Taking Yoga off the Beaten Path
Over the past few years, The Ranch has expanded its outdoor yoga menu significantly, in order to take advantage of all that 6,600 acres of Big Sky country could offer.
The first step was to offer a family practice; a cooperative class to help everyone in a family improve strength, balance and flexibility. Every member of the family can connect with the importance of deep breathing and openness through this customized class.
Embracing Outdoor Yoga
Then, believing in the increased physical and mental benefits of open-air exercise, our instructors have brought yoga out of the studio and into the wilds of Montana. Former Spa Director Beth Thomas said,
“Yoga helps us sink in and experience each season of life in our full radiance. The Granite Spa is a beacon of wellness on The Ranch. We are blessed to have the most awe inspiring studio ever designed right out our front door. Practicing next to the flowing river or on top of a mountain allows participants to meet their practice in a whole new way. It is the perfect opportunity for first timers or experienced practitioners to create the memory of a lifetime.”
All of our activities have the ability to become more than exercise or diversion. They develop skills and often grow into lifelong hobbies. Outdoor yoga at The Ranch can inspire just like a trail ride to a mountain peak or fly fishing on one of the world’s most famous trout-fishing streams. It’s one of the reasons we were nominated in the “Transformational Travel” category at the 2015 Pure Awards.
There are plenty of reasons that people in Montana and throughout the world are embracing “hybrid” yoga practices. Yoga Journal and many retreats see the benefits of turning the world into your studio. Aimee Ryan, a Missoula instructor and founder of Core Connections consulting firm, explains why outdoor yoga practice is moving into the mainstream. She said,
“Blending yoga with the outdoors matches our external world with what you’re trying to do internally—quiet the mind, build an internal spaciousness and gratitude.”
Here, we’ve highlighted three of our new classes. Decide which one holds the power to resonate long after your bags are unpacked.
Yoga Practice: Snowga/Après Ski Yoga
A winter trip to Southwest Montana highlights all the possibilities of snow. Guests balance time in front of a warm fire with skating, sledding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and more. Ranch yoga can be offered in a cozy indoor space, but the Granite Spa created a Snowga class to amplify the experience.
Guests warm up with a snowshoe hike to a mountaintop or snowy meadow. Standing yoga poses improve stability and balance. It’s easier to become more mindful of breath because a white mist follows each exhalation. Extended poses and warm tea keep the body warm before a snowshoe trek back to fire-warmed accommodations.
The Granite Spa also offers Après-Ski Yoga in the winter. You can cap off a day of cross-country skiing or downhill skiing at Discovery Ski Area with a rejuvenating restorative practice. Taking time to soothe muscles will combat fatigue and leave you feeling rejuvenated.
Yoga Practice: Yogis Take a Hike/Riverside Yoga
“Yogis Take a Hike” is building an international following. This practice allows for adventure and relaxation unlike anything you can do in an urban environment. At The Ranch, guests can hike past riverbanks, rolling hills and mountain peaks before setting out a mat on the grass and saluting the sun.
Guests can also choose a riverside practice underneath the ponderosas. The sound of running water relaxes you and quiets the mind. During Autumn Harvest Weekend, we offered a hike under the falling leaves followed by yoga in the Blue Canteen—a large glamping tent adjoining a popular dining area. Participants were able to experience the change of seasons in a much more intimate way by combining these two activities.
A 2010 study showed that walking in forest environments promoted lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity and lower sympathetic nerve activity than it did in city environments. Yoga and meditation can be much the same—the sounds of a soothing stream are much more likely to bring deep relaxation than the sounds of traffic outside a city gym.;ou
Yoga Practice: Archery Yoga/Zip Line Yoga
While the scenery is the ultimate tool for centering yourself, other Ranch activities can help you heighten your practice. Archery Yoga, in particular, sharpens focus. First, guests engage in a pre-shoot yoga class, and use the strength, skill and alignment they’ve practiced on the 3D archery course afterwards.
These sessions play with the idea of yoga. As Ryan explained,
“Yoga is many things. It’s not just a series of poses on a mat. Whatever gets you connecting with nature has the ability to access a state of mind that’s harder and harder to find in our daily lives.”
Zip Line Yoga brings the challenge of outdoor yoga to new heights. We designed this class to use the ropes course platforms to improve balance and proprioception. You can engage in a centering standing series 30 feet in the air before taking flight down the zip lines. For the adventurous yoga lover, this is an experience ripe for the bucket list.
Yoga Practice: Cowboy Yoga/Top of the World
Trail rides in our yearlong equestrian program require visitors to tap into new muscle groups and get a taste of real life on a ranch. In the warmer months, Cowboy Yoga starts with a trail ride to one of the beautiful mountaintops surrounding Rock Creek. A Ranch instructor lays out mats for a practice overlooking the valley, the Long John mountains and the Sapphire mountains. Exercise in this environment has more health benefits than just heart pumping exercise. One study found that looking at beautiful scenery releases endorphins—giving it the ability to improve your mood.
Top of the World Yoga has long been a ranch favorite. An instructor drives guests to their mountaintop vista before setting out the mats for a session. Fresh air heightens breath awareness and allows you to unplug from everyday overstimulation. In the winter, guests may have a Snowga session in the same location. Outdoor yoga can be done in a number of locations, since guest comfort and safety requires us to adjust according to the weather. But our experienced instructors deftly use The Ranch’s landscape and weather to adjust the experience day-by-day and live in the moment.
These outdoor experiences have the ability to improve your daily life. Ryan elaborates,
“On vacation, you can cultivate mindfulness and access it anywhere. It’s hard to unplug and reboot in our digitized world, but Montana is one of the “Last Best Places” to do this. Outdoor yoga lets you plug into something else. When you’re back home, the energy and spaciousness you’ve developed during your yoga practice can be called up to help you find balance everyday—it has ripple effects throughout your life.”
View the full list of innovative seasonal private and group yoga sessions available at The Ranch in addition to our seasonal spa experiences. Combine these experiences with our Winter Spa & Yoga Retreat or get inspired to take your own yoga practice into the wider world.
Snowga and Family Yoga Images Captured by Ranch Staffer Tyler McBride
Aimee Ryan grew up on the Feathered Pipe Yoga Ranch Yoga Retreat Center near Helena, Montana. She is the founder of Core Connections: Root Down to Rise Up, a consulting firm in Missoula that helps groups and individuals develop internal/external practices for mediation, effective communication and mindfulness.