Story and photo by Andrea Sutherland
As Soldiers moved from Downward Dog to Warrior One and Twisting Warrior to Plank, Ana Forrest walked between the men, adjusting their movements as needed.
Shaking and dripping with sweat, some of the Soldiers struggled with the demanding positions.
“My groin’s on fire,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Cotner, breaking his pose briefly.
Cotner was one of 14 Soldiers from 62nd Ordnance Company, 242nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, 71st Ordnance Group (EOD), participating in the Tuesday yoga class.
“That’s the most sweating I ever did sitting still,” he said after the class.
For more than an hour, the Soldiers learned how to adjust their bodies and their breathing to perform various exercises including the Frog Lifting Through pose, the Dolphin and the Pigeon.
“If you do this pose, you’ll find it helps in a lot of areas of your life,” Forrest said as the Soldiers performed the Pigeon pose.
Working with the grizzled Soldiers didn’t faze Forrest, who has worked with military groups in the past.
“I find that as long as I swear at them, they relax,” she said.
Forrest began working with wounded warriors, witnessing their struggles with injuries.
“I have the utmost respect for warriors,” she said. “They have a mission bigger than themselves and so do I.”
Forrest said she sees teaching and healing a group of people as her life’s mission.
“I want to give people the tools to connect with themselves so when things get hard, they can continue,” she said.
Forrest doesn’t ascribe to traditional yoga practices, incorporating decades of practice into her own unique style that she calls “Forrest Yoga.”
“There are all different kinds of yoga,” she said. “Some are utterly ridiculous — floating on clouds. I don’t do that.”
It’s Forrest’s grounded attitude that helps her connect with Soldiers.
“It was difficult,” said Sgt. Bill Johnson, 62nd Ord. “I might try to incorporate some of the poses into my stretching routine.”
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Kidd said the exercises helped relieve pain in his lower back.
“In combat, a lot of us are jumping out of the trucks with 30-40 pounds of gear on our backs,” he said. “The lower back exercises and learning to breathe helped.”
Other Soldiers were still skeptical leaving the class.
“It was interesting,” said 1st Sgt. Chad Vervaet. “I discovered that I’m more flexible than I thought I was. I was able to do more of the poses than I thought I could.”
Vervaet said he probably would not continue with yoga classes.
Forrest said she understands the skepticism and encourages people to try yoga without preconceived notions.
“I want to help people connect to what really matters,” she said. “It’s about finding a reason to be alive and then going after it with a passion.”