I’m so honored to be invited back to the Feathered Pipe Ranch for the 4th time as a retreat program presenter.
When I first met India Supera there was an immediate connection, as though we had always known each other. It was like finding my long-lost older sister who would not let me forget the work I was put in this body to do.
When she took her first MIMSY – Meditation in Movement Soft Yoga class with me, she was in deep back pain. India didn’t want to attend the class, but one of her staff massage therapists had been watching us through the kitchen window and insisted she attend. It took her time to settle into a comfortable lying down position. She needed lots of padding between the floor and her body to get comfortable, a soft bolster under her knees, a pillow under her head, and a blanket for warmth. She felt awkward and a bit embarrassed. I propped her and assured her that comfort was an important part of this practice and that no movement was needed in this class if her body did not feel like moving. That just to ‘be present’ would be healing.
After the class, India did not want to sit up. There were tears in her eyes. Not tears of pain but of gratitude. I sat on the floor beside her. She told me how much better her back felt and how relaxed she was now. Then she looked into my eyes and said something I will never forget: “This is the yoga everyone needs, but no one knows they need it. This is the missing link of Hatha Yoga.”
I began tearing up with her. What an honor it was to have those words come from India! For decades she had followed the most enlightened gurus and brought the remarkable yoga teachers to the Ranch. I was surprised and deeply humbled.
Over my twenty-seven years of teaching, I have witnessed hundreds of students receive remarkable healing and stress-reducing benefits from MIMSY. Still, it has been hard for me to write about what MIMSY is and what it does. Part of this comes from not wanting to take credit for creating MIMSY. It is mine to share, but it was a gift from the universe and continues to gift my students and me daily in a way unlike any other style of yoga I have practiced.
What India felt was the MIMSY experience of ‘settling into’ her body and connecting to her breath in a Savasana (deep relaxation position) and Yoga Nidra (guided meditation) type way that shifts the body’s central nervous system first. In many styles of Hatha yoga the focus is on yoga asana (poses) first to get you to this place at the end of a class.
There are specific techniques MIMSY teachers use to help you ‘shift down.’ When you evoke this place within you, movement becomes a ‘healing’ experience. The physical benefits are still there, but your body moves from a state of meditation, not from the brain-mind, which is a completely different energy state in the body.
Sometimes a new student can drop deeply into this healing place during their first practice. For others, it takes several classes until your body registers the message that you are trying to give it: that it is safe and it is alright to truly ‘let go.’ Each time you attend a MIMSY class, your body builds up a positive memory of safety and nurturing. One it looks forward to coming back to.
MIMSY’s specialty is releasing deep stress, trauma, and pain from the body in the most gentle ways. It is about getting you to honor and love who you are now, in whatever body you have right now.
Can everyone ‘let go’ using this very slow technique? Not always. Students may need to start with a more active yoga practice. It took me twenty years to realize that, for some people, Sun Salutations were actually slowing down! (For me, they are cardio and physically impossible to do in a group flow.)
Thank goodness there are so many styles, traditions, and flavors of yoga!
Over the decades, I have witnessed students finding healing and joy through different practices: rigorous yoga, strict disciplined yoga, hot yoga, yoga dance, yoga chant, and more. Yoga’s beauty is that it will always meet you where you are. Sometimes you seek out yoga, and other times yoga seeks out you.
What I love about the Feathered Pipe Foundation is how they present many different types of practices (not just yoga) that help empower and heal both the mind and body. That help you experience joy and peace.
India would tell us the story about inheriting the Ranch and telling her guru that she did not want it, that she did not want to return to the U.S. But he told her to return to the U.S. and create a place where people would be able to ‘self realize.’
Just spending a week on these holy grounds will help you do this. Each time I step back on Feathered Pipe land, I know I have come home, and India’s powerful spirit is always with us on this magical land.
Lanita Varshell and Diane Ambrosini invite everyone—regardless of age, size, physical ability, ethnicity, or gender, to join them on this mystical land for a life-changing week, June 10 – 17 – “A Gentle Way Yoga Retreat: Mindfulness And The Practice Of Inclusivity.”
ABOUT LANITA VARSHELL:
Lanita Varshell is a soft, kind, mystic earth mother. She emanates love and compassion. Lanita is one of the oldest and most and respected plus-size, gentle and therapeutic yoga teachers in the United States. She has been a pioneer in the world of body positive, accessible and adaptive yoga.
Owner of A Gentle Way Yoga and Joyful Movement, she has taught yoga and trained teachers full time since 1996, and owned a busy yoga studio for over 20 years, all while living with chronic health, weight, and life challenges. She has inspired thousands of students and teachers to look at themselves and others through the eyes of kindness and love. In addition, she is an inspiring writer, public speaker, and yoga life coach.
Learn more about Lanita: agentleway.com