iRest for a Community in Need

By Julia Fetherston

Who am I and what do I do.

I am a yoga therapist and brain geek. I live and practice in a small town in northern California. I came to my yoga therapy work through a circuitous journey and because of my background in psychology and science, my work is an integration of numerous disciplines. I most heavily draw from the kosha model of yoga therapy, interpersonal neurobiology and attachment dynamics. I am fortunate to work with a range of clients, individuals, groups and organizations.

What did you do before you became a yoga therapist:

In my previous career, I worked for UC Cooperative Extension as a Youth Development and Natural Resources Advisor. I used research from the UC system to develop educational programs for children and adults. It seems like a totally different thing, but in many ways, I am doing the same thing with a different subject. I track the experience of my clients, search for a scientific base that explains what I am seeing and experiencing and blend the science and somatics to make my work more effective.  In graduate school at UC Berkeley, I studied woodland ecology, which is looking at the structure, function and relationships of plant communities.  While I don’t study plant communities in my work as a yoga therapist, I am still looking at structure, function and relationships, whether it is in an individual’s life or an organizational setting.

Can you give an example of this:

Sure, I will share a personal example. Last year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It wasn’t really a surprise, because I had been sick and trying to find the root cause for some time.  When I got the diagnosis, I understood that Cancer was actually a by-product of some underlying processes that had been going on for a long time. Treating the cancer was just the first step in my healing,  I needed to understand the root cause to make sure I didn’t get it again. so I used the Kosha model to make a map of my life, a map of how I got cancer, then I dove into the research to understand what I needed to do to get myself out of it!  Of course this included diving into my own internal processes as well, an ongoing part my personal yoga practice. 

I developed a plan for myself, just like I do for my clients.  Even though I felt like I had a plan and an understanding, going through cancer treatment wasn’t easy.  I reached out for support from my community and was so fortunate to have such a beautiful response! I also had to use my yoga tool box, I meditate twice a day normally, but increased the time and frequency as my body was healing from surgeries and radiation. I also used Richard’s guided iRest practices, when I needed a little outside support to help me calm and center, or when I couldn’t sleep but wanted deeper rest. I really appreciated the efficacy of the protocol in my healing journey.

Tell us about the recordings:

In October of 2017, I was in the last week of my treatment when the Mendocino Lake complex fires started.  It was horrible. Approximately 8,000 people were evacuated, many barely escaped with their lives, eight people died.  We have all heard the stories in the news about tragedies from these fires and natural disasters around the country (and world).  But when you live in a small community like ours, it’s not a stranger on the tv screen.  Here you know your neighbors. We often joke that instead of six degrees of separation there are only three, unless you grew up here its only two.  It is one of the lovely things about living here.  Everyone knew or was related to someone who was affected by the fire.  In addition to many friends, about 60% of my clients where affected. For me, it had another personal layer, I had lived in Oakland during the Oakland hills fire and was evacuated. I came back to find my house standing but most of the neighborhoods surrounding us were gone. I know, both from my work and my own life, that these kinds of experiences don’t just go away. They can change the way you think about things and even how you move through the world for a period of time. It impacts your nervous system and can get imbedded in your body, leading to anxiety or depression or even PTSD. 

The response to the fires in our community was an outpouring of love and support. People providing housing, clothes, food, and financial support.  There is even an ongoing Fire Recovery Team that is working to assess the needs of families affected by the fire and coordinate resources. 

Still, I was concerned about the emotional impact not just on the families that were impacted by the fire but first responders as well. Many of the first responders, even the seasoned veterans had never seen anything like this firestorm.  They were in harrowing situations with life and death consequences. A veteran friend of mine likened it to a war zone. 

I wanted to help my community deal with this trauma and held some free iRest classes at my offices.  A few people came each time and the stories were intense.  I noticed though, that so many people were just soldiering on, and I imagined that it was the same in communities across the country that had to clean up and rebuild. I decided to offer some free, guided practices that people could download and use when they needed them. I wanted to use iRest for several reasons.

To begin with, I appreciate the evidence base that the iRest Institute has compiled of its work with veterans. Sometimes, knowing that there is a scientific basis behind a practice can help people who usually wouldn’t turn to meditation or yoga, to try it out. In addition, Richard’s work with the military seemed like a good fit for first responders. I thought they might be able to relate to a practice that has such a good track record helping veterans of war. Finally, I appreciate the effort to codify the practice into something that is accessible to a wide variety of people.  In my iRest Level One teacher training, I saw first hand the impact of the practice was, even for people in the workshop who were brand new to meditation or yoga.  It was a powerful experience to watch them have new insights that really made a difference in their lives. 

I have recorded three practices using iRest scripts: a six minute inner sanctuary practice, a ten minute practice focusing on the breath and a twenty five minute body scan.

I recorded the practices in my office, so it is not professional sound quality, but the only person I knew who could record them for me had lost his house. The intention started as a tool to help my community but I realize that so many people are in this situation of having experienced a similar trauma and may benefit from using the practice. 

Please visit to view Julia's website and recordings.