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

Windhorse: Perspectives Pt 2

Morning Intensive with Ana Forrest at Windhorse

On the first day of practice at Windhorse Conference, Chief Alex Turtle made an analogy about the healing of our culture.  He said that we have “too many doors” and that is why we have so much trouble healing our psychological and energetic wounds.  With so many doors to choose from–the side door and back door, the front door, the garage– where do we go in?  And how to begin?  Alex said, “my people live in tipi; in a tipi there is only one door.”   In a tipi, you can’t go to your room and slam the door, you can’t abandon the fight until the fight is over.  “This is how the healing should be,” Alex said, “you come in and stay until the work is done.”   It was a good analogy, easy to visualize.  His wisdom was very simple and truthful: with all of our doors, we get distracted from the task of healing and it takes longer; it gets more complicated.  That first day, we chose a spot to heal and with that, we entered the practice of the Windhorse.

Ana’s sequencing for Windhorse was a delicately woven composition.  On the first day, we worked with brahmari breath, lighting up all the parts of our bodies, and identifying that which needed healing.  On the second day when she called in the Four Directions–this time with real burning sweetgrass, not a cedar spray!–Ana asked our Guardians “not to stand around us, but rather to stand next to us and help us to grow up.”  It was very moving.  The entire second class seemed designed for breakthroughs, something that Ana will often do during the Foundation Training.  We opened our hearts in dozens of backbends that went progressively deeper and deeper.  Our intention was to find and acknowledge our gifts, our inherent, unique gifts, and use them for healing work.  She built in breakthroughs for people to dismantle their old structures and patterning and unearth the abilities that they would need to see through their own healing as well as the Mending of the Hoop.  And on the third day we sweat like crazy, this time in a smaller room with a low ceiling, heat radiating from space heaters and the people inches away on the next mat.  We got deep into our hips and challenged the rigidity of old paradigms, loosened up, and–in many peoples’ cases–got into poses they had never imagined they would express. Like all of Ana’s workshops and trainings, the level of difficulty built to a crescendo, included some intense emotional and physical breakthroughs, and then set everyone down sweaty, delirious from the effort, but empowered by the work.

Here are some reflections from your teachers on both the classes that we had with Ana, and some of the break-out sessions with the Guardian teachers:

Anna asked Leah, did you have any breakthroughs or epiphanies during your practice at Windhorse? What inspired you? 

In the past, working with Ana has been more emotionally visceral than thought-provoking; I am a pretty cerebral person and Forrest Yoga is usually great respite  because it draws me out of my brain and into a feeling place.  So I was very surprised when Willow Ryan’s “Leaving a Legacy of Love” seminar cued a cascade of intellectual epiphanies.  In Willow’s class, my 2nd session on the first day, we began with writing exercises, taking notes on whether different aspects of our lives were “the same or changing” and working through neurostrategy exercises that were designed to help us create a personal mantra.  For the 2nd half of the session, we opened the windows to the smell of freshly rain-dampened pine needles and worked through an asana practice, using what we had written to shape our intention for class.  Just a few poses into the asana portion, the wires in my brain started firing up, creating links and highlighting a thought process that culminated in epiphany!  Brain received a very clear message:  “You need to evaluate your leisure-time priorities.  The things you are doing do not serve you or your spirit.”  BANG.  EUREKA!  Rather than feeling like a vacation, many of my leisure activities in the past few years have been draining my body and my finances of much-needed vigor.  

In Willow’s class, I determined to redirect resources to self-growth, travel (with an emphasis on new places) and actual relaxation, periods of time that renew the body and leave it feeling refreshed.  Perhaps it was a fluttering in my spirit asking for recognition as well, but the wave of change started in my mind, and that was unusual for a Forrest practice.  Willow’s choice to flow through writing into asana catalyzed my decision-making process and helped literally move thoughts from concept to action and the strength I felt in the poses engendered my will to spur these realizations into a persona action plan.  Rather than spending months in agonized self-judgement about not having done something sooner and a cloud of uncertainty about how to start, I felt whole and happy and sure of where my first foot-fall would land on the steps to making a change. 

Oh, and in the last morning workshop, I got into Reincarnation (a head-to-ankle variation that had eluded me since my foundation training)!  I was inspired by the nearness of my fellow students.  I looked around and felt, “today this is going to happen!”  And it did.

Balcony at Snow Mountain Ranch

Leah asked Anna: Were you moved to do anything differently in your teaching after the conference?

My teaching feels different after the conference; I am practicing grounding myself before and after sessions, and am feeling the results of a seven-day pleasure practice that I learned from the workshop “Ignite Your Flames of Pleasure” with Suzi Zobrist. One result so far is that I find myself more present and tuned into what is actually going on in the room, being inspired in the moment to speak a cue that pertains to that, and seeing my words really land on my students more than ever before. That is really exciting.

I’m having a lot of fun introducing new poses I learned at the conference to my students, especially Inch Worm, Flash Point Prep, Cobra Over the Roll Variation (which I am calling “Gut Massage”), Neck Traction Back Bend, and the Dolphin Variation with Palms Up (which a student of mine has since named “Flipper”). I had epiphanies about running energy into new places, making space and really feeling into that creation, and found doorways into some deeper poses that used to seem really far away, the path towards them is clearer and way more accessible now.

Most importantly, I’m looking forward to weaving some of the intention magic into my classes in the upcoming weeks. The high elevation and first morning workshop with Ana helped me recognize that sometimes, I force my breath. That old habit really didn’t work on the mountain, it made things even more difficult. So taking slower, more patient breaths, and actually focusing on letting the breath soak into me was the way to go – teaching my students to actually meet their breath with their body and welcome it in is a new goal of mine. Sending my attention towards my personal gifts, the things that I offer the world, and what parts of me resist their existence or importance was one of the greatest gifts of Wind Horse for me; I cannot wait to introduce that kind of intention to my students. Lastly, practicing yoga with that intent on working in a way that creates pleasure, that excites and arouses your body, invigorates your mind, and seduces your spirit will be featured in my classes, helping me and my students transition into Fall with a heightened level of vigor and vitality. So stoked!

 Has your home practice changed since you came back? In what way/ways?

It’s become a little quieter – I’m focusing most on what really feels good in my body in the moment, instead of picking something to “work out/repair/fix”. Using breath and the poses in a way that feels pleasurable has been really intriguing lately. 

What is your favorite new pose?

I’m loving the neck-traction back bend variations. Helps me to actually feel lengthening in my upper back!

Anna asked Leah: How was your experience working with Chief Alex Turtle and Medicine Woman Chenoa Egawa? What gifts do you feel their participation and presence gave to the conference, leading drumming/singing/chanting and sharing teaching stories?

I think my healing session triggered a change that will not be immediate.  I get the sense that I’ve only just cracked the top of the soda bottle and the bubbles are still rising, that there will be some building up of pressure before the gases release…haha!  It was a very personal experience, very mystical and old, and as they were doing the healing work I felt an enormous sense of safety emanating from the ancient medicines that they use (water, tobacco, bone, and breath) to release things from my heart that were seriously stuck.  I get the sense that the work is long work, and perhaps these things have only begun to chip away rather than disappear completely.  

Alex and Chenoa are gifts in and of themselves; their love is a palpable entity in a room.  The history that wanders through Alex Turtle is gentle but strong, and the bubbling, flashing river of hope and joy that flows through Chenoa like mountain water is happiness incarnate.  The songs that they sang for us, particularly the Fire Song that they gave us for our own use, are eternally in my head and heart. Their voices sing in me still, and the gifts that they gave us, of their stories about Little Chipmunk and Blue Jay, of silver forged by Alex’s Uncle, of fire without flames, of unconditional love for people no matter how different they are, of laughter even in times of great seriousness, those gifts are impossible to measure.  They truly made the conference what it was, and it would  not have had the impact that it did without them. 

Be sure to check back next week for the final conclusion to our reflections of Windhorse 2012: A Forrest Yoga Conference!





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