The Basic Moves of Forrest Yoga

During a Forrest Yoga class you will regularly hear the teacher refer to the following eight movements:

Active hands, active feet, ujjayi breath, telescope ribs, expand ribs, tuck tailbone, wrap shoulders, relax neck.

These basic moves of Forrest Yoga can be viewed as the foundation of each pose. They will help you with balance while at the same time remind you to keep breathing even when it’s starting to get strenuous.

In this post I will break down each of these moves, explaining their respective benefits and uses.

Active Hands

Spreading your fingers activates the palm and counters a movement many of us do for many hours a day: holding things. Be they the mouse of your computer, the steering wheel of your car or your mobile phone.

Active Feet

Our feet literally keep us grounded. Activating your feet during your workday can be a great way of “bringing you back” in a stressful situation.

When you activate your feet you will notice the muscles in your legs respond. In many poses this will support your correct alignment and thus protect your joints.

Ujjayi Breath

“Oceanic breath” Pulling your breath through your larynx to produce this particular noise will not only help you to slow down your breath and breathe more deeply but also keep your awareness on your breath and your focus in the moment.

Telescope Ribs

By “creating space” between your hips and your collarbones you will also straighten your spine, elongating your neck.

Expand Ribs

Bring your hands to the sides of your ribcage and take a deep breath into them. Isn’t it fantastic how your torso expands into your hands? Did you know you had muscles *between* your ribs (called intercostal muscles)?

You will feel how much deeper your breaths can be when you are making use of all the space available in your upper body.

Fun fact: After attending my first Forrest Yoga classes my intercostal muscles were actually sore – I apparently hadn’t used them in a while.

Tuck Tailbone

Many of us sit. A lot. As we sit – often not as upright as our physique would demand – our lower back is compressed.

By tucking the tailbone and thereby elongating our lower back we take the pressure off this area. In combination with telescoping ribs this is another simple exercise you can do sitting at your desk or waiting for the traffic light to turn green (sitting in your car as well as standing at the pedestrian crossing).

Shoulder Wrap

Give your neck room by gently pulling your shoulders away from your ears. If you have never felt your serratus muscles – this is the time:

Put the left arm in front of your body. Elbow at shoulder height, underarm at a 90 degree angle upwards, hand active.

With the thumb of your right hand find your left armpit and with the rest of your hand grab towards the shoulder blade.

Inhale. Hold breath. Pull shoulder back, pull shoulder blade down and then pull your elbow forward. You should be able to feel the serratus muscles on your left side in your right hand.

This little move helps protect your shoulders and is especially effective whenever your hands are above your head (e.g. in inversions).

Relax Neck

Contrary to many traditional yoga styles, in Forrest Yoga we do not turn the head against gravity. In upright poses we will align our nose with our sternum and in all sideways or downward poses we simply let it hang. Now, this sounds easy, right? However, it can be quite the challenge in a challenging pose like half moon or for those of us who are used to solving every problem with our head. Give it a go and see if you can not use your head and neck to keep your balance but your active feet, your strong core and your breath. You will notice such a difference.

Can you see now why us teachers will not stop reminding you of these moves? Because they’re brilliant!

Tell me on Instagram what your favourite basic move is or – even better – send me a photo of you doing that basic move.