Once in a lifetime you meet an indomitable spirit who just by its touch changes your perspective about everything. One such person I met during our Livin’ Life The Yoga Way – Interview series was a 90 year old Yogini, Phyllis Sues. Initially, it was this huge number that intrigued me to know her further. But, as I did, I realized, age is seriously just another number. It might seem like an exaggeration, but I could really feel her power, and the fire she had within.
Her inspiration is probably her sister, who is 96 and practices chair yoga, swims every day, has had 2 hip replacements and walks free of cane or walker. And after learning about them, our team too was as inspired as it was in awe of these two strong women. Quite obviously, we bombarded her with questions, but a yogini that she is, she replied to each with both patience and excitement.
The following are the excerpts from her interview. Read on and you’ll know why we love her so much.
1. Describe me your first tryst with yoga. Was it repelling, rejuvenating, taxing or motivating?
Phyllis: In my first yoga class at the YMCA, I was OK until I heard the word handstands. I don’t think so!! But then the yogi next to me said, “Shall I spot you?” I soon found out it meant ‘kick up’ and with that, I was in a handstand with a little help. I asked the yogi how long before you balanced in that handstand “6 years!”
Well it’s 6 years and I will not give up. Maybe next year! In my world anything and everything is possible.
2. With only 5 years into yoga and decades of life’s experience, how has yoga changed your perspective?
Phyllis: Yoga has given me the assurance that I can do anything that requires strength, power, elasticity and balance within reason and for all the years ahead. April 4th is my 91st Birthday. It’s just a number. Yoga has become the building block of my life.
3. I am curious as to why you didn’t take up yoga any earlier?
Phyllis: I was practicing Argentine Tango and needed additional balance and strength. I’m basically a ballet dancer since age 14 and always poo-pooed yoga as ‘unnecessary’. How wrong I was and how lucky I am, that I found this amazing physical and spiritual practice. My energy is endless. I was born with this enormous energy and it only grows and continues to amaze me.
Let me tell you, after beginning her first ballet lesson at a tender age of 14, she has been performing for USO tour (Air Corps). During the 1940s, she performed in five long-run Broadway shows and also danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. After moving to LA, with former late husband, Alan Sues, Phyllis started designing her own line of women’s high fashion sportswear. Her company ran for 22 years, under her own label. Isn’t that incredible?!
4. I see a very optimistic and happy, fiery streak in this brave attempt. And would love to know about your future adventures.
Phyllis: I guess you’d say these are the twilight years of my life, but I say they are the best and unexpected years of my life. My plans are to find out how much further I can take this body. Within this plan is definitely constant yoga practice, constant tango, 3 minutes of jump rope and anything else I can come up with.
5. I’m sure you advise everyone to go for yoga. But at what age should one take up this practice?
Phyllis: If I can give yoga a try at 85, why not everyone at any age? I will never have a hip replacement. I have Arthritis in my knees, but because of yoga I can do squats and jump rope. I have a ruptured bicep, but I can do 10 push ups every day because of yoga. Jump rope challenges my stamina, yoga challenges my balance and power.
Personally yoga is like a magnet with so many gifts—elasticity, balance, power, and silence.
6. Tell us something about your yoga practice.
Phyllis: My yoga practice, when I wake up, takes place in my bedroom. My yoga class is in a wonderful sunlit studio. I worship my yoga teacher, Anthony Benenati. After a light breakfast an hour and a half yoga class, now I’m ready for a tango lesson, after which a light lunch and a little nap. Then a rapid hike with my best friend Nicko (a standard poodle). Skydiving and trapeze challenges my fear of heights, and my hike with Nicko challenges my speed.
Not only did Phyllis learn to Tango at 83, she also composed and produced her own music. Phyllis brought together an extraordinary group of musicians including, Pablo Motta, Coco Trivisonno, Ronnie Manaog, Marcello Caceras and Chris Trujillo, and at 87, produced six beautiful Tangos and debuted her CD “Tango Insomnia.” Phyllis also produced a Jazz CD entitled, “Scenes of Passion” which she also performs on piano and sings vocals with Scarlet Rouge.
7. What is your advice to our readers?
Phyllis: If you want to have a rich, productive, glorious life, physically and mentally, practice yoga. I practice yoga at home and in class 6 times a week and Sunday, I practice by myself. It is the most rewarding exercise and I dislike using that word, because it is not an exercise, it’s a way of life. Once you take a yoga class, if you didn’t continue, it would be your loss. If you haven’t taken a class yet. Go for it! You will thank both me and yoga.
Living is not an easy exercise, but if you want a good journey, the best way to enjoy it is to listen, move and learn. It’s a full time job. If you practice yoga, you will never have a hip replacement. I’m not a doctor, just a healthy yogi at 91 years. I do splits, headstands, peacock and someday a handstand solo. Try 3 minutes of jump rope before you do yoga. The combination is dynamite Don’t believe me? Try it and live!
Amazing! You are one of my favorite people, Phyllis.
Now, at 90, Phyllis dances with her teacher and dance partner; performing in shows and competing. She is inspiring audiences and dancers nationwide. She is currently working on her new CD. Her music is available on iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon. In her spare time, she blogs for Huffington Post 50.
“I do inspire my friends, but beyond that inspiration, it’s rare that they are brave enough to take up yoga. I say “Their loss!” They don’t realize that their aches and pains would disappear with yoga practice and joy would be their gain. This is my sixth year with yoga. For me it’s a way of life. I’ll be 91 in 2 weeks. It’s a meaningless number. I simply know how I feel. And in one word, it’s GREAT. If there is a future, my next challenge might be running and enter a marathon, why not? It’s just numbers.” ~ Phyllis Sues
Photo Credit: Cat Doran