Deep between the lodgepole pines and aspen trees of Helena, MT, people wake to sunlight beaming through the clear dome of a custom-built yurt. They walk gravel paths to morning meditation, eat breakfast in silence, practice asana twice a day, drink tea and share stories by the campfire, and close out the night with a sauna, hot tub or massage session.
This is a typical retreat schedule at the Feathered Pipe Ranch. As a healing center, the ranch is known for its dewy lake view, mouthwatering cuisine, world-renowned teachers, and quiet time filled with the sights and sounds of nature. Deer share the path to the bathhouse, chipmunks chase each other quicker than your eyes can follow, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot the resident eagles and osprey soaring across a cloudless blue sky.
Nestled in the pulsing heart of the Montana Rockies, the Feathered Pipe Ranch is one of the oldest centers for conscious living in the country, offering a sanctuary where visitors can experience their wholeness and remember their intimate connection to all of life. Many of today’s foremost voices on yoga, meditation, wellness, and health have come through the doors at the ranch: Joseph Campbell, Seane Corn, K. Pattabhi Jois, Dr. Bernard Jensen, Dr. Andrew Weil, Lilias Folan, Dr. Jean Bolen, Mary Dunn, Rodney Yee, Patricia Walden, Erich Schiffmann and Judith Hanson Lasater… to name only a few.
Ayurvedic health educator and yoga instructor, Melina Meza, describes the land at the Feathered Pipe as possessing energy unlike any other. “Being here in the mountains allows you to do your work internally,” Meza details. “Most coastal retreat centers are so expansive, you look out and feel ungrounded because of all the space. Montana’s mountains hold you, and their modesty begs guests to fully engage in themselves rather than lose their energy to outside forces.”
Meza teaches worldwide from Costa Rica and Mexico to Hawaii and California, and after all her travels, the ranch still holds a special place in her heart. “The Feathered Pipe feels like a home,” Meza says. “Whether it’s the games, the books, the way things aren’t overly formal and detailed; this is a place where people live year round –it has a lot of love and a lot of character. This is a home to many.”
The ranch’s founder, India Supera, inherited the land from her late friend Jerry Duncan in the early 1970s, and at the time was hesitant to keep it, as she was only 24 years old and had not completed her global quest for enlightenment. She returned to the ashram in India where she had spent the previous four years, and asked guru, Sai Baba, what she should do with the land. “He told me, ‘There are too many followers in this world. Go back and make this a place for leaders,’” she recalls.
And so she did.
“Montana is the perfect place for yoga because it connects heaven and earth,” Supera says. “The sky is bigger than almost anywhere else in the United States, we have an abundance of wildlife and untouched wilderness, natural springs as our water source and incredibly clean air. I always say our cats and dogs live so long because they think they are already in animal heaven!”
Each spring, the snow-covered land gives way to wildflower blossoms, baby bears, moose, and elk; the forests are reborn, and so is the Feathered Pipe Ranch. “It’s like the land goes into a gestation period over the winter and come May, visitors are showing up and the forest hasn’t seen a human footprint in six months – if ever, in some parts. Out here, there is very little interference,” says Supera.
Retreats vary each summer, with an array of options to choose from, including courses on shamanism, Ayurveda, Iyengar, Hatha, Ashtanga and Bhakti yoga, personal training and fitness, divine feminine connection, dance and ancient ritual. The Mindful Unplug Experience, a homegrown Feathered Pipe initiative, aims to create a digitally healthy culture, beginning with a weeklong retreat for anyone craving a chance to savor solitude and rediscover his or her own natural rhythm, away from the tight grip of today’s technology landscape.
In addition to offering yoga retreats, personal and spiritual growth events, and yoga travel programs, Feathered Pipe Foundation 501(c)(3) has supported and undertaken numerous humanitarian efforts that are at the core of its mission: to elevate human consciousness. This Seva (service) branch of the Feathered Pipe birthed and nurtured the Tibetan Children Education Foundation, dedicated to the preservation of the Tibetan culture through education and assistance; the Veterans Yoga Project, an educational and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Montana’s military veterans; and Circle of Friends, a group of like-hearted Samaritans assisting impoverished Indians, young and old, with transportation, admission, and financial services to assist them with receiving medical services and life-saving surgeries within Sathya Sai Baba’s medical facilities in Puttaparti, India. The foundation also works in partnership with Lewis and Clark County AIDS Project and similar organizations, offering free retreats to support men, women, and partners facing HIV+/AIDS.
“As I get older, I really appreciate working with people who share my values,” Meza says. “India and the work at the Ranch touch the lives of so many people, so many different ages, and causes, and I realize that I want to put my energy out into the world in a big way like that. Being a part of projects to raise money, send volunteers and give back to others on a larger scale, that’s more valuable to me than a lot of other work I could be doing. India has a bigger vision and being a part of the Ranch influences everyone for the better.”
Published in 2017 by WeTravel: https://www.wetravel.com/stories/feathered-pipe-ranch-yoga-retreat/