Balancing Act

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Interview by Linda Warwick I Written by Katherine DiPastena I Photos by Velvet Leaf Photographyduretta_cover

From cash flow to yoga flow

Duretta Bradfield is a balanced woman—in mind, body and financial statements. This industrious mother of two splits her time between two professions. On one day, you might find her assisting clients with balancing their books and streamlining their businesses for long-term growth. When she’s not crunching numbers, she offers balance to a different type of client, dedicating herself to a place of strength and solitude as an Integrative Yoga Therapy–certified instructor. This combination may seem unusual, but it makes perfect sense for Bradfield.

Bradfield enjoyed a simple, stable upbringing with her hard-working parents on a homestead farm just outside of rural Leslieville, Alberta. She fondly remembers her humble beginnings, growing up under the watchful eye of her two older sisters.

“We were well loved and well fed. Our schools were small but we had the good core subjects,” she recalls. Her parents had lived through the Depression and instilled in their children strong values and an appreciation for the simple things. Her mother frequently reminded her of an important lesson: Make sure your yearnings aren’t more than your earnings. Don’t live beyond your means and always take care of your neighbours. Bradfield carries this message into both her professional and her personal life.

Growing up surrounded by animals and the responsibilities of running a farm taught Bradfield everything she knows about hard work, and perhaps gave her a thick skin.

“We had horses on the farm. One day a neighbour came by with a new horse. He said, ‘Duretta, jump on the horse!’” The horse took off like lightning across the field. Although she was an experienced rider, she could not get it to stop. When the neighbour finally caught up on his own horse he said, “I forgot to tell you—I just bought it off the track.”

Bradfield found her voice at an early age and enjoyed public speaking and debating.

“I thought I was going to be a radio announcer,” she says. “I could deliver a speech with passion.” Today, her ease with speaking in front of crowds and her love of educating others are invaluable in both her lines of work.

But as graduation neared, she realized that her strength was math.duretta_index

“Numbers were easy for me. That’s why I went into accounting and finance,” she explains. After earning a diploma from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, she worked as an insurance claims adjuster. In 1983, she met Mike, her husband of thirty years.

They relocated to Grande Prairie. Not knowing anyone there, she placed an ad in the local newspaper offering her accounting services and was flooded with calls. Within weeks she was working for a couple of oil companies.

Six months after her first daughter’s birth, Bradfield was back at work and taking certified general accountancy courses at night. Like many young professionals, she knew that success required hard work, and she was willing to push herself to get there. She was burning the candle at both ends, and something had to give.

Bradfield began to lose her vision and very quickly couldn’t see people’s faces. She travelled to Edmonton and was diagnosed with optic neurosis and prescribed prednisone. Within days her sight returned.

Wanting more control of her work hours after this scare, Bradfield started her accountancy business with the help of other accounting professionals. By 1988, when her second daughter was born, she had plenty of work and was finishing up her courses, running every day and teaching fitness classes.

Once again, her body let her know she was doing too much. She began to lose feeling in her legs and had difficulty walking. Her doctor suspected she had multiple sclerosis, but confirmation required a spinal tap. Bradfield and her physician agreed that she was already well on her way to improving her health and a definitive diagnosis wouldn’t change anything.

Bradfield had watched her mother combat MS. Her own symptoms were a startling reminder that she needed to make her health a priority. She found a balance between accounting and teaching fitness that she sustained for many years.

But in 2008, after losing her mother, Bradfield started experiencing symptoms of lupus. She couldn’t deny that her body had autoimmune issues. Prednisone again helped with the symptoms, and an MRI supported the diagnosis of MS. Bradfield reviewed her life and made some changes.

“You realize that you aren’t indestructible,” she explains. “If those symptoms hadn’t presented themselves and reminded me to redefine my priorities, I probably would have ended up like many other professionals—overworked, burnt out and unhealthy. No career is worth compromising your health.”

duretta_feature_3Already attending yoga classes, she began to read about the philosophy of practice and its many benefits. She also learned that there is duretta_feature_2a large concentration of people in Alberta with MS. She isn’t sure why this is so, but she is certain of the positive effect yoga can have on people with autoimmune disorders.

Sometimes, the people who cross our paths encourage us in the right direction. While attending a yoga conference in Vancouver with over 2,000 attendees, Bradfield was drawn to a woman named Tamara Hardie. They went for tea and were surprised to discover their similarities.

Hardie had MS and her symptoms had become so debilitating that she could barely walk. She had been putting all her energy into her corporate career when she started researching how alternative therapies and yoga could improve her health. Today, according to Bradfield, you would never know that Hardie, a vibrant, confident, athletic woman who runs her own yoga studio in Leduc, Alberta, was once plagued by the crippling symptoms of her autoimmune disorder.

Hardie told Bradfield, “I truly believe our body has the ability to heal itself.” Bradfield already knew she was on the right track, but Hardie’s story inspired her to forge ahead.

Bradfield speaks openly about her MS, but it certainly doesn’t hold her back. She is defined by her achievements, not by her medical condition.

“It’s not a big deal, really, as long as I take care of myself. You get handed a card from the deck, and you have to decide how to play it. Are you going to wallow in self-pity or are you going to figure out how to play that card the best that you can?”

Finding herself at a crossroads, Bradfield chose to live well and to live life to the fullest. As a result, she is nearly free of symptoms and has passed on her healthy habits to her own daughters, who now have children of their own.

She is quick to acknowledge that she sometimes needs a reminder to slow down.

“I still go through these points where I push myself too hard and the balance goes out the window,” she says. “If you are under constant stress, without giving yourself a chance to heal, your body eventually breaks down.”

Spirituality is part of Bradfield’s quest for balance. Through yoga and reading about different faiths, she has reached a place of comfort. Although her father had an aversion to religion, her mother found strength in her faith. Bradfield appreciates her mother’s example of openness—she was willing to listen to anyone of any religion, as long as the words were genuine. duretta_feature_main

Bradfield is the most grateful she has ever been. She often pauses and sees the wonder in the most ordinary things, like frost on the trees. She simply appreciates the beauty.

“We have so much to be grateful for. The health care we have access to, the nutritious food. Life is amazing where we live, right here in our community.”

At the heart of her appreciation is her family. She is grateful for her kids and what they have become. With her family spread abroad, time spent together is rare, but their memories are priceless. Last year, Bradfield spent three weeks in Hawaii for her daughter’s wedding. The weather was perfect, the energy was perfect and she and her husband enjoyed an unforgettable time.

No matter your profession, life is a balancing act. Bradfield’s job is to help others find balance. In accounting, the numbers have to add up, and in yoga, you work towards physical and psychological balance to make you feel whole.

Bradfield makes it a point to remind others about what really matters. After all, she knows all too well how her body will respond under stress.

“Work hard but make yourself a priority so you enjoy the fruits of your labour. Grande Prairie is such a hard-working town. People need to be reminded to calm down and take some time to breathe. It doesn’t matter what it is—simply going for a walk to break up a busy day. Pause and breathe. Take a moment to get away from the craziness.”


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