This article was for the Register-Guard’s special section called Dash and was published in September 2013. The two women profiled each left their busy lives behind to become fitness instructors and find healthier balance in their own lives. One studio, Just Breathe, has closed since this article was published, sadly.
Moving Towards Stillness
By Vanessa Salvia
For two Eugene women, movement and fitness helped them find stillness in their mind and bring meaning to their lives. For Diane Butera, becoming a yoga instructor and later purchasing a studio helped her through a scare with cancer. For Mandy Baucum, owner of Just Breathe, leaving a corporate job and opening a fitness studio was a giant leap of faith. Though their paths are different and it’s been rocky along the way, both women feel that their lives are much richer for having made the choice to dive into movement and fitness.
For 10 years, Mandy sat at a desk work as a web designer for tech companies in Seattle. “I liked the creativity but I started having problems sitting, with pain in my shoulders,” Mandy says. “And I was sitting for 50 or 60 hours a week.” She wanted to change her career and decided that she would become a fitness instructor. “I made good money and it was a lot less money being a fitness instructor,” says Mandy, “but I didn’t care. I just wanted to be happier.” She quit her desk job in 2006 and held a “retirement party.” “I wasn’t really retiring but I knew I would not return to that life,” she says.
Those lifestyle changes catapulted her into a divorce. She moved to Eugene with her daughter, Zora, and found work teaching yoga, dance and Nia and managing a fitness studio in Veneta. The Just Breathe building was a former massage and yoga studio, so it was already set up for what Mandy wanted. When she saw the building, she thought, ‘This is my dream come true!’ “All I had to do was open a business,” Mandy says, “which I knew nothing about but I didn’t care. It was like, there is, it’s your dream. Do it.”
Diane Butera is 56, and a mother of three girls. She didn’t find yoga until she was 43. She was an athlete and felt that fitness involved lifting weights. “I thought you had to be intense to be fit,” she says. She wandered into a yoga class that happened to be taught by an 80-year-old woman who was doing a balance pose that Diane’s athletic body couldn’t do. She began practicing yoga 3 times a week, and noticed changes in her thinking after only a few weeks. “I was pretty intense,” reactive, competitive,” she says. “I struggle with being calm. Most people think, ‘oh, yoga teachers must be calm,’ but many of us come to yoga because we’re not calm and we want some of that.” In early 2010, she began training to be a yoga instructor. “By May, I was teaching anyplace I could,” she recalls. “Then, in September, I found out I had cancer. I was devastated because I had just found my passion in life.”
Diane’s hysterectomy to remove uterine cancer fell on September 17, a day after celebrating her 26th wedding anniversary. She began chemotherapy and lost her thick mane of long, naturally dark hair. She no longer recognized herself when she looked in the mirror. But, perhaps worst of all, her doctor ordered her to abstain from yoga after the surgery. Diane later found out that she carries the BRCA-1 gene, which puts her at high risk for developing breast cancer. Rather than undergo a mastectomy, Diane is living a healthy life and learning to find acceptance. “The potential for cancer in my life again is pretty high, but I’m finding peace,” she says. “That’s what yoga is, finding peace.”
After one employer found out that she had cancer and was taking time off for treatment, they didn’t renew her teaching contract. “That felt really bad,” she says. In what seems like a whirlwind now, Diane’s husband suggested that she purchase the yoga studio at Tamarack Wellness Center, just a month after her surgery. “He knew I needed a place to go, a place to teach,” she says, “and it’s been amazing.” She threw herself into the studio and her recovery. “People say that your health is the most important thing you have, but you don’t really get it until you are facing not being here next year,” Diane says.
Both women experienced push-back from their friends and family when they made their changes. “I actually had one person tell me ‘what business do you have buying a yoga studio when you have cancer?’” Diane says.
For Mandy, it was scary but important to make the change. “This was hugely meaningful to me to say, ‘I’m going to live the life I want to lead,” Mandy says. “It’s been hugely empowering. I feel better. I found myself as a teacher.”