Introduction by The Forest Editor Aiden:
"Forest Gate flashback to December 2017 where down the dark'n'dingy Avenue Road Arches we lost the plot and opened a record shop in Arch 432 (now Ramble Cafe). However, down at Arch 439 there was a ray of light as we were welcomed with open arms by local Yoga teacher Anna Love who along with Pilates teacher Rachel Stephenson ran The Space East Yoga and Pilates Studio. Fast-forward six months later and as we evolved into a bar, kitchen and community station under the umbrella Tracks at Arch 437, we were now neighbours. Her straight-up, authentic approach yet warm and down-to-earth nature was definitely on our wavelength as we also aligned on supporting community causes - she's definitely Forest Gate's local life force!
As a consequence of the pandemic, The Space East is sadly no more however she has since opened her yoga studio the Prana Space on the neighbouring Maryland/Stratford border. Though her presence is missed down the Avenue Road Arches (still felt though!), her new studio space was a natural progression and has given her a new lease of life forming community connection and aiding wellbeing through healing, meditation and mindfulness.
Here's Anna's personal journey of overcoming heartbreak and life challenges to open her healing hub Prana Space."
I've been blessed and honoured to have lived and worked in and around Forest Gate for over 30 years now what an incredible place to be!
After having babies who then went on to be school children, I shifted career from working in care for Newham Council to adding yoga to my belt.
I started off doing classes in Durning Hall and then on to upstairs in Coffee7 (with Mick and Mary) which then became Fred’s which is sadly no more!
During this time I had met Rachel (of The Reformery) and we had a shared desire to bring Yoga and Pilates to Forest Gate. Enter The Space East… Being the Yoga side of the Space East it was also the chance I wanted to have a clean, safe, warm and aesthetically pleasing space to bring in the people that I had worked with and loved and cared for from Newham Council.
I wanted an ‘inclusive’ studio where I could bring wheelchairs, somewhere where everyone would feel valid, loved and cared for.
I was able to bring sensory sessions and music and movement and yoga into the space as well as also providing rebound and trampoline in Beckton to people who didn’t often get a chance to do activities that got them out of their wheelchairs.
Rachel and I opened The Space East in January 2016. In February of that same year I asked my then husband to leave the home. This left me with three kids, two jobs and too many pets (three dogs, rabbits and a cat) not to mention a broken heart, a large debt and an overwhelming dilapidated house! To say that The Space East was my sanctuary of respite was no understatement!
I used to go up to the studio, lock the door, play music, practice yoga and sob my little heart out! Ahhh the joy and relief I would feel as I walked into the space and it would fill up with all the beautiful people of Forest Gate, ready to share the offering and gift of yoga…
Many of you reading this will have been there with me, but you probably won’t know how much you saved me in those days… It was literally life saving to be able to make a difference.
It was at this time that I promised myself I would give back to the community and have a space where people could go to take a breath, to step away from what was going on for them outside. A space where they could put everything down for a moment and be wrapped up in the feeling that here it was ok to be authentic and real. A space of acceptance and validation. A space of love to be loved… A space to just simply be!
Over the years my heart started to mend and grow, as did the yoga classes, eventually we got too big for The Space East and it was time to move on. I left The Space East just as Covid came, and Prana Space was birthed over lockdown, again the people of Forest Gate came together through yoga to get through a strange time indeed. It was during this time, as I attended a BLM rally in Dalston that I saw how right now the collective desperately needed spaces of healing and I decided that when this shambolic mess was over and we could practice yoga again in person I would make sure that Prana Space would be a beautiful space of Yoga and healing.
I thought it would be in Forest Gate, but the universe/Divine had other plans & so Prana Space found it’s home in 1, Windmill Lane in the next door ‘village’ Maryland/Stratford & opened in May 2021.
As always if we want to bring anything to the world we need to start with ourselves and I was gifted a breast cancer diagnosis.
The day that I signed the lease for Windmill Lane I also had an appointment with the oncologist where I said I didn’t want chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Many people have told me I’m brave (and selfish, stupid, mad, rude and wrong) for choosing not to have a mastectomy and/or chemotherapy and instead choosing to completely change my lifestyle and my diet (what I ingest) physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and environmentally - and to tap into my trust in Mother Nature and the fact that every single cell in my body is Divine and that my healing is totally my own responsibility. At this time I started fully listening to my intuition, my gut instinct and my beautiful beating heart and I knew that there was no way I could do anything that went against that. Once you start to tap into and listen to your inner voice it can become extremely loud and no longer whispers quietly behind the voices and noises in your head!
Prana Space is a beautiful space of Yoga and healing. We have quality yoga every single day as well as many other modems of healing that have been shown to me in my healing journey. We have sound healing and circles where we can share tools for health and wellbeing.
It is most often described as coming home. I like to think of it as coming home to ourselves.
A non-judgmental space where we can be heard, seen and accepted. A space where we can be loved and love... A space to simply be…
We’ve been open for nearly two years now and it's incredible… It’s growing and having a strong and powerful impact. Being witness to beautiful souls making beautiful connections to their bodies and one another… Finding empowerment, strength, health and healing is mindblowing and there are no words to express how total and complete my gratitude is for this opportunity in life.
Anna will be hosting a fundraiser at Prana Space to support our community crowdfunding campaign to save The Forest's home Tracks on Saturday 18th March, 1pm-2.15pm you can join us here. To book a yoga class check out the website here and for further updates follow @thepranaspace
Images courtesy of Laura Zotova and Emily Stoker Photography