Yeehaw & Namaste: Big Sky Yoga Retreats & Interview with Margaret Burns Vap

Yeehaw and Namaste!  Ever thought these two could go together?

If you wear your cowgirl boots with yoga pants, you know what I mean.  And if you don’t, keep reading to meet my guest today because I have a feeling you’ll fall in love with her passion for yoga, photography, the great outdoors, horses, and personal growth.

Meet Margaret Burns-Vap.

margaret burns

Margaret is the creator of Big Sky Yoga Retreats and Cowgirl Yoga – it’s a retreat, it’s yoga, it’s practicing what you want to experience most, and you do it all with women who want the very same thing you do.

Keep reading to learn more about the retreats, how Margaret got the idea for Cowgirl Yoga, and the ONE message you can take away now (even without having attended a retreat).

What was a defining moment that you knew you wanted to create Cowgirl Yoga?

When we first moved to Montana, I had a different vision for Big Sky Yoga Retreats that didn’t involve horses. I guess that was because I was afraid to delve into that, since I had only been on a horse a handful of times in my life. I had a friend who kept telling me I had to offer retreats with yoga and horses. Horses had been my childhood dream, so our first year here I spent a lot of time with them, learning to ride and partner with these wonderful animals that took my breath away.

During that first year of a new way of life for me that will hopefully always involve horses, it struck me how similar the learning process with them was to being a beginner yogi. Creating that connection between horse and human goes hand in hand with cultivating connection to self, and ultimately others, on the mat. There are so many parallels to what we practice with the horses and our yoga practice. It opened up a new world, a new way to live my yoga practice that has become so much richer as a result. Which is how Cowgirl Yoga was born, because I couldn’t keep this to myself!

Now Cowgirl Yoga is our most popular offering, and I am thrilled that so many women come again and again. Because like your yoga practice, no horse experience is ever the same thing twice. There is so much opportunity for ongoing personal growth here.

Many people go on a retreat to escape the day to day.  How are Big Sky Yoga Retreats different?

Many people view vacation as escapism, to get away from their day to day lives. The goal of Big Sky Yoga Retreats is to find ways to make your day to day life the one you want to live, the place you want to be. Yoga definitely helps add a sacred element to the mundane, and that is available daily to everyone in some way. On retreat we focus on ways you can infuse your daily life with what is sacred to you, with yoga being the foundation.

Perhaps it’s also meditation, journaling, finding joy in what you eat. And while it’s a little more challenging to have horses be part of everyone’s day to day, we certainly have many retreat alumnae who have gone home and found a way to have horses in their life. It’s about recognizing what you are passionate about, what matters most to you, and how that can help you live the most fulfilling life possible on a daily basis.

So basically, after a retreat…we want you to be excited to go home.

Big Sky Yoga Retreats seems to also embrace the message, ‘move your body – change your life.’  How have the outdoors and practicing yoga changed your life?

They have created connection for me. Connection is the craving behind all human existence. In the words of T.S. Eliot, “Hell is a place where nothing connects with nothing.” We’re healthy when we connect with others in meaningful ways and when we connect with animals, nature, and what’s going on inside ourselves.

Despite the Internet, Facebook, etc., we live in a disconnected culture. In an ironic twist, technology has caused us to become disconnected from ourselves in ways that threaten our humanity. Whether we realize it or not, we crave connection on a more simple, primal level. This means enriching our lives by spending time with other people, spending time outdoors, and reveling in the basic processes of moving and breathing – as we do in a yoga practice.

My family and I moved from a big city to Montana and I started a business founded on connecting yoga to the benefits of being outdoors in one of the most wildly beautiful places I’d ever seen. Bringing together yoga and the outdoors has created connection on a much deeper level for me. It’s evolved into my life’s work to share that with others.

What’s the one message you hope every person who attends a Big Sky Yoga Retreat rides away with?

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.

We have a lot of moms on our retreats. As a mom myself – who taught yoga up to 3 days before giving birth – I knew how important yoga would always be to me, and to my role as a parent. But like anything else – I have to make time for it, which isn’t always easy. Moms are notorious for taking care of others and putting themselves last on the list. Our retreats emphasize that it’s important for women to make time for themselves, because that makes them better mothers, partners, friends, people. Come on retreat to honor yourself and your potential for good health – and then take those values home with you and apply them to your life. What better gift to give yourself…?

twitterOur motto is “Add a little Yeehaw to your Namaste”. That’s good life advice to ride away with too.


Horses, yoga, Montana, photography – your business seems to be an extension of your interests and lifestyle.  What advice do you have for other multi-passionate entrepreneurs who aren’t sure which direction to go with their dreams?

I’m very lucky that my work has become an extension of what I’m passionate about. But as I always tell people seeking advice…any job comes with its ups and downs, so just because you are doing what you love doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be rewarding and fun. (That’s why they call it “work”.) So I think it’s important to honor that and have realistic expectations. One of my favorite musings on this topic is an article I wrote for Yogi Business Times a few years ago: What happens when you decide to leave it all behind.

I love that social media has given entrepreneurs the opportunity for unprecedented exposure and networking. But what I think everyone still has to remember is that it’s really all about people. You need to connect with people beyond the computer screen. Pick up the phone. Go into the store you are interested in partnering with to talk to someone face to face. One of my favorite things about my work is the people I’ve partnered with. There is definitely an overlap in our personal and professional lives. I am drawn to these people on both levels and I trust that.

Lastly, the best and most successful ideas are quite often the ones you didn’t have. So stop making all the high level plans. As someone who adores having a plan, I find it ironic that the best growth and opportunity for my business has come about organically, growing like branches from the main trunk. A great example of this is a new offering we started last year, Cowgirl Yogatography. We had this idea to combine yoga and photography for a retreat, which didn’t work initially. Then we added horses. We were still sort of flying by the seat of our pants when we had the retreat last fall – and it turned out to be pure magic. I’ve learned over and over again that it’s not possible to plan magic. So, you set things up and allow them to evolve. Be patient. And you will probably be pleasantly surprised.

What’s Next for Big Sky Yoga Retreats?

Cowgirls Vs. Cancer: May 29-June 1


See other events HERE.

Connect with Margaret at!



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One Response to “Yeehaw & Namaste: Big Sky Yoga Retreats & Interview with Margaret Burns Vap

  • Lynn Eberle
    4 years ago

    I will be attending a retreat at Big Sky Yoga Retreats at the end of May. There are no words to describe my excitement and joy about my upcoming experience in Montana with Margaret and her crew! I loved your article, Jenni Hulburt, as you captured the very essence of what Margaret’s retreats are all about… she calls it Yeehaw and Namaste! I call it a gift.

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