Q&A with Margaret Burns Vap - Founder of Cowgirls vs. Cancer

October 15, 2018 3 min read

Tell us about yourself.

I’m a former city girl fashionista turned yoga entrepreneur and chaturanga cowgirl. As the boss mare of Big Sky Yoga Retreats, creator of Cowgirl Yoga and founder of the non profit Cowgirls vs. Cancer  I infuse my love of yoga, horses, and Montana into every retreat. I aim to create nurturing, safe spaces for people to practice, and to help women enjoy calm, refreshing, and vigorous yoga with an unforgettable western backdrop. I live in the Montana mountains with my husband, daughter, English Mastiff, and equine herd. 

Tell us about the mission of Big Sky Yoga Retreats & your yoga philosophy.

Our philosophy is Add a little Yeehaw to your Namaste. And that is what Cowgirl Yoga is all about. We want you to yell “Yeehaw!” when you have a break-through on the yoga mat, and murmur “Namaste” when you feel that amazing connection between human and horse.

The message that we hope everyone will take home from a retreat is that self-care is non-negotiable. It is not a luxury, but a necessity, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We all have so many demands on our time that taking care of ourselves can feel like a luxury. But how many other things suffer if we don’t start with ourselves? It has a ripple effect.

How did the Cowgirls VS Cancer Retreat get started?

Breast cancer has touched too many of our mothers, sisters, and friends. That's why we created Cowgirls vs. Cancer, a one-of-a-kind scholarship retreat and 501(c)3 designed to provide solace, rejuvenation, and healing for women battling breast cancer. Thanks to amazing partners like K-DEER, we've been able to give scholarships to 75+ yoginis, who are all-too-familiar with the physical, emotional, and financial toll of breast cancer, so they can experience holistic healing through yoga and horses in the wilds of Montana.

Shortly after I started Big Sky Yoga Retreats in 2008, I was looking for a way to give back. Around this time, someone contacted me who had a friend that was just diagnosed with breast cancer, and who wanted to come on a Cowgirl Yoga retreat. Around the same time, I had my own scare. Someone was trying to tell me something. I committed to bringing our first cancer kickin’ cowgirl out the following year, after her treatment. Since then we have grown from having 2 Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship recipients join our regular retreats each year, to having an annual retreat entirely dedicated to 8-10 women with breast cancer.

What are the ways that you continue to grow your effort in Breast Cancer Advocacy?

All of us have a story about how cancer has affected our lives. My feeling is that we all need to try and do something to make a difference in fighting this disease, and helping those who have it. With self-care being the main focus of all our retreats, we want women to start with themselves and take action to do what they can to prevent cancer, and recognize the importance of screening for it regularly. 

Mostly, I want to continue to spread the word that yoga is healing. Yoga focuses you on the present, and gives your mind a break from the constant ruminating and worrying about the future. For someone with cancer, this practice can be enormously grounding. Even if asana (the poses) is not an option, there are meditation and pranayama practices that can offer ways to calm the mind and focus on breathing. Yoga can help people with cancer feel more connected to their bodies, during treatment. Yoga can help them find trust in their physical self again, after treatment. And yoga provides an ongoing opportunity to get stronger and healthier. 

Want to do something about cancer? Do yoga. We can all start there. 

Where can you submit nominations for the Cowgirls VS. Cancer scholarship retreat?

The Cowgirls vs. Cancer scholarship program provides women who have experienced breast cancer a supportive, energizing, and inspiring weekend of yoga, horses, and community. If you know a cancer kickin' cowgirl who should attend (or if you are such a woman), nominate her. Nominations are being taken through November 15, 2018 for our 2019 retreat. 


Photo credit to Larry Stanley Photography. 

Instagram @larrystanleyphotography 


In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, 10% of e-commerce proceeds of the Laura Signature Stripe goes directly to support The Susan G. Komen Greater New York City Chapter during the month of October.

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