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

Windhorse: Perspectives Pt 1

It is almost a month after the Windhorse conference and after much self-reflection, we are prepared to offer some insights, perspectives and photos!  Like many significant events, Windhorse was a smorgasbord of emotion, and it has taken some time to reduce the emotional impact into poignant, literate concepts.  In the end it seemed like a dish best served in portions; so please enjoy your first course of the Windhorse 2012 Interview Series with Leah and Anna!

Anna, what was it like to share Windhorse with your students?  How did they feel about meeting your teacher?

It was a great joy to have my students there with me at the conference. It was their first yoga conference (mine too!), and their first time working with Ana. Windhorse was a great opportunity for them to see how it is still a practice for me as well: I don’t have all the poses down “perfectly”, sometimes I struggle with my focus or my breath (the first morning intensive, my brain was crying about my chapped lips and parched mouth, chiding me for forgetting the damn lip balm and water bottle on my bunk – that was an interesting hurdle for my focus), and the work can create a strong emotional response in me. Practicing together side by side, connecting from across the room to share a smile, and breathing together with this large group filled me with pride. They worked it out! Also, I really enjoyed planning and executing a “Chicago Loves Abs!” cheer during one of Ana’s workshops. Next year, we’ll be louder.  And make those t-shirts.  

Everyone I’ve spoken with so far has told me they had a great time! One student, Marc Arendt, shared his impression with me:

“I don’t think it’s important to meet Ana in person. Instead, I got to know her through her work with the people around her. That’s more reflective of who she really is—and more revealing.

I’ve worked with Forrest Yoga instructors in three cities now: Chicago, Vancouver, and now, Granby, Colorado, where the conference was [held]. What I’ve learned is that Forrest Yoga is meant to be a very safe way to heal and improve your relationship with your physical, emotional, mental, and energetic self. I’ve also learned that its instructors are the best trained, hardest-working, and most open-hearted I’ve ever met.
This reflects very well on Ana!”


Anna asks Leah:  What did having your brother and various generations of teachers there with you add to the experience? Did anything surprise you about sharing the experience with them?

I cannot emphasize enough how remarkable it is to share this Forrest journey with my little brother, Evan, and one of our first teachers from the West Coast, Janine Melzer.  Because I moved away from California and he stayed, the relationship between Evan and Janine has continued to evolve and it is a delight to watch how yoga can bind people together, unifying them out of shared interest even if many decades of experience lie between one person and the other.  Love, true fondness and affection for another person, changes the quality of the air around me and feeds my spirit just as deeply as taking a deep breath or rolling down a grassy hill, laughing my head off.  A light settles around all of the people in the room and shifts the energetic climate in a really positive way.  In that same vein, generations of teachers–each handing the love of yoga to the next, on and on–practicing next to one another is an extension of shared love.  It was glorious to have so much caring in one space.  It added a gentleness to the whole proceedings.  

 I think the most surprising feeling I had with regard to this love stuff was when I felt my heart surge with joy each time I saw another person from my own foundation training.  Of course, sharing the things that we experienced forges a bond, but it was the touch, the hugs from my fellow trainees that made me realize that we are bonded forever.  Regardless of our differences, Forrest Yoga has made such an impact on our lives, and their hearts are a part of mine whether I speak to them once a year or every day.  I was surprised by how much that feeling went both ways, not just emanating from my own body, but reaching back from them as well.

Anna, what surprised you about the conference?  What inspired you?

There was much I was anticipating that unfolded just as I imagined: glancing out the window during seated side bend and seeing pine trees and mountains and wide open blue sky smiling back at me; a sense of joy being surrounded by Forrest yogis, Ana, the Guardians, Alex and Chenoa; my heart swelling while we sang together; my body and brain and heart eagerly soaking up new ways of thinking and feeling. 

What I wasn’t planning on was how deeply the work would touch me and initiate a little transformation bomb; I was honestly expecting a fun frolick on the mountain tops – what I discovered was an emotional journey that was quite intense. Hello! it’s Ana Forrest. I’ve done two teacher trainings with her, what was I thinking? Of course you’re going to get into your shit if you are open and curious and willing to go deeper. And that’s the beauty of the practice, exactly why I love it so much. By following the intentions that Ana wove throughout her morning workshops, I was able to do some jousting with inner conflicts that I carry about my teaching, my path as a teacher and healer, and my relationship with my self. A lot of interesting emotional pus bubbles rose up filled with old self-doubt and criticism, and I was able to see where that “not enough” shit lives inside me. 

I now have a greater understanding of how to continue to drain that old pattern of thinking out of me by focusing on my gifts, and keep honoring the truth that my opinions and thoughts do matter and are worth sharing. The conference helped re-ignite my passion for what I’ve chosen as my life path, and all the sessions I took – Ignite Your Flames of Pleasure with Suzi Zobrist, Heart of Darkness with Erica Mather, Moving Energy: Low Back and Hips with Brian Campbell and Empath Evolution with Willow Ryan, Suzi Zobrist and Kelley Rush all gave me lots of new tools to use along the path of my own healing, and to share with others to help them do the same.


Anna asks Leah:  What parts of Windhorse are you bringing back to Chicago through your teaching? What are you excited to share with your students?

I’ve absorbed some good information about my own tendencies to struggle in my practice.  During our last session of the conference, the session that SinHee McCabe taught and decided to completely change at the last minute (talk about flexibility!) it was brought to my attention that I was holding very tightly in my ribs and back when inhaling.  The same adjustment was made by Ana on the last morning of practice (Monday).  Apparently I had been suffocating and sabotaging myself in practice without noticing it, which is the benefit of having master teachers around to give adjustments.   Sin Hee’s session was astonishing because she showed–through her excellent, empathic adjustments–that MUCH more is available to our bodies as far as depth in poses and flexibility if we only tap in slowly, and resist the urge to force it.  I have been utilizing Sinhee’s  adjustments for my ribs and back muscles, loosening on my inhale so that change in my poses comes from a relaxed place rather than through tension.

 I’ve determined that I need to step down off of this “teacher pedestal,” worry less about looking perfect and concentrate more on teaching from a place of integrity; I must embody the compassionate practice if I wish to get that message across to my students.  And I know that I am not the only one in the classroom engaging in self-sabotage by restricting the breath, it’s a common enough practice and now that I am aware of the tendency in myself, I think I can cue better habits. Some intelligent cuing will be very helpful!  

The Windhorse Conference was an investment I made in myself, a data upload for my spirit; in that respect, the most important thing I bring back to Chicago is myself, grounded and whole.  Ana says, “never waste a good trigger,” and I realize now that Ana herself is a trigger for me; she dissects issues I have with leadership, parenting, food, integrity, spirituality, etc.  Ana defies artifice, polices bullshit like no other and generally expects the best of us, reinforcing all the while that our best is within reach.  Each time I work with her, some part of the script gets rewritten, I step out of the illusion–if only for a breath–and in doing so, gain insight.  Hers is fierce medicine, and I swallow it because she is the teacher I chose, and I never regret that choice, ever.  Ana teaches me how to value myself, and by now I know damn well not to leave those lessons behind!  

Check back in a few days for more questions and answers!

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