Yoga Modifications Reduce Injuries and Inches
by SP Turgon
“I started at Innerstellar in January, 2013 and now it’s been more than two years since I’ve injured myself.” So says Lynda Lou about the Forrest Yoga and Pilates classes she attends at least once or twice a day at Innerstellar Pilates and Yoga Studio in Berkeley, CA. “I took many other yoga classes where I would overstretch, strain muscles, and never felt like I was quick, flexible, or young enough. I’m in better shape now at fifty years old than I was at twenty-three.”
When she first attended a Forrest Yoga event and met its creator, Ana Forrest, Lynda Lou was convinced this yoga’s philosophy of healing from injury and trauma was perfect for her. She had many injuries from her years as a dental hygienist, and then there were those five years she spent in the Marine Corps… “My body was destroyed and I was very, very sick when I got out of the military.”
At the event, she discovered Innerstellar Pilates and Yoga founder, Kiki Lovelace, a Forrest Yoga Guardian (advanced teacher and holder of the philosophy), who led a trained staff of yoga and Pilates teachers.
Lynda Lou took private lessons with Kiki in yoga and Pilates, and yoga with Aviva. With their guidance, she discovered the deeper magic of the practice. “You walk out of there with a new dimension of how you should do every pose. I really recommend the one-on-one.
“When I started with Innerstellar, I started to really open up and change, to learn and grow. I love Forrest Yoga and that you’re just not allowed to beat yourself up.”
Not beating herself up meant she could acknowledge it was rough in the beginning. She struggled with ingrained expectations and self-critiques, “…like I was constantly trying out for the cheerleading team.” Her muscles were weak, her hips fused, her shoulders tense, and her back inflexible. Every day she dragged herself to and from class. “It was very difficult in the beginning. I would cry on the way home. It felt like forever when I walked home—my legs were so heavy. I’m so much stronger now.”
According to Marisa Kelly, General Manager and Forrest Yoga teacher, this style stands out from other forms of yoga because it’s intended to create a context in which to process and release your trauma. “That’s why there’s so much focus on breath, because it’s the only way things can leave your body. Designing each movement to have a really intentional breath practice helps the movement not only be exercise and not only be relaxing, but also efficient in helping you release thought forms and emotions that are not serving you.”
“When I first started,” Lynda Lou says, “I felt like I was a scared little rabbit in a corner, surrounded by wolves. That’s how I breathed. Now I feel like I’m a tiger with the way I breathe. Your diaphragm literally gets stronger and opens up. I call it breath wizardry.”
Making It Work for You
Each class begins with setting an intention. What part of your body needs special attention today? What emotional burden did you bring with you? That is the place that every breath and pose will address, and your modifications will honor the changes you need, and how strong or tender you feel.
Every teacher offers modifications for the poses. “If your knees (wrists, arms, etc.) aren’t feeling strong today, use the block this way or the strap this way or the wall that way.” Every teacher also has their story of what happened when they first began laying over the rolled up mat—how their emotions surged, what negative thoughts flooded their mind—and how they got through it to become healthier, happier, and stronger.
“If I’m having a day where my blood pressure is really low,” says Lynda Lou, “I’ll skip the Vinyasa. I use the wall a lot. You’re not disrespecting the teacher or distracting the students. You can stay in the flow and feel like you’re part of the class. And it shows people, wow, this is safe.
“You’re not doing anyone a favor trying to be Wonder Woman on the yoga mat. You maintain your own still point and point of strength; there’s nothing to prove.”
Unpacking the Baggage
That doesn’t mean you’ll sail along, carefree. Just the opposite. The Forrest Yoga acknowledgement is that your emotional baggage will come up and out. Whether that release comes from tears, gas, or trembling muscles, class offers a safe place for it all.
Forrest Yoga, says Kelly, wasn’t designed to just make you feel good. “It’s to feel good because you’ve actually let something go. There’s a lot of attention on hip opening and psoas release, because the psoas muscle is the part of the body that first starts to grip when you go into fight or flight response. Forrest Yoga gives the psoas the message that it’s okay to relax. People come in with their nervous systems fried—they’re exhausted and they don’t know why. It’s through this strong, intentional practice that they can go from feeling fried to feeling energized.”
Forrest Yoga welcomes everyone and their needs for release. Women, though, have an 80-90% rate of trauma. “Anyone who’s been violated or has problems in the pelvic area, that area shuts down,” Lynda Lou says. “Whoever wants to heal can do this yoga—someone in a wheelchair, a fighter pilot, someone with an eating disorder.” That’s why psoas stretches are so healing; that’s why learning to breathe deeply releases the past and empowers the present.”
Many of us begin an exercise regime for physical reasons and Lynda Lou was no exception. “I was trying to feel better, work on stiffness, become more muscular, and lose body fat. Now, I feel more solid in my legs. I have better, quicker reflexes.
“I was about 150,155 pounds. I was carrying a lot of weight around my mid-section that just did not want to budge. So I set the intention to let my body naturally and organically heal, and not put pressure on myself.
“Now I’ve lost about six inches on my waist. My hair and skin, my nails, my body shape and muscles—everything looks and feels better from yoga.”
Lynda Lou took nearly every class Innerstellar offers: Forrest Yoga, StellarFlow Yoga, and Pilates.
And then she discovered Marisha Doan and her nutritional counseling at Innerstellar.
Marisha is a whole foods nutritionist, trained through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Using her advice, Lynda Lou changed her diet to more whole foods and focused on eating broths because they are nutritionally dense, easily assimilated by the body, and full of minerals and gelatin.
“I’m grateful to have Innerstellar. Forrest yoga is a tonic—it’s improved the quality of my life beyond my wildest dreams. I have no symptoms whatsoever from menopause or anything. I feel great from my new diet. And I can’t wait to see what the next couple of years bring.”
|Choose Your Practice
· Innerstellar offers Forrest Yoga, StellarFlow Yoga and Pilates classes
· Every body type and ability can benefit
· A wide range of day and evening classes fit into most schedules
· Private sessions with experienced teachers hone in on your unique needs
· Combine your physical practice with the many other therapies offered: nutrition, mental health, bodywork, astrology