Veterans Yoga Project and Feathered Pipe Ranch: A Shared Journey Towards Healing

Written by: Abby Rosemarin

Serendipity & Fate

Some stories cannot properly be contained in one essay or even multiple essays. Some span decades, and even generations.

Feathered Pipe Ranch, and its support of the Veterans Yoga Project, is one such story. A story that has its origins in decades of serendipity and fate.

The Feathered Pipe Ranch is a sanctuary in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, a stone’s throw from the continental divide and a host to a rich array of workshops and retreats. Some of the world’s most renowned healers, yoga teachers, and various other health providers, have utilized this space to help others in their wellness journeys.

Helping others in their journeys is possibly the most succinct way to describe Feathered Pipe Ranch’s mission. It was certainly what its founder, India Supera, was gifted at.

“A lot of people come to the ranch to try to find direction and purpose, and that is one of the most interesting and unique skills that [India Supera] had,” says Crystal Water, the Executive Director of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, as well as India Supera’s daughter. “She’d help people harness and find their true power, their true calling.”

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Feathered Pipe Ranch & VYP: A Family Reunion

Feathered Pipe Ranch’s origins are rooted in fate. Its founder, India Supera, had been living in an ashram India, learning under her spiritual teacher Stahya Sai Baba, when a terrible toothache sent her back to the States. A friend from the ashram, Jerry Duncan, funded her trip and invited her to stay at her ranch in Montana. The ranch had been purchased to create a healing center – a center that Jerry would be operating, and India would return to the ashram as soon as her problem with her teeth was fixed. However, Jerry was diagnosed with cancer and asked India to stay on as her nurse. Jerry Duncan succumbed to her cancer, leaving the Feathered Pipe Ranch in India’s name. Sai Baba encouraged India to fulfill the dream, and India’s life path was forever changed.

There are two elements to Feathered Pipe Ranch: the ranch itself, which is open in the summer for retreats and workshops, and the foundation, which runs not only year-round but runs all of the programs through it.

One thing that sets Feathered Pipe Ranch apart from other retreat centers is that it has been a family operation since its inception.

“It has a family element to it,” says Crystal. “I was actually born there, at the ranch, and my first child was born there, as well. Basically, everybody who works there or has worked there over the years is either family or someone we consider family… we have generations of people who have worked here.”

Generations of people, including Dr. Dan Libby himself, and his father.

Dr. Libby’s father helped at the ranch as an astrologer and as a jack of all trades, for countless summers. He would bring his sons to spend the summers at the ranch. Dr. Libby was around eight years old when he first started coming.

“[The ranch] is a safe place that kids can run around and be outside and be in nature and feel like they’re in a safe environment,” says Crystal. One of Dr. Libby’s closest childhood friends at the ranch was Crystal, who was around the same age as him.

Dr. Libby followed in his father’s footsteps and, after going away for a little bit, eventually returned and worked at the ranch as well.

“It was the 20th anniversary of the ranch, which was in 1995,” says Crystal. “Dan came back just to come to this big celebration we were going to have, and he ended up never leaving. He moved right in, started doing whatever work… through the years, he started spending all kinds of time there doing pretty much any job you can think of and eventually also taking classes with yoga teachers.”

Nonprofits Coming Together to Help Veterans

It is at the Feathered Pipe Ranch that Dr. Libby got his first taste of working with a nonprofit. He eventually became president of the board of directors of the Feathered Pipe Foundation. When Dr. Libby eventually established Veterans Yoga Project, the Feathered Pipe Foundation supported its creation and growth.

“If you already have nonprofit status, then it’s a little bit easier to help another nonprofit startup,” says Crystal. “You already have an audience that might be interested, and you can find potential donors… Veterans Yoga Project is incredible, never really done before to the degree that Danny has manifested it. I’m so amazed that this work is happening.”

On top of their vital support in Veterans Yoga Project’s infancy, Feathered Pipe Ranch has also been collaborating with Veterans Yoga Project to create longer retreats for veterans and their families.

“Two years ago, after a fall program, we were walking around and Danny said, ‘I have this dream of spending a month here with veterans. Be able to bring them in for two weeks at the beginning of the season, and then bring them back for another two weeks at the end of the season, and see what happens after a long period,’” says Eric Myers, the Feathered Pipe Foundation IT and networking director. So much healing and help had been occurring during the shorter retreats, and Dr. Libby wanted to see what this would look like on a larger platform.

And the healing has been tremendous. There are countless stories of connection, hope, and healing that spring from all retreats at Feathered Pipe Ranch, but especially for the ones hosted by Veterans Yoga Project.

“A few years ago, there was one veteran who came, and he told Danny at the end of the retreat, ‘I came and there was a gun in my glove compartment, and if this didn’t work out I was going to use it.’ He felt the program completely shifted his life,” says Eric.

“Hearing from so many participants of [Veterans Yoga Project’s] workshops, they just come out in tears and says that this is the most healing week. Some people have come in as couples, as husband and wife, who were both dealing with PSTD and said that this is so refreshing to just learn to breathe and deal with our emotions on another level.”

Crystal Water, Executive Director of The Feathered Pipe Foundation

“Dan has brought these people together, and it’s amazing to watch veterans come up to the ranch who have never experienced anything like this,” says Eric. “And there may be resistance initially, but how quickly they settle in and realize there is nothing they have to be but who they are.”

In light of this inspiration, two longer retreats were established for the summer of 2020. As many have been experiencing since the beginning of 2020, the pandemic has made such plans very tentative, and only time will tell if the retreats are rescheduled or modified to adapt to the changing global situation. But it is still a testament to not only Veterans Yoga Project’s growth but Feathered Pipe Ranch’s support that such a program could be established in the first place.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 has thrown a monkey wrench into things, but still, it’s a landmark for us all,” says Eric. “I’m thrilled that it’s happening.”

The Feathered Pipe Ranch is a place where people can find themselves and their path forward. Whether they are a veteran looking to navigate life with PTSD, or a ranch hand finding inspiration to help out the world a little more, the land is a place for those to feel supported and inspired.

“It literally saved my life, and many people can speak to this,” says Eric. “They came to the ranch because they didn’t know where to go. They didn’t know where to turn, or how they were going to find their way to whatever was supposed to come next. The ranch allows that… all of that energy makes this incredibly supportive environment where you really do have the sense that you are valued and you should look inside and find what it is that you have to give and go with that because that’s enough.”

“It’s a place where you can be you and you can be loved for you,” says Crystal. “One of my mom’s best pieces of advice she gave to the kids before she passed away this last year was, find what you love to do in life, and do it.”

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