Feathered Pipe Retreat Center - Helena MT
Teaching at Feathered Pipe July 2011– My Memories
Many of you have been asking me to write about our week in July at Feathered Pipe Ranch. It is hard to believe that it has already been two whole months since we were on the land that can only be described as heaven on earth, with people that we felt we had known forever.
The entire week was nothing less than a magical journey. I was excited to travel back to Feathered Pipe with my dear friend Sheila Shaw, who would be assisting me in my classes. Four years ago the two of us, and a few others from our studio, A Gentle Way Yoga & Joyful Movement Center, had traveled to Feathered Pipe together to spend a week with Lilias Folan. That was when I fell in love with the land of Feathered Pipe, and its founder, India. I knew that I had to teach at this beautiful place someday. Now we were returning, together, to teach. A dream had come true.
Feathered Pipe’s beauty is simply breathtaking: the tall trees and green-green grass; the peaceful small lake that decorates and reflects pristine grandeur of the land; the deer that roam freely. You breathe this beauty into your body with each inhale, and leave the world behind with each exhale. I have led retreats for 9 years now, but the difference between a weekend retreat and a 6 night, 7 day retreat is significant. Each day you feel tension dropping away even more. Each day you feel more connected to nature and this beautiful land that speaks to you. To be totally taken care of for an entire week, all meals cooked, no clean-up, being active, while learning the sacred art of slowing down – all of this is so worth every penny spent.
From the minute we left the San Diego airport, to our flight back, everything flowed beautifully. We were embraced with open arms, by the staff at the Ranch, and even the people in Helena. It was truly one of the best vacations I have ever had, even though it was a working vacation for me. The flight to Helena (through Salt Lake City) is easy. I always get so excited sitting in the airplane, flying over the clouds. I keep hearing the words of the Joni Mitchell song; “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it’s cloud illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds – at all.”
The next afternoon we were picked up by Andrew from Feathered Pipe, and not only did he graciously take us to run a few errands in town, but he also took us on a mini tour of the town, showing us the old mansions of Helena and filling us in on its colorful history. He loved our group, and he said we would fit right in. As we arrived at the Ranch, its founder, India Supera was right there, to help us out of the van and welcome us. India’s assistant, Linda, came to greet us as we were finishing lunch. I asked her if she would be joining us for yoga. She said “No, I am too fat to do yoga.” Her words must have literally blown me back, because as she watched my body’s reaction to her words she said “I guess that is the wrong thing to say to you, isn’t it?”
Yes, it was! We insisted that she join us, and a day later she did. She never left. Linda was present for every class, and learned to enjoy moving her body again. She learned how to customize yoga for her needs. When I met Linda, I knew that we were there for HER that week, and I was so grateful that she joined our classes.
As our attendees began trickling in, it was great to meet the women that were new, and wonderful to reconnect with old friends who had traveled so far to be with us. I asked all attendees the first evening to journal through the week about two things:
(1) The things they knew or were discovering that they like about themselves and
(2) The things they liked about the other people present.
I asked them to focus on the positive ONLY all week; to realize that they had come to give each person present a gift, and that each person present had a gift for them as well.
Carol R. & Diane A.
There are so many things I want to remember about this week. Everyday I was reminded just how “ageless” we all are. To see women in their 60ʼs and 70ʼs taking hikes every morning, and even horseback riding, dancing and laughing, so beautiful to watch. Carolyn talks about how she came back to San Diego with a renewed commitment to her health. She has even booked private sessions with a personal trainer!
Another very special part of this entire week was how Indiaʼs staff talked her into attending our classes. She has been recovering from cancer, is dealing with a heart condition, and having back challenges, so doing traditional yoga was out of the question for her. The day after we arrived, she was running errands with Renee, the fabulous FP massage therapist, and Renee was telling India that she had been peeking in on my classes, and was convinced that India needed to take them. India attended the next day, AND every day after that. She got very excited about this style of yoga, and said she was going to write an article entitled “Sick and tired of being sick and tired? THIS is the yoga for you!”
India talked about the many people she knew who needed what I offered, and how she could help us promote my work and style. When she heard me say something about taking someone else’s training next year she stopped, looked at me, and said, “You do not need any more training. You are already there. Do not dilute your work.” India embraced each of us present the entire week. She took us all up to the Continental Divide, and with a huge eagle feather gave us all a personal blessing. It was obvious that evening what a mystic India is. She did not know the personal history of any of us, yet each blessing was about our personal past; what we were ready to let go of, and what our future would bring. For me it was all about taking my work forward on a national level. This was an evening with her which will never be forgotten.
Clockwise: From Diana (standing) Carol, Jana, Jane, India
What was most wonderful about India, her staff, and all the attendees, was how much they embraced Meditation in Movement Style Yoga (MIMSY). Even on the hard wooden floors of the beautiful Feathered Pipe Lodge, we pulled out every blanket and were able to sink deeper into our bodies each day. I need to remember how Cindy Davis came crying up to me after the Sun Salutation workshop, saying “I can’t tell you how many years I have waited for a teacher to tell us that not everyone can walk a leg through their arms! Finally! This workshop and the modifications you taught made the whole week worth it!”
One of the most rewarding parts of the week was watching the yoga student-teacher, Carol, move from not liking this style, to embracing it more each day. She began the week thinking that this was not her style, and that I did not really know what I was doing. However, by being willing to show up to class, no matter what, and practicing letting go, by the end of the week she said this was one of the greatest yoga experiences of her life!
Then there was Diana, whom Carol had dragged to this retreat – - very new to yoga, in her 70ʼs, afraid of fitting in, afraid of being unable to do yoga, and/or afraid of getting hurt. She came in with major tightness and with knee challenges. After the first night, she went from being a scared student to asking to be a part of our teacher training that week! Watching her blossom, and having her sharing her body’s knowledge with us, was so helpful. She lit up the room with her enthusiasm.
Morning sessions were MIMSY (Meditation in Movement Style Yoga). Afternoons were about Aalamba – adapting traditional poses and using support where needed. What was so sweet was on Wednesday, when I announced that there would be no MIMSY yoga the last day, everyone rebelled and insisted that we do one more class!
Words cannot describe how beautiful it was to have students of all sizes, all ages, man and women, doing yoga together. The theme of our week was all about “breaking down the prejudices we hold against ourselves and others,” and I know that we accomplished this. I know that those who were present will go back to their everyday, busy lives being much more aware of the way they speak to themselves, and realizing what messages they have given their bodies.
Carol R., Gorden
At our last Aalamba class, everyone presented their own version of Sun Salutation, some traditionally, others with a chair, or the wall. There was no talking, no commenting. Soft music was in the background. One or two people at a time would go to the center of the room and present. I do not think there was a dry eye in the room – the beauty of watching every person, every age, every size, dance with their own breaths and bodies was something that will never be forgotten.
Our final dinner was a delicious Indian meal. After dinner, everyone met back in the lodge where we sat in a circle and talked about what we loved about ourselves, and each other. India joined us, and it was a wonderful evening full of laughter and happy tears.
What else do I need to remember? I need to remember that this was the week in my life that celebrated my years of dedication and experience in yoga. I must remember that I do know what I am doing; that I am guided by the universe and that angels have always been with me and are always watching over me. I need to remember how my body FELT at Feathered Pipe; how soul satisfied I was. I had no night cravings for food. I must remember how Sheila, Mary, and Diane would insist that we talk about my yoga style’s potential for growth each night, and how the students are hungry for more from me; and how humbling this all is; and how grateful I am to be guided in this work.
I want the world to know that I do take this responsibility – this mission of gentle yoga, very seriously. It is with deep respect for all those who have come before me and led the way, for all those teachers and students who have taught me mentored me, shown me the way, that I embrace who I am today, and what I need to continue to do. It is important for me to continue to write about how important it is to SEE oneself doing all the things one knows one is meant to do; how we need to get our negative, fearful selves out of the way and embrace who we are today, and know, really know, that it is our birthright to be happy, healthy, abundant, loved, and loving. It is our birthright. It is important to hold our highest vision of ourselves, while letting go and allowing universal wisdom and guidance to flow through us. For even greater things than we could have ever imagined for ourselves are waiting to be given us, if we are open.
Now we are back in our everyday world; paying bills; trying to get to work on time; doing dishes and laundry, but the peace that we experienced at Feathered Pipe is still with us. It will always be there.
Sheila and I will be back at Feathered Pipe September 1-7, 2012. I hope to see you there!
Lanita Varshell, ERYT500+
A Gentle Way Yoga Center