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2015 Cowgirls vs. Cancer
Healing with Horses & Yoga

Are you or someone you know a breast cancer survivor?

Cowgirls vs. Cancer is offering eight scholarships to our June 4-7, 2015 Cowgirls vs. Cancer retreat. Nominate yourself or another cowgirl during October 2014, breast cancer awareness month, through November 15, 2014.

Yoga and horses can fix anything. They're kind of like duct tape and string.
-Tanya, 2011 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Through Cowgirls vs. Cancer, Big Sky Yoga Retreats provides retreat scholarships to yoginis who have experienced the physical, emotional and financial hardships of breast cancer. 2015 will be our sixth year, and thanks to the generosity of everyone we work with at Cowgirl Yoga, it will be the fourth time we are able to dedicate an entire retreat to Cowgirls vs. Cancer.

For our 2014 retreat, we awarded 8 scholarships - scroll down to meet the cancer kickin' cowgirls. This rejuvenating retreat provides something positive to look forward to, and helps our scholarship recipients heal through horses and yoga following cancer. Our hope is that through fundraising efforts, we can keep making more breast cancer survivors Cowgirl Yoginis every year. Please help us make a difference in the fight against cancer by purchasing a Cowgirl tee or making a donation (scroll down). Or in cowgirl lingo - help us kick cancer's ass. Yeehaw & Namaste!

How to Help

This year, we added something new - we sent a pair of Cancer Kickin' Cowgirl Boots to four women currently in treatment for breast cancer (read about cancer kickin' cowgirl Mary Ann). This idea was inspired by one of our previous scholarship recipients, who wore her cowgirl boots throughout her treatment. In January 2014 we mailed out the boots - our goal is to grow this program in the fall of 2014 and send out many more pairs of boots. Help us buy the boots by making a donation!

Nominate yourself or someone you know for a pair of Cancer Kickin' Cowgirl Boots.

Giddy Up & Get your Cowgirl Tee

Big Sky Yoga Retreats has teamed up with ChewyLou Designs and retreat alumna Alyssa Dinowitz to create the "COWGIRL" tee.

Tees are $34 each. Long-sleeved tee in chocolate and pink, with pink writing. The front simply says "COWGIRL". The sleeve has the CY "brand", with a hand-embellished Swarovski crystal.

And the back spells it all out: Courage, Optimism, Warrior, Giddy-Up, Inspiration, Respect, Loyalty.


All proceeds from the sale of this tee will go to our Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship fund, dedicated to paying tuition for Cowgirl Yoga scholarship recipients. So start shopping - buy one for yourself, your mom, your sister, your friends, anyone you know who wants to be a Cowgirl!

Full scoop on the Cowgirl tee here (sizing, shipping, returns, etc.)




Make a Donation

Any amount makes a difference and adds to our scholarship fund!


A Big-Sky sized Thank You to everyone contributing to the 2014 program:

Anahata Mala
Balo Vineyards
Blossom Grocery
Bozeman Brewing Co.
Chesapeake Bay Running Club
ChewyLou Designs
Double T River Ranch
Ghost Town Coffee Roasters
Jacci Brown, Cowgirls vs. Cancer 2013 alumna, & her Aunt Charlotte Capel
Kate's Catering
Kathleen Hammett, Cowgirls vs. Cancer 2012 alumna
Larry Stanley Photography
Lisa Laird Yoga
Mindful Creations
Montana Horse Sense
The Montana Shop
Ocean Soul Yoga
Touch of Sense Massage
Wizbang Hats
Yellowstone Cellars & Winery

We are proud to have been a sponsor at the 2014 Yoga for Hope event in San Diego on June 7, bringing awareness to the benefits of yoga to patients with life-threatening illnesses.

Yeehaw & Namaste!



Meet our 2014 Scholarship Recipients

About Christine
2014 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Nominated by her friend Terin

“I have cancer. Again.” Forty-three seems too young. For Christine it would be her third fight.

At 25, life is best devoted to beginnings. Christine instead faced cancer in her right breast. Lumpectomy. Radiation. Remission. On with life! Christine became a mother, eventually moving to the equine research farm where she raised two daughters and nurtured her love of horses, which for her embody strength, freedom and a reminder of family. She and her husband mentored the farm’s visiting college students, who dubbed their home Grand Central Station for its ubiquitous communal dinners. And Christine continued to lend her charitable heart to others, including knitting for disadvantaged newborns, and working full-time serving children with special needs.

At 36, though, cancer again; left breast. More surgery; more radiation; more determination, and finally remission. Until, “I have cancer. Again.” Graver this time: double mastectomy; chemotherapy. And again, remission.

Christine passed on reconstructive surgery, giving higher priority to her third marathon; the kayaking, swimming and yoga that center her; and new memories with family even as her husband and father were themselves diagnosed with cancer.

Wife x 1. Mother x 2. Survivor x 3. Life’s math is complicated. Life itself, though, somehow seems simple for Christine, who might describe it in one word: Yeehaw!

This scholarship will offer Christine well-earned pause - to reflect on the Self that has persevered despite a trying path, and to further brighten her Namaste: her “light in me honoring the light in you.”

About Deborah
2014 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Nominated by her friend Stephanie

Amongst many other powerful things, Deborah is a healer. I first met her at Amherst College in 1986. Even then, she was an amazing dancer, with a beautiful smile and incredible mind. She went on to Harvard Medical School, where she became an OB/Gyn. She is the kind of doctor you pray to have when you are preparing to bring a life into the world – both for her expertise and her loving spirit.

She shares her irrepressible passion for life with her son Ben, and her daughter Dahlia. Their living room rug is actually called the dance floor in their house.

In the fall of 2013, Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer, and scheduled a bilateral mastectomy at Mount Zion Hospital.  She shared the news with many of us on Facebook and her Caring Bridge page. Of course, we had the normal reaction one does in the face of cancer: sadness, fear, helplessness. What could we do? 

In response, Deb asked us to dance, explaining that, “Dance is medicine”. She sent us a link to Beyonce’s song “Get Me Bodied” and asked us to shimmy in solidarity with her on Tuesday November 5th, and then post the videos on her page.

And dance we did. 

From her Uncle Doug (in his 80s) to toddlers who put on party dresses for the occasion, we danced for Deb. Friends and family from near and far, some coordinated, some not so much, we moved to Beyonce’s groove for Deb. And we posted, and we prayed.

And then we saw a post.

It was Deb. Beautiful Deb – dancing in return. Moments before her surgery, there she is, moving her cancerous body in a way that left us in awe. Sporting the cap and gown of a patient, she rocked it with her entire medical team. 

She’s always been a graceful dancer, yet this was her finest performance. A fuck you to cancer. A hug to all of us who cheered as we watched. A jitterbug with life. A whirl of triumph.

You’ve probably seen her dance by now. Apparently, over three million people around the world have, when it was less than a week old.  Watch it on YouTube here.
As of January 2014 Deb's video has had 7.5 MILLION views!

Her courage, her passion, her joy, her spirit have redefined what it means to face a challenge. This is Deb saying Yeehaw. 

After her flash dance in the OR, she wanted to go under while listening to Peruvian jungle sounds recorded by a friend. Namaste.

Deb adores nature, she drinks in life. She is a cowgirl in the truest sense of the word. 

Because Deb is a healer, she managed to give healing to many of us in her darkest hour. That is why I asked that she be given a spot at this retreat. So she gets to relax in nature, which she loves so much. 

Deborah recently posted a quote on her healing bridge page:
Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live. - Dorothy Thompson

About Kristin
2014 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Nominated by her father, Don

Ironically, dreaded pathology news revealing a breast cancer diagnosis abruptly came by phone while on a yoga retreat. Double mastectomy, radiation, chemo, and full chest reconstruction tested the unbreakable resilience of this rough tough and determined Bronx elementary school principal. Yoga practice energizes Kristin's passion for life, and a Cowgirl Yoga retreat will fuel her next leap of faith into the challenges ahead.

Kristin traveled to Uganda in East Africa over the summer. She is currently sketching plans to connect kids in Africa with donated books. She dreams of establishing a lending library in a village near Kampala. Kristin and her husband Will (an actor-singer) had hoped to adopt. Unfortunately, the cancer wrecking ball changed all that, at least for the moment. Undeterred, she is now mom for Brianna, their second foster child. The popular book: Unbreakable Resilience: Leap of Faith Stories was inspired by her legacy of being an accomplished mosaic artist who crafts beauty from broken pieces.

For Kristin, “Yeehaw and Namaste” means keeping balance, breathing deeply through life’s challenges, conquering hurdles and fully embracing every moment. “Whahoo-Screw You Cancer” was shouted in the tree tops of Asheville, North Carolina while Kristin gathered family for a one year post-diagnosis celebration retreat. Playing a major role in balancing her life, yoga helps heal Kristin’s ripped muscle and tissue as she eagerly celebrates life with a passion. Kristin meets that proverbial horse that threw her, always rugged and ready: Yeehaw and Namaste!

About Lynn
2014 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

I’m a 59 years young Breast Cancer Survivor. The past year of my life has been an incredible experience. Following surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, I found new meaning in my yoga practice. Instead of searching to get something out of my practice, I started focusing on what I didn’t get. I didn’t get anxious and angry. I didn’t walk around constantly fearful and nervous. I didn’t take a leave of absence from my classroom, and I never lost hope. I didn’t look to yoga as some cool or trendy thing to do. Instead, I joyfully discovered inner peace, acceptance, and strength on my mat… by passionately living in the moment.   

Once I started chemo, and my hair started to fall out, I took all my Alternative Education High School students into the Cosmetology room and told them my story. Then I had my head shaved in front of them, while I answered all their questions. My students know how challenging life can sometimes be, so they stepped up and showed me compassion and kindness beyond my wildest expectations…and they thanked me for trusting them enough to bring them along on my journey. I just couldn’t let cancer keep me from my life…I wanted to be mindful of every breath I took.

I have a beautiful family and wonderful friends. They wanted to send this nomination, but I knew I had to speak for myself. I just know to my very core that I was meant to attend this retreat, so that I could celebrate the gift of life with other women who know my heart.

I’ve recently made friends with a spectacular horse named Brodie. Whether I’m riding on Brodie, or moving on my yoga mat, I’m overcome with gratitude for the spiritual force of energy and confidence that pulses through me. It makes me incredibly joyous and thankful to be alive. I believe this is my own personal version of Yeehaw & Namaste! 

About Marian
2014 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Nominated by her friend David

I am nominating our friend Marian for the Cowgirl Yoga retreat scholarship. In July 2012 Marian was diagnosed with cancer. For the next year she underwent chemotherapy, mastectomy, and radiation treatments. During her treatment and subsequently, yoga was the pulse point that kept Marian centered and in the best possible shape for her recovery and health.

Marian is a mother, wife, friend and a tour guide who has led numerous trips to Nepal and the Himalayan Mountains (read about our trip with Marian here). Hiking, being with nature, and yoga are fundamental to Marian’s journey and health.

During Marian’s treatment she connected with many women working through their own healing from breast cancer. Despite being in almost constant pain, fear, and uncertainty, Marian wrote the blog Breast Cancer, Eh?

In addition to her blog, Marian connected with other woman going through breast cancer treatment in many online forums. She has hosted a potluck for Canadian breast cancer survivors and earlier this month, Marian joined over 15 other breast cancer survivors she met online for a retreat in Las Vegas.

Visiting Cowgirl Yoga is not a gift Marian would give herself. Marian also enjoys horsback riding, making YeeHaw & Nameste something she would deeply appreciate. A scholarship would validate Marian’s tremendous efforts to help others while she continues to heal. Marian is a survivor and a leader. I believe that other cancer survivors and those in treatment would get much from Marian being part of the 2014 Cowgirls versus Cancer retreat.

Photo: Marian running in her first ever triathlon which she completed just after the one-year anniversary of her being diagnosed with breast cancer. Yoga was an important part of her training and being physically ready for the tri.

About Michele
2014 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Nominated by her cousin Shane, her partner Robert, and friend Laura. Michele also nominated herself with the following.

My story:

I am Good
My first yoga class since diagnosis.
Same tricks, different body.
I’m drawn to the women’s feet in pose — the way they grip the mat with certitude.
You can tell how they hold their lives by the degree.
In a lucid minute I can’t remember if every woman in the class has breast cancer,
or if none of them do.
This happens on a daily basis. It’s fleeting, and disarming.
And for me, I imagine valid.
Two friends I see every day were diagnosed within the same few weeks.
I keep the meditation going, and wander down Valencia.
Drawn by a book, I slip into a little shop.
The woman at the counter is wearing a wool cap. It’s warm outside.
“How are you?” she says.
“Better now."
“How are you?”
“I’m good”, she says, and then puts her pen down. “I’m good, yes…yes, I am good.”
I know what she is saying. She’s happy to be alive.
I am taken with the objects from the past, and ponder buying something for my future.
Instead, we catch each other’s gaze in a frozen moment.
She’s beautiful.
She lost her hair before me.
I realize then who she is.
She has breast cancer too.
We spark the commonalities - of women, of pain, of beauty, all in a stranger second.
This disease is not individual. It’s held in a collective - in the life-giving source of our beings,
enough to blur my distinction of its form.

What do horses and yoga mean to me?
A horse's center of gravity is different when it rides solo, or carries someone. So are ours. When
I’m on the mat, my center of gravity is solid, individual, and powerful - enough so, that I am able
to carry those I need to when off the mat (my children, loved ones). The pose is held for “one”.

In your words, explain how a Cowgirl Yoga retreat and healing with horses and yoga will
inspire you and contribute to your health and well-being.

As I continue to heal, the big work is in healing my children, family, loved ones, and ones I don’t
yet know. I write to heal us all, and have been creative throughout this process. I have projects
in the works that will continue to Heist Life (my brand) - and encourage others to “be the
conscious author of their own lives”. The practice of yoga and riding horses both align with my
philosophy for mindful, deep living.
Below is one of my daughters who has been very challenged by my diagnosis. We do yoga and
write together to heal...

What does the phrase “Yeehaw & Namaste” means to me?
It really means the same thing that Heist Life does.....wake up to peace, take life into your own hands, kick butt gracefully.






About Susan
2014 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Nominated by her daughter Cate

Horses are not typically associated with yoga, but for my mom, Susan, they have both been powerful elements in her healing.

Horses saved my mother’s life! My mom grew up in an abusive family, and her horses were a form of escape. They were safe and kind and removed her from the nightmare inside her home.

As an adult, my mom began to practice yoga. Yoga provided benefits and opportunities similar to horses in finding wholeness and inner peace.

Horses and yoga came together for my mom when she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. Each provided different elements of comfort, activity, and healing during and after cancer treatment. During her treatment, she found new purpose in restoring Mancha, an abused horse, to full health.

A Cowgirl Yoga Retreat will inspire my mom in her efforts as a cancer fitness exercise trainer to continue her passion helping cancer survivors recover. I expect her to experience new exercises, poses, stories, and bonding with other survivors in her healing journey.

Growing up with horses, my mom happily recalls barreling down canyons on her mount at a full gallop. Her horses demonstrated the sense of freedom and empowerment that “Yeehaw” epitomizes. Namaste expresses the power of opening ourselves to one another.

As I have witnessed my mother’s survivorship and her work in helping others, I myself have become inspired. My mom is a warrior and her horses and yoga have helped her through abuse and cancer!

About Tex Ann
2014 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipient

Nominated by her friend Kimberly

Cowgirls vs. Cancer is perfect for a survivor named Tex Ann!

My friend Tex Ann found three lumps in eight years. The third diagnosis was breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy, lymph nodes removed, bilateral mastectomies, breast reconstruction, hysteroscopy to remove benign uterine polyps and MOHS procedure for Basal Cell Carcinoma. Five years on oral cancer drugs has caused Osteopenia.

Tex Ann is single, and during treatment lived 1300 miles from family. She relied on help from friends.  We cried together when her lumpectomy didn’t get clear margins; we laughed until our sides hurt when she burned her post-surgical bra after wearing it 24/7 for six months.

New to the mat, yoga for survivors helped improve her post-surgical range of arm motion. Through yoga she learned focused breathing to reduce stress. Tex Ann’s love of horses came from her Mom, who taught her to ride.

Tex Ann is a six-year survivor transitioning to her new normal: wellness-focused lifestyle, realigned corporate career with better balance, relocated near nature and horses. She volunteers for cancer causes and became a certified mastectomy fitter and a breast cancer support group facilitator. 

From Day One Tex Ann choose to approach cancer from a place of “Yeehaw and Namaste.” Yeehaw is her spirit full of courage, determination, empowerment and a zest for life. Namaste is her soul full of love, gratitude, kindness and peace. The Cowgirls vs. Cancer Retreat would feed her spirit and soul, nourishing her desire to inspire others.

Congrats to the 2014 cancer kickin' cowgirls! Yeehaw & Namaste.