We asked Kamloops’ Mollie Sommer about what lead her to become a yoga teacher and launch her own yoga brand at age 39. Mollie tells her story in a way that highlights unhappiness and feeling overwhelmed as the instigators that caused a breakdown, one that eventually lead to clarity. She also reminds us that taking a risk to venture out on a solo career will not lead to instant gratification, but rather teach lessons on how to work towards subjective happiness and success.
“My journey hasn’t always been smooth,” Mollie says. “But I know that I am on the right path and will continue to follow my heart to wherever it takes me; knowing that it is exactly where I am supposed to be.”
It’s easy to advertise ultimate creative and entrepreneurial success, especially when it’s trendy. Recognizing bumps along the road and seeing the bigger picture, however, is harder to do.
Read more about Mollie’s story in our interview below, where she identifies her methods of focusing on positivity, after overcoming a stress-related health scare that put things back into perspective.
- You have been practicing yoga for over 10 years, but only recently followed your passion and became a teacher. What lead you to pursue this career?
My path to becoming a yoga teacher was a long one; full of curves and detours, but ultimately it was a fall that made see I wasn’t living the life I wanted.
In the summer of 2016, I hit my wall. I was suffering from migraines, caused by not taking care of myself. I was working too much, training too hard; plus giving myself completely to the people in my life. I was giving my energy away and not taking time to refill.
Then one day, as I sat with a group of friends, I thought I was having a stroke. I could hear them, see them, but I couldn’t get the words out to engage in the conversation. There was something seriously wrong and, for the first time, I became scared. I checked myself into the Emergency Room at Kamloops Royal Inland Hospital in BC and saw a doctor. By this point, I was so depleted that I was crying for no reason. The lights burned my eyes and I was ready to give up.
The hospital staff took one look at me and knew what was happening, like they saw it every day. I was hooked up to saline, a drug concoction and told to sleep.
When I fell asleep, I slept for two days. Luckily, I have a wonderful supporting family and people who love me. My mom brought me home and took care of my children. I remember waking sporadically but falling back asleep quickly. When I finally woke, my migraine was almost gone and I knew I couldn’t push myself any more. I had to accept that I couldn’t live that way any longer.
The first change I made was following the pull in my heart and stepping back onto my yoga mat. I found a hot room and discovered myself hearing the words that I needed to hear, about living a life full of fear. After that class, I took a good assessment of where I was and what I was doing. I wasn’t happy in most aspects of my life and I was desperate for a change. It wasn’t just my life that I was affecting; it was the lives of my children as well. They saw that I was struggling, though they didn’t know why.
I went on like this for a month or two, going to my mat for relief but not knowing how to make the changes I needed to make. I felt like I was in limbo, floating through this time of transition – half healing but still falling apart. When I look back at that time I see myself as a broken crystal, cracked and not shining.
In October, after an especially bad week, I completely broke. I was emotionally raw and I fell to my knees and cried out to the universe. Asking for help, knowing that I had no other options then to let go. I hadn’t been especially spiritual up until then but I felt I had no other options.
The next day, after crying on the phone with my mom the night before, she called me again. “There is an ad on Facebook for a yoga teacher’s course. I think you should do it.”I had seen the ad and thought about it but I hadn’t had the money for it. I said this to my mom; I told her I only had half of the fees. She said, “Do it and I will help with the rest.”
My life changed in that moment.
I felt a flicker of hope. I emailed, on a Thursday, and asked if there was a spot. The course started that Friday. I received a reply quickly, saying there was one spot left and that it had just opened up that morning. To make it even more divine, the course was offered on the weekends that I didn’t have my children at home. There was no need for me to give up my precious time with them.
I am grateful for my new life every day. I wake up with a smile on my face, knowing that I have found my purpose and that my future holds infinite possibilities. I no longer see myself as cracked and not shining. Those cracks are still there, but the light inside me is bursting out and from that, crystal shines rainbows of colour.
- You are 39-years old and have said you are just now living your life authentically. What were you doing before you became a certified yoga teacher?
For years, I had been in jobs that paid the bills but made me miserable. They were “should” jobs. Jobs that I thought I “should” do, not because I wanted to but because they were jobs that other people told me I should [pursue]. Throughout the years, I worked in offices, banks, the SPCA and managed companies. In each of these jobs, for a time, I would be happy, but at about six months in, I would lose interest, become bored and start looking for something new. It was a pattern that I repeated, always searching for something that would hold my attention. It wasn’t until I learned of the incredible vastness of yoga that I knew I had finally found something that could hold me mesmerized for my lifetime.
- What did you learn about yourself during your pre-yoga-teacher adventures that you think has helped you live more authentically now?
That you can’t live your life in fear, that being afraid of failure or disappointing others isn’t worth it. Take risks to get the life you dream of.
- What inspired you to start practicing yoga over a decade ago? What were the benefits of the practice that you acquired right off the bat?
Fitness has always been a way for me to clear my mind and I love trying new ways to be healthy. My first yoga class was a Bikram class in a hot room. I instantly loved how it challenged me, physically and mentally. As my practice evolved, I took what I learned and adapted it to my fitness routine, using it wherever I was.
- What was the hardest yoga pose for you when you first started? How have you progressed in this pose?
One of the things that I love about yoga is the physical challenge that it gives me. When I started. [the hardest pose for me was Dancer’ Pose. In some ways it still is. My body has changed since first starting yoga. Some days this pose is a breeze and on others it takes my breath away. The poses that challenge me the most are the ones my body needs the most. So, I try to keep them in my practice as much as I can.
- What is your favourite pose today and why?
This is a hard question to answer. When I practice on my own now, I have music playing and the asanas have become like a fluid dance, a story that my body feels as I move. Flowing, I feel strong, graceful, beautiful and challenged. My favourite poses are the ones that challenge me most. Right now, these are inversions, but I know that will change as I grow.
- You launched Mollie Sommer Wellness in April 2017! What has been the most exciting part of the business venture, for you?
This journey has been like an explosion of self-growth for me. I feel like I am in a place where all the lessons and experiences of my past have come together to create this magical ride and adventure that I am currently on. From opening up and enjoying networking to planning for the growth of my business in the next five years.
- What is one on of the best lessons you’ve learned so far as a business owner and entrepreneur?
I am learning every day, learning lessons from the people I meet, from my experiences and from my stumbles. If I listen to my heart, it tells me that my greatest lesson is learning that I am incredibly powerful, that I can achieve anything I put my energy toward. I haven’t completely silenced those saboteurs who creep in every once and awhile, but I have learned at my heart is what I need to follow. If I can stay true to that, I can make anything happen.
- You offer Hatha classes for all levels, and one of your passions is to make yoga accessible for all ages. Why is it so important for you to have these values at the core of your brand?
Yoga isn’t just about being flexible or sitting with your eyes closed. Making yoga accessible for everyone opens the door to this possibility. Taking all the fears and doubts out of the equation and creating an environment where anyone can come to and be perfect, without judgment, is the first step in showing them what yoga has to offer.
- What do you think one of the most common misconceptions of yoga is? How do you hope that your role as a teacher combats and debunks this misconception?
When I introduce myself as a yoga teacher, I often hear in some form or another, “I can hardly touch my toes!” To be completely honest, there are some days when I can hardly touch my toes! Yoga isn’t entirely about being flexible. Yes, after an hour or so of asanas your body responds and you become more flexible, but so does your mind. My role as a teacher is to facilitate the growth of my students, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. I hope they feel the difference at the end of a class or session.
- Yoga can be intimidating sometimes, especially when a student is a beginner and they walk into a class full of people they may not know. How do you ensure that your environment is safe and welcoming for all student types?
My goal is for my students to feel like they are practicing with friends. When they walk in, they are greeted with a big smile and more often than not, a big hug. There is no judgment as to a student’s body or ability, as we are all practicing. There is no competition or ego. Just breath, asanas and meditation. My classes are small, about 10-12 people, which allows me to give my students a more personal experience.
- In addition to classes, you also facilitate Phoenix Rising Retreats in Revelstoke, BC. These are women’s retreats that aim to create a safe, worry-free space. They restore energy and ignite relaxation. Tell us more!
Phoenix Rising is my heart put into a retreat for women. Knowing first hand how hard we work every day and how depleted we get, I wanted to build a weekend to give women the opportunity to re-fill their own cups. It is two nights and three days of time for you. I hope to offer this retreat three times a year, with spring, summer and fall editions.
- What are some of the tactics you use in the Phoenix Rising Retreats to ensure women feel worry free and leave feeling inspired and re-energized?
When you arrive, everything is ready for you to relax. It is all inclusive, with meals planned, yoga scheduled, gentle hiking and guided meditation. While there is an itinerary, there is still time to reflect and relax. The yoga is gentle and restorative, the meditations are aligned with self-love and invoking your inner goddess. This is all done in a place that vibrates with the energy of Mother Earth. With the mountains surrounding you and the vibrations of the land flowing, the space sets up my attendees for a weekend that gives back to self, instead of taking self away.
- You also have a destination retreat set for February 2018. You are taking 20 people to Costa Rica! What will this destination retreat include that makes it different from the retreats you hold in BC?
Adventure! I am so excited to be offering this experience. I have found a wonderful small yoga spa, set near the beach on a hill surrounded by lush forest. This retreat will offer a blend of adventure, yoga and self-awareness. I have partnered with Jil Forbes, [a Registered Massage Therapist], for this retreat. [The retreat in] Costa Rica will have more than just yoga, surfing and hiking. We are offering an experience, building connections with a group of people, sharing an adventure and learning about something new. My vision is that Costa Rica is just the beginning of something much bigger.
- What do you hope the future of Mollie Sommer Wellness entails?
I would like to facilitate more unique offerings, locally and around the world. I see the Phoenix Rising Retreat growing to become a place where women come to form a community of friends, with women coming back to experience the energy over and over; a place and time that they look forward to and leave feeling refreshed and invigorated for their home life. [I hope] my destination retreats will be in places off the beaten path, making connections with locals and people, giving my clients the opportunity to see the world and grow as individuals. A conscious traveller, growing a global community.
- Where do you host your classes and how can our readers sign up to be a regular student?
I have a space with The Happyness Center. We are located at 203-242 Victoria St in Kamloops. If people are interested in joining a class, they can find me on Facebook, my website www.molliesommer.com or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Walk-ins are of course also welcome!
Mollie, thank you for sharing your story with the A Quarter Young community. To follow along with Mollie’s journey, visit her Instagram, @MollieSommer.