Colleen Saidman Yee is the founder of Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor, New York and New York City. She is also a featured instructor of Gaiam Yoga Online. Mrs. Saidman Yee is internationally renowned for her yoga instruction and a postitive voice in the yoga community. She is the author of the bestseller, Yoga for Life, and a dedicated wife and mother.
How would you define the practice of yoga?
The practice of yoga is not really something that you can define. It is different for everyone that steps on the mat, or sits on a cushion. There is a stereotype that yoga means asana. It is much more than just taking shapes with the body. It is using the body as a means to train the mind. Mr. Iyengar says that the way to find the spark of divinity is through the body. There is an intimacy and an understanding of one’s self and one’s actions that leads to greater understanding, connection, and kindness.
What has inspired you to make yoga a central focus of your life?
Yoga is a central focus of my life because it is. I fell in love. I touched, saw, smelled, tasted, and even heard the internal shift that a consistent practice of asana, pranayama, meditation, and study provides. It is a dear friend that I can’t live without.
How can practicing yoga be an antidote to our frenetic, technology driven society?
When you get on the mat. It is you and yourself. Not you and your phone or you and all the other distractions. The noise is a way of avoiding getting to know the true you. Silence can be uneasy in such a frenetic world. We can be addicted to stimulation and drama. Hitting the pause button is like plugging your phone in when the batteries are low. Instead of tuning out with chaos, tune in with love.
Your spouse, Rodney Yee, is also a prominent yogi. How does the practice enhance your relationship?
Rodney and I speak the same language. Yoga is like a child that we both share a love for. We hold mirrors up for each other on a daily basis. It is not always easy, but we hold each other accountable. We help each other keep it real. The yoga practice that we share cuts through the bullshit.
Do you feel that yoga should be taught in schools?
Absolutely, yoga should be taught in schools. It is a tool that should be in every kid’s toolbox. Bullying comes from low self-esteem, and fear. Yoga can help get to know yourself and befriend a body that is changing, and instill confidence.
What are your favorite poses and why?
My favorite poses are plow and seated forward bends. I like to go quiet. These two poses create relaxation and turning inwards. Just like most of us, I am exhausted a lot of the time. Forward bends are a great antidote for stress.
What would you say to someone who says that they are too busy or too old to try yoga?
Are you too busy to feel good? Really? You don’t have 20 minutes a day to spend with yourself. If you aren’t willing to do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones. They will benefit. Anyone can practice yoga. It doesn’t matter how old or even how healthy you are. There are entire practices that can be done in bed.
What would you consider an exceptional day?
A perfect day is not setting an alarm. Waking up, sitting on a blanket facing Rodney for a 20 minute pranayama practice. Then going to the kitchen and drinking tea (coffee for Rodney) for an hour or more while staring out at our beautiful backyard. Sometimes, we are quiet and sometimes we are jabbering. But, it is such precious time. After that, roll out a couple of mats and with no agenda just start rolling around and digging into our bodies and see what kind of practice evolves. Breakfast, long walk, a little shopping, a movie, peanut butter, country or blues music, cuddling, giggling, and sleeping.
Can you share some information on your studios and what a yoga session looks like?
Yoga Shanti is an experience that starts from the moment you walk in the door. You are met with beauty and serenity. Smell is such an important sense, and you are met with a delicious aroma that immediately makes you breathe. You take off your shoes and take in the beauty of the beautiful colors, textures, and light. You are welcomed as if family. The teachers are all absolutely amazing and not is a cookie cutter way. You will feel safe and will leave feeling alert and relaxed. What’s not to love?
What are your future projects and dreams for the next year?
This year will consist of showing up and teaching the best damn yoga that I can. I will continue to promote my book, Yoga for Life. I believe that this will be a big year for Urban Zen Integrative Therapists. We are making great headway and a lot of doors are starting to open. The work is so effective and helping so many people. This will take a big chunk of time. We are always filming more content for Gaiam, Gaia, and Oneoeight. I am super excited that Yoga Journal is going to be filming and distributing the practices in the 14 chapters of my book. Yoga. Yoga and more yoga.