Originally posted by Charlotte Magazine http://www.charlottemagazine.com/How-It-All-Came-To-Be/
IT’S FAIR to say this story begins 400 feet in the air.
On the day after Christmas in 2007, Wendy Swanson and her husband, Andrew, were flying from Sarasota, Florida, to Charlotte after visiting with Andrew’s family for the holiday. Andrew had attended flight school while serving a stint in the army, and so the family of two were flying in his own single engine plane for the 560-mile trek back home.
Shortly after taking off, when the couple had flown 400 feet in the air, the engine failed. With water ahead, a u-turn to the departure runway, in aviation called “the impossible turn,” and likely rough landing was, suddenly, the pair’s best hope.”
Andrew spun the small aircraft around, but because a jet had taken off just before the smaller plane, the air near the ground was disturbed and manhandled the plane like a paper kite into a nearby ditch.
“My husband, having military training, he relaxed, he was trained how to relax his body,” Swanson said two days after the ninth anniversary of the crash. “I, on the other hand, went, ‘Ahhhhhh!’ so, you know, (the right) side of my body…just became a mess.”
Swanson, who was five weeks pregnant at the time, could barely move and was worried about the baby growing inside her. After being rushed to the hospital, she refused pain medication and an X-ray, fearing the medication or the radioactive waves would harm the child.
Without able to diagnose with certainty if Swanson had broken any bones and without able to deliver pain-reducing medications, doctors released her from the hospital after a few hours.
“Being pregnant there was just, like, ‘All right, I’m not gonna do pain meds, I’m not going that route,”’ Swanson said. “It’s interesting. I’m not sure if I had the option to, I’m not sure what would have been, but to me, I felt like that option wasn’t on the table because of the pregnancy.”
Swanson had difficulty walking for the next week and suffered debilitating pain down her entire right side for long after the crash. To help ease the pain without medication, she turned to an old friend: yoga.
“There was this process of, like, just rebuilding and, yeah again, yoga really was just this practice of being present in my body and being present to the pain,” Swanson said.
Swanson had casually practiced yoga for years after discovering it through her New Jersey church as a young woman. Now, though, she turned to yoga to not just improve her body but, rather, to heal it.
“I was taking yoga to its most basic place,” Swanson said “Yoga was then this journey for me and a very humbling journey because I could barely do cat cow (resting on all fours, arching one’s spine back and forth).”
Now Swanson had to use yoga to teach her battered body how to touch her toes, how to bend, how to simply be.
“It was just, like, this very deliberate process of using yoga slowly, slowly to heal,” Swanson said.
Just seven months before the crash, in May 2007, Swanson had earned her master’s degree in acupuncture from Tristate College of Acupuncture in New York City, where she lived before moving to Charlotte. When she gave birth to her daughter, Nora, Swanson was working both from home and out of a chiropractor’s clinic in Fort Mill while her husband worked full time as well.
The couple needed a nanny. Enter their friend Kaitlin Lacey.
Lacey worked for the family for nearly two years before she said she had been presented with a dream opportunity: to run a yoga studio. The family would need to start looking for a replacement soon.
But after a few weeks, Lacey came to Swanson and said the studio had already run into financial trouble and she had stopped getting paid.
Swanson, though, before she had earned her master’s degree in acupuncture had earned her Master of Business Administration and saw a business opportunity worthy of her own dream.
“I actually credit my husband with saying, ‘Wendy, this is a golden opportunity. We can toooooootally make this work,”’ she says now.
So the couple sat down with the then-owner of Yoga Palace and negotiated the terms for the Swansons to take over the lease.
But the place was a disaster and needed a new name.
“For me, it was about, beeeeing your yoga more than anything. It’s the awesome, it’s living, being kind, being mindful, being thoughtful, healthy. It’s literally all that your life encompasses,” Swanson said from the living room-style lobby of her studio, Be Yoga in Dilworth. “If somebody comes and they’re practicing yoga and then they go home and they’re kicking the dog and they’re miserable and they’re just unhappy that’s not necessarily, we’re not doing our job. Our job is helping people, to me, become their best possible self.”
With a new name and vision in mind for the studio, next came the task of redesigning everything from the floor up – literally.
The studio’s main yoga room had concrete floors with paint peeling up. There was a phone line directly in the studio, which, as any practicing yogi knows, doesn’t make for the most zen of experiences.
Swanson brought in her brother and brother-in-law, who both lived with her for six weeks during the work, in addition to private help to redesign the studio’s space, rip up and replace the floors and rewire the phones.
All the while, the studio remained open.
“It was kinda awful actually. I can’t believe anybody would actually still come to class. At night, there’d be all this construction, there’d be this film of sawdust on the floor, on the bottoms of everyone’s feet, “Swanson said. “There wasn’t very many of them coming, but…people believed in, you know, just believed in it, believed in what we were trying to do.”
Seven years later, the studio’s main yoga room is a beautifully spacious, window-filled second-floor room (without a phone line in the zen zone), and the studio has won this magazine’s reader’s choice Best of the Best Award for the city’s best yoga studio for three years in a row. The studio has also since expanded to a second location in south Charlotte.
Swanson thinks for a bit on how the studio has evolved during the past seven years and the memories she’s made here, including her daughter’s recent eighth birthday here in the sun-filled studio. It was yoga-themed, of course.
Swanson smiles at the memory and laughs.
“We decided to Be Yoga,” Swanson said. “And it’s been a crazy, wild ride.”
The studio has also since expanded to a second location in south Charlotte.