Stephanie Lewis, my favorite yoga teacher here in Bend, Oregon, took a lot of grief along the way, but now she lives a fulfilling life and is on the road to success with her innovative BeauRam® backpack.
“I grew up in a loving family but with a lot of bullshit,” she confides.
Stephanie grew up on a three-generation family farm that produced deciduous trees in Salem. Her parents both went to North Salem High, the same school she and her younger brother attended. After graduation, her dad left to fight in the Vietnam War, part of his quest to please her unpleasable retired military Grandfather Merriweather (Stephanie’s family are descendants of Merriweather Lewis, as in the explorers, Lewis and Clark). When her father returned to Oregon a former sniper and decorated soldier, her parents were married.
Stephanie admits her upbringing had its high points. She cherishes memories of fishing and hunting trips in Alaska with her dad and him teaching her to shoot. In fact, she won shooting competitions as a kid and thought seriously about joining the U.S. Army Research Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). Still today, Stephanie has a permit to carry concealed weapons (her dad’s idea of keeping her safe is packing), though she hasn’t touched a firearm in years.
“Growing up hunting and fishing, I’m the most un-yogi yogi … [and] the black sheep of the family,” Stephanie admits and then chuckles. “Or the tie-dyed sheep.”
Stephanie also recalls the sumptuous smells of her mother’s homemade pizza; fresh crust baking in the oven and sauce bubbling on the stove. Her mother happily fed Stephanie’s and her brother’s friends. The Lewis’ never went on family vacations, but her mother made their house the go-to place to hang out and have fun.
The community respected her family. No one knew her “upstanding” grandfather was privately vicious to his sons, or that he molested Stephanie at age five or six.
When she was eight, she walked in on her parents making out and said, “I know what you’re doing because Grandpa showed me.”
Her parents didn’t talk about it after that, but Stephanie noticed they kept Grandpa at a distance, which was tricky as they all lived in houses built on Lewis acreage. (Years later, they discovered the family patriarch sexually assaulted another young girl in the neighborhood but was never charged.)
At age 12, Stephanie received her first of what she calls “All I Hate About You” letters from her dad and was devastated.
“[Dad] was coming from a place of unhappiness… [I think] a lot of it was a ripple effect from how he was treated by his father.”
Many more soul-crushing letters later, after graduating high school, Stephanie left the farm to go to Portland State University. During the summer, going into her sophomore year, she came home to find her dad’s stuff gone. When she asked what happened, her mother burst into tears explaining he’d moved in with the younger woman down the street. Her dad never talked to Stephanie or her brother about his decision – or even her mother. He grabbed his belongings and took off, leaving her mom to find a half-empty closet.
Every time Stephanie and her mom left the house, they had to pass her dad’s new residence. To cope, Stephanie and her mom sneered and made “Dirty Diana” jokes when they drove by. In the end, Diana left her dad at the altar.
Stephanie worked at Nordstrom in Portland in her ladder years of college. When she graduated with a degree in Graphic Design, she worked at Johnson and Walverton for three years as “the go-to-girl” on amazing marketing accounts such as Coca Cola, World Cup, Miller Genuine Draft, and Amnesty International. There she learned how to deal with corporations domestically as well as internationally, and she got to go to London to help manage a large campaign.
That trip to London gave Stephanie the traveling bug, and she wanted to make a difference in the world, so she decided to go to work for the Peace Corps. At age 26, after months of interviews and evaluations, the Peace Corps offered her a position in El Salvador. She spoke a little Spanish and happily accepted.
Stephanie quit her job, moved in with her newly remarried mother and step-father, and sold most of her possessions in preparation to leave the country. Then, two weeks before departure, a representative from the Peace Corps called to tell her they no longer needed her in El Salvador, but they had a position available in China. Stephanie couldn’t make the mental switch to another country, a completely different culture, half-way around the world.
“I didn’t want to go to China…I called my mom at work, crying so hard,” she says. “My mom was a medical assistant, totally compassionate. I’ll never forget how reassuring she was.”
Stephanie needed a job, so that same day, she took a trip to Nordstrom.
“They offered me a management position, and I took it. I had my own place within the week.”
By the time Stephanie turned 29, although her dad still sent occasional “All I Hate About You” letters, he also dangled the carrot of taking over the family farm. He’d already set up her brother in an independent nursery, so he told her if she came home to North Salem, as the oldest child, she would inherit the business. But three years into working long hours and learning all there was to know about raising and selling decorative trees, she got another “All I Hate About You” letter.
Heartbroken, she realized her dad never planned to fulfill his promise to let her run the farm. She left for Portland where Nordstrom gladly gave her another management position. A couple years later, when she was 34, Stephanie’s father asked her to come home to discuss the family business. His tone had been upbeat, almost positive. Thinking her family had come to their senses, she met with her parents and her brother in Salem.
But the meeting was anything but civil.
Her brother had become a chip-off-the-old-block and read aloud a scathing letter of his own: how Stephanie thinks she’s “entitled” and accusing her of lying about whatever she’d said to disagree with him. Silence filled the room after her brother’s recital. No one stood up for Stephanie to mention her hard work or her ideas that had made the farm more efficient and profitable.
“I’ve never felt so alone,” she recalls. “Before or since.”
She sold her house in Salem (right before the market tanked) and went to Puerto Rico for six months. When she turned 35, Stephanie returned to Oregon, took classes in viticulture, and moved to Bend to be a wine rep/buyer for Ray’s in Sisters, Oregon.
“Bend is a place where people come to heal their souls,” she says.
Stephanie started practicing yoga in 2009 and began facing her past. She met life coach and counselor, Susan Weisburger, and Suzina Newcomb, the owner of Namaspa. These two women taught Stephanie to come from a place of abundance, love, and conscious compassion rather than poverty. She also kept in touch with her maternal grandmother, now 96, Jean Barry.
“She’s my hero, the most phenomenal Yogi who has never stepped in a studio. [Grandma’s] mindset is of pure love and compassion, total acceptance. She had a tough childhood and rose above it.”
By 2011, Stephanie decided to become a yoga instructor.
“Yoga teacher training is what saved my life,” Stephanie proudly admits. Part of the 200-hour Baptiste methodology includes “peeling away personal [baggage] to own your authenticity in order to help others reach theirs.” It was here that Stephanie truly began to heal.
Teaching yoga classes at Namaspa, Athletic Club of Bend (which is where Stephanie and I met), at Brasada Ranch, and in La Pine helped her develop a sense of self as well as lead others to discover their authentic selves. Supporting people in accepting and appreciating their bodies and minds led to Stephanie designing the BeauRam® Yoga Survival Pack.
“As a teacher, I wanted to make it easier for people to live healthier lives because I believe that good health uplifts to happiness and contentment.” Stephanie chuckles. “To grab their ‘Beau’ and go.”
BeauRam® Yoga Survival Packs come loaded or unloaded, for beginners to 30-year veterans. If you’re just starting out or your gear is getting worn, the loaded packs include:
- A yoga mat (travel design patent pending)
- Removable laundry bag
- Skin care kit
- Inspiration piece
- Carabiners (3)
- Water Bottle
- Yoga block
- Yoga strap
- and Soothing wipes
Stephanie’s BeauRam® Yoga Survival Packs got incredibly positive feedback from yoga teachers and students when she showed people her prototype, so she made the nail-biting decision to invest her savings in producing a few hundred.
And her BeauRam® Yoga Survival Packs sold out within a couple weeks!
Scared but determined, armed with nurturing friends and her own yoga practice, she took the plunge and sold her house to use the money to manufacture more BeauRam® Yoga Survival Packs!
You can find more information HERE. 🙂
Stephanie’s ultimate goal is to one day have her own BeauRam® Yoga Studio that provides classes and anything yogis at any level might need to enhance their practice – and their lives.
You go, Stephanie! I’m sure, not too far into the future, I’ll be writing another post about your product launch and one day about your successful studio!
Thanks so much for sharing your story.
For more information, go to Stephanie’s BeauRam® Facebook page.