I met Mary Baker – CFO & Co-founder of Be Well Yoga for Cancer Recovery- earlier this Spring when I attended Be Well’s yoga teacher training. I felt an immediate connection with the program and the founders. I am honored to be a Be Well graduate and am so grateful to have Mary and Heidi in my life. They are supportive, caring, compassionate, smart, dedicated… I could go on! Here is Mary and Be Well’s story!
Tell us your story. What is your program all about and how did you find yourself involved?
Be Well came to life on a road trip home from a 10 day long training that my friend and now business partner, Heidi Borsch, and I attended together back in 2014. Heidi and I both lost parents to cancer and sought out training to learn how to use yoga and mindfulness practices with the cancer population. One year later, Be Well became an official 501(c)3 nonprofit and has been serving the cancer community for over 6 years. Be Well offers 12 weekly Yoga for Cancer Recovery classes that are specifically tailored to the unique needs of cancer patients. Currently we serve the North County San Diego and Riverside County areas, with a brand new class coming in September to the OC!! (Led by two amazing Be Well Graduates – Jessica Beese Filloon and Jenny Jensen!)
Three years ago, Be Well formed its 55-hour Teacher Training Program to help get more Yoga for Cancer trained teachers into the community. Since inception, we have trained just under 50 individuals ranging from cancer survivors to medical doctors, all with a passion to serve the cancer community.
What populations / areas do you serve?
Our primary population is those who are living with a cancer diagnosis. We deal with all cancers, with breast cancer being our highest percentage of students. We also welcome caregivers, friends and family members to attend class with their survivor. We know firsthand the direct impact both cancer and yoga can have on everyone, and we love to see the positive effect our Be Well program has on everyone who comes to class!
What are the main obstacles that stand between you and your mission, and what ways do you find to overcome them?
The biggest obstacle we face on an on-going basis is funding (which is the case with any nonprofit). Finding creative ways to get money to keep our program running and growing is always at the top of our agenda. Secondly, an obstacle we face is continuing to get word out to the world about our program so our classes and training sessions can grow as well!
Program aside, tell us about yourselves. What makes you, YOU!
Heidi and I joke that we share a brain! We are very much a yin/yang pair in personality, temperament, and appearance – but our differences also make us a perfect match like the two hemispheres of one big brain! We are both passionate about what we do and both agree that teaching our Yoga for Cancer classes are the highlight of each and every week. Heidi is definitely the creative one – she loves painting, making jewelry, and other crafty activities. I am more of an active, fitness junkie and when I’m not teaching yoga you’ll find me out hiking or at the Crossfit gym getting my sweat on!
How has C directly impacted your own life?
For both of us, cancer took away a dear loved one. Heidi was a young mother when her own mom died of ovarian cancer and I lost both of my parents within a 6 month time frame in my early 40’s. This was a life changer for us and we both felt deeply that we needed to give back in some way, to do what we could now and moving forward to help others who are living with cancer and those who are caring for loved ones with the disease.
What are your go-to acts of self care?
There are definitely real side effects of our work with the cancer population. Over the past 6 years, we have lost more than 6 very special students and friends and each one is a challenge. We give ourselves time to feel and to grieve and we also acknowledge that the time we were able to spend with them was time that made a difference in the quality of their life. We also make sure that we do our self-care – meditation, yoga, exercise, time with loved ones – are all part of our daily routine to keep life in balance.
What have you learned about yourself and the C community since starting with your program?
Cancer, whether you have it personally, or you experience it through a loved one, changes everything. It completely alters your outlook on life. Every day is a precious gift. Each breath an unrepeatable moment in time. We both feel that we have been able to really tap into our compassionate, nurturing natures and share our gifts doing something we dearly love.
If you could share any piece of advice for someone who has been diagnosed, what would it be?
DO BE WELL YOGA!!!!!!
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, phrase, or curse word?
Hmm that’s a tough one! We use quotes and mantras for all of our classes and over these many years I have found SO many good ones!!! I’ll share with you the very first quote I used at my very first yoga class and which I still feel is incredibly important for everyone to remember: “When you own your breath, no one can steal your peace” Teaching our students, especially our cancer students, to breathe well is one of the most important things we do in our classes. They can take that skill everywhere and into every situation. Time and time again they tell us how much learning to breathe properly has positively impacted their lives.
What are the latest happenings with your program right now?
Coming up next – our Fall training! We are still seeking a few more qualified individuals to join us on the journey of becoming a Be Well Certified Yoga for Cancer teacher!! www.bewelltherapy.net/teacher-training
How can we contact your program?
www.bewelltherapy.net @bewelltherapy on Instagram and Be Well Yoga Therapy on Facebook