Advice From a Yogi by Colleen Hargis

My name is Colleen . I started yoga 4 years ago at age 46. Here are my thoughts……

Top things overheard in a Sumits Yoga Room:

1. ‘Drop your ego at the door’

2. ‘Don’t compare yourself’”

3. ‘Don’t worry about what your neighbor looks like’

4. ‘Take breaks’

5. ‘The strongest yogis take breaks’

6. ‘Do what feels good to you’

7. ‘If you are judging your neighbor you are not doing yoga ‘

8. ‘ If you want to lay down on your mat the whole time and just breathe then you are doing ‘it’ correct”

9. ‘Maybe today you find your strength in trying something new, maybe today you find your strength in backing off’

10. ‘Let that shit go’

A woman in American society does NOT hear these things regularly . We hear: work harder, push yourself, you are not good enough, you should be: thinner, tanner, bigger here and smaller there. We hear: ‘If you push enough you can improve”. The constant message is that if you are not PUSHING toward some kind of success-milestone then you are just missing the boat.

They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I think it took 46 years for me to be ready. Ready to measure success differently. Ready to be done with that ego-driven cassette tape playing over and over every time I took time out to do something for myself. I was ready to move past the idea that we constantly have to be PUSHING TO SOMETHING in order to be happy. Maybe where you are right now is perfect! This is my yoga. It is a room filled with every shape and size, every age and body type. It is people who show up in shorts and cut off t-shirts and sports bras and leggings. It is people ‘in-the-raw ‘with no makeup, no hair-do, and no material things to hide behind. In that room I cannot tell who makes six figures and who makes minimum wage. It is like-minded people who celebrate the ability to crack their hard outer shell , to turn off the mind that likes to tell us we are not enough, and sometimes the poses (asanas) and movements (vinyasa) , mix with the positive energy and mantras in that room and magic happens.

I have tried to explain it this way: Yoga is like fire. When you stand around a fire you see flames and smell smoke- these are the physical attributes of fire. But the magic of fire is the unseen- the heat that is the result of the chemical reaction. Imagine if you had never ever experienced fire but from a very long distance away. You may be able to appreciate its beauty and even respect is ability to change landscapes, but once you dare go in closer your experience would change to include FEELING THE HEAT. Fire would still be beautiful without heat, but the heat is what changes landscapes. The unseen heat is what makes FIRE both feared and revered and useful to us.

In yoga the tangible things are poses, movements and hearing the breathing. Anyone looking through the glass door of the yoga room door can see these things, and they are beautiful and mesmerizing. Poses and movements are just a small piece of the yoga. Quickly you will learn that the ability to ‘touch your toes’, or ‘get your heel above your head’ is just a very small part of the whole experience. The magic is in the unseen. The ‘unseen’ in that room is way more powerful that the poses or ability to get ‘forehead to knee’. You will go into that room on day one and your mind and body will be racing to keep up. Your mind and its best friend, the ego, will say all kinds of crazy-ass stuff to you in an attempt to keep your ego inflated. But if you just keep coming back…over time, with patience you will experience the ‘unseen’ of yoga, its powerful positive magic.

Tips from a Middle-aged Yogi (you should always listen to your mother, by the way):

1. Give yoga a chance. Set up a consistent schedule to allow small changes and shifts to occur both mentally and physically. If you find your mind saying “You can’t do that”…please recognize this as your ego trying to protect itself…you can do anything you want to do with patience and time. If you had given up on walking when you were an infant because you fell down the first 100 times then you would still not be walking.

2. Find a positive mantra, or saying to use to turn off the negative self -talk we are so used to in our society. A few I have learned from my teachers are ‘I am enough’ and ‘ I am grateful for an able body’.

3. Drop your ego, and competition at the door. How wonderful it is to hear your teacher say ‘ it doesn’t matter what your neighbor is doing ‘.

4. Let the magic happen. First you will see small shifts in your thinking and may even see small physical victories. Be ‘Ok’ with the ebb and flow of your practice.

5. Enjoy the different styles of different teachers. It is no coincidence that you are taking each class. Perhaps your judgement of ‘liking’ or ‘not liking’ a style is why you are on your mat today.

6. Your body WILL change when you adopt a consistent practice but unlike any other form of group physical activity there are not benchmarks of success. I have heard it said many times and it is true “Most people come to change their body, but they stay because of the change in their mind.”