Discretely nestled on the edge of an expansive meadow, in the waving shade of soaring pines, sits Spa Town® at Paws Up. Spa Town is a colony of pristine white tents stitched together by a wooden boardwalk, situated just past an authentic babbling brook and nestled among towering pines. The welcome tents feature full baths and showers, while individual treatment tents are fashioned with a lovely sink, a heated massage table and a view of the meadows, spotted with horses. A traditional “spa” soundtrack isn’t required because the brook, chirping birds and a rustle of the wind in the trees above are played daily by Mother Nature herself. Paws Up is the finest of all Montana spa resorts and gives new meaning to the term “getting lost” in the woods.
Paws Up Spa and Wellness Director Laura Russell-Nygard could be described simply as a massage therapist and yogi—but she is so much more. In addition to being an accomplished yoga instructor who has studied and practiced a wide array of yoga techniques for more than 20 years, she is an avid traveler, unapologetic coffee snob, carefree sunset chaser, wife and mom. Prior to her arrival at The Resort at Paws Up in 2009, Russell-Nygard, a native New Yorker who grew up on Long Island, moved to Las Vegas at the age of 19. There, right in the middle of Sin City, yoga became a huge part of her everyday life.
“Learning how to use meditative breath (pranayama) to slow down my life and quiet my mind truly helped me relieve anxiety and stress and focus on body awareness. It really made me see that life sometimes moves too fast, and we all need to stop, get on our mats and perform yoga in nature to enjoy life. Yoga is life and life is yoga!” says Russell-Nygard.
Thankfully, her devotion to yoga didn’t remain in Vegas, but instead followed her to Montana, where Russell-Nygard says part of the excitement of bringing yoga to The Resort was creating a Wellness Program that inspired guests to continue their practices while on vacation. Incorporating children’s yoga and family yoga into the program was a Namaste bonus: “The family who works out together stays happy and healthy together,” she says.
After recently completing her 200 RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) credentials in Mexico, Russell-Nygard felt enlightened and encouraged to enhance the current Paws Up program by adding group classes and a new menu of yoga choices. Her teaching style is laid-back, fun and creative, with an intense focus on the connection between movement and breath. Russell-Nygard aspires to make yoga accessible for all bodies and experience levels. She says, “Having an opportunity to teach yoga and body awareness to so many different guests and their children is truly a privilege.”