When Pam Havig and Rory Rogina decided to open their new yoga and massage-based business, Perfect Balance, they turned within for inspiration.
Both business partners are yoga instructors and both are massage therapists. Both experienced miraculous health changes they attribute to a daily devotion of the ancient form of exercise. Both had an intense desire to shape a yoga business into a serene and healing escape.
Havig and Rogina met nine years ago at a yoga conference and both were later employed at the Billings Wellness Center, a traditional and alternative-based medical center. Last fall Deaconess Billings Clinic bought the Wellness Center, and the partners chose to leave and start their own business.
"It would be much safer to stay with a big hospital corporation," Havig said. "But there is a part of life that is not safe - it is adventure. I am going to take adventure now while I'm 50 and not wait around until 60."
Both insist the hospital takeover of the smaller clinic was not the reason for leaving, but the catalyst to put long talked about plans into motion. For two years, Havig and Rogina would travel to cities like Denver and Salt Lake City to attend training seminars. While driving, the couple penciled details of a business, and soon a completed plan emerged.
The search for building space began last September with a long list of requirements, and in January they found space on the West End. Located at 712 Carbon St., the 2,500 square-foot space is sandwiched between the Back Door Quilt Shop and the Computer Tech Services Inc. and sits next to Stone Mountain Carpet.
As the first yoga center on the West End, Perfect Balance is already attracting clients from the yoga-rich downtown area of Billings. Many of their past students followed Havig and Rogina to their new business.
Havig explained, "Yoga and massage are very personal. People don't decide where to go by a name or a location as much as by the personality of a teacher or the touch of a therapist."
Yoga's popularity has grown much in the last few years. The latest statistics show 86 percent of health clubs offer some form of the exercise. Most enthusiasts say they favor a yoga workout because of the peace it brings to the mind and body.
Havig and Rogina kept this in mind when designing and decorating the building. "We knew people would come here to relax the mind and body and quiet their senses," Rogina said. "We wanted the atmosphere to do all the work for us."
As clients approach the door, wind chimes ring softly in the front landscape and a trickling fountain with large fish babbles at the door. Sitting benches and a small contemplation garden complete the business's entrance.
Contractor Garza Construction divided the empty concrete building into one large yoga room and several individual massage rooms, and a quiet sitting area separates the two. The partners turned to Stone Mountain Carpet for the flooring, a plush leaf pattern carpet with a thick mat underneath in the quiet area and massage rooms, and real wood floors for the yoga room. Beautiful, hand-painted murals by local artist Kevin Poole line the walls and a large freshwater fish tank bursts with color and life.
"These are turbulent times, and we wanted people to calm down, relax here, and let go of tension," Rogina adds. "There is a huge difference between doing yoga at our place and doing it in some gym. Both are a workout but here people get extra care."
The partners' strong desire for the ambiance of the center was set before construction began on the building interior. Underneath the paint on the walls and comforting carpet on the floors are words and sayings written by Havig and Rogina and the four other therapists at Perfect Balance. These sayings are blessings and good tidings wished to those who enter.
"We blessed the bones of this building and started it with the right intentions," Rogina said.
Their intentions focus on giving back some of the good both Havig and Rogina have received from yoga and massage. When Havig was in her teens, she was diagnosed with a deforming arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, a condition in which the spine fuses together and the person loses mobility. When she began yoga nine years ago, she couldn't touch her knees.
"I thought to myself, 'There is no way you can do this!' " she said. "And then I said to myself, 'You just do what you can.' " Today she can bend and hold poses reserved for those dedicated to the practice and by next month will be the only nationally certified yoga therapist in the state.
Rogina too had medical setbacks and had suffered years of severe allergies. Yoga, he said, was the key to living the healthy life he enjoys today.
Convincing others of the benefits of yoga isn't too hard, even in Montana. Convincing a banker to loan thousands of dollars for an ancient healing therapy may pose more difficulties. But Havig and Rogina didn't have to plead their case for financial backing. The pair put up a lifetime of savings to begin Perfect Balance.
"I have always been a huge saver, and wondered what I would do with money," Havig said. She grew up believing a woman should have her own savings account. One month after she and Rogina pooled their assets and paid for their business in cash, the business is still operating in the black.
And they hope to continue that financial trend. The phone was ringing off the wall even before their April 21 opening. From May 11 to May 18 they had their grand opening with free classes and a yogathon all day Friday to benefit the Northern Rockies Cancer Society. The business raised $500 for the local cancer society.
Perfect Balance offers many traditional yoga classes such as stress reducing yoga and ashtanga based yoga. It also offers more specific classes such as mom and baby yoga and yoga utilizing chair supports. Clients can take specialty classes such as yoga and golf, a class designed to open the muscles for a fuller and more powerful swing, and office yoga, a class designed for business people suffering from the stresses of a computer and desk.
Joining Havig and Rogina are massage therapists Skelly Adkins, Jacque Hansen, Jaqui Their and Steven Zediker. Yoga instructors Erica Capser, Jeff Schaezoe, Elizabeth Klarich, Deb Farmer, Pamela Guftason, Roberta Bourgon and Kevin Kramer round out the staff.
For now, the partners look forward to the challenges and rewards of their new business. Rogina says he is now living the American dream of doing what he loves for work and giving back to others. "If you've been here once, I know your name. If you've been in my class, I know some about your life," he said.
Havig relishes the challenge. "At one point I said to myself, 'You are a grandmother. You should be baking cookies and taking your grandchildren on walks.' I guess I will be teaching them yoga and giving them massages instead."