subconscious and/or your body) then a breakthrough is the moment when you turn the corner and see–gleaming through the darkness– a golden lamp, a cherry on top of a towering heap of treasure (the pose, the “aha!” moment).  This moment is so arresting, so awe-inspiring and wonderful, that it leaves you changed, not as you once were.  When you reach the lamp to make your 3 wishes, you surprise yourself by wishing for something completely different– instead of a mansion on a private island, you wish for an island of peace within yourself.  And that’s the paradigm shift.

There are as many ways to “break through” as there are people in a room.  Some people may feel a sensation of unwinding in a specific muscle, while others may feel an electric sensation throughout their entire body.  Certain types of release are so intense that the entire body will spasm in waves (look up “dural release” and have a gander at that type of breakthrough…WHOA).  Some people connect with memories that have been long captive in their bodies, and a certain intense pose will set them back to an earlier time in life, a feeling of childlike terror, wonder, or levity.  These breakthroughs often have a cascading effect within your practice–as you get more adept at “stalking your fear” (to use an Ana phrase) and more acquainted with your “shit,” breakthroughs become less like riding a roller coaster and more like a focused case study.  You become a more careful listener, alert for what these AHA! moments may be saying to you.  It becomes possible not only to track the sensations within a breakthrough, but also to generalize your feelings to your behavior in the rest of your life.  For instance, a reaction to working over the roll may have something to do with your sense of power, it could be a 3rd chakra wound, and it could mean that you incorporate more agnisara into your practice to bring healing energy to that area.  In my case, working over the roll caused me to revisit many beliefs I had regarding my eating disorder.  I cried when we would do back bends over the roll, and as I began to track those tears, I asked myself very specifically: “Why are you crying?” I realized I was crying in sympathy rather than in pain, in sorrow and not in anger.  I was crying for the girl who lost so many years without self-love.  It was one of the first moments when I began to feel compassion for myself.

Whether you are in ecstasy or you are in tears, breakthrough moments can teach us a great deal about our relationship to hardship and our patterns of coping.  They present us with an opportunity–within the safety of a yoga class, protected by your teachers– to engage your hips, your fears, your anger, your psoas muscle, your eating disorder, your sense of worth or worthlessness, whatever it may be, and develop a new way of interacting with it.  It is a paradigm shift predicated upon some energetic movement and most importantly, your reaction to that movement.  To harden and shut down?  Or to open and let light in?  Do you pursue the clues and get at what has troubled you, thwarted your happiness, your relationships, your love?  Or do you close your eyes and grit your teeth and endeavor to stay in the darkness?

There is an incredible feeling that I get at the end of a difficult practice, a clumsy, stoned and doe-eyed sense of lightness, as if I might float up to the ceiling if I were not weighed down by sweat and clothing.  It is, I think, the result of being cleared of something that no longer serves me, a melting of armor, an unraveling of tangled wires that releases me freshly into the world.  I feel…Open.  And what will I fill my open spaces with?  Ana reminds us that we have a choice.  The old patterns will be waiting eagerly outside of the studio door, or maybe by the water fountain…or closer.  But the first choice is yours.  I like to literally ask my spirit what it would like.  Once it very pointedly told me to go out and see the last Harry Potter movie.  Sometimes it says something ridiculous, like “Cheese.”

But do ask.  Your clarity at that moment may surprise you.

There are plenty of metaphors I could make here about “rubbing the lamp” or “seeking the diamond in the rough,” but one Disney reference will do for now!


As far as breakthroughs go, Ana Forrest is coming to Chicago for a monthlong Foundation Training and her morning practices are open to the public.  All you have to do is register on the turbodog website:

A breakthrough is available; go out and get it!!




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