AUTHOR OF "YOGA FOR LIFE" & OWNER OF YOGA SHANTI
Colleen Saidman Yee is the author of Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom (Atria Books). She is also director and owner of Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor, N.Y., and co-owns Yoga Shanti in Westhampton Beach and New York City. Articles about her have appeared in The New York Times, New York, Vanity Fair, and O, The Oprah Magazine.
I’m talented at putting clothes together. I know that sounds strange for a yoga teacher, but I was a fashion model for almost 30 years. I have a knack for being able to mix and match and put things together that no one would have imagined, and somehow it works. I love working with color, texture and patterns. The other thing that I do well is sequence yoga poses for a particular affect. If someone is wired, tired, sad, anxious, etc., I can give him or her a series of poses to bring balance to that condition. Like most people, sometimes I suck at sequencing my own life, but on the mat there isn’t a better sequencer.
I’m not sure I understand the idea of “best.” Is this a competition? I always hope I can become the best version of “me” by trying to figure out who I am and who I’m still becoming. Oscar Wilde famously said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” If I can relax into the wisdom of the phrase, “I am enough,” then maybe I’ll be the best “me.” I would like to be kind, compassionate, and patient with others and myself. My main mission in life is to communicate to women that they don’t have to be self-abnegating; they are already “enough”—great in fact, and that greatness has nothing to do with being better than someone else. Women need to find our voices and speak into them without thinking that what we have to say isn’t valid. Too many women have become mute for fear of not being good enough.
Personal: Grand kids. Rodney and I have four kids between the ages of 19 and 25. I have a trunk full of ridiculously cute baby and toddler clothes just waiting for the future best-dressed grand kids ever.
Business: I would love my book, Yoga for Life, to make the bestseller list, which may be an ego trip, but it’s my sincere hope that my stories and sequences can help and inspire others. I would love to see a yoga teacher at the bedside of every patient in a hospital. This is one of the goals of the program that Rodney and I started with our friend, the fashion designer Donna Karan. It’s called the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program and it brings yoga and healing modalities to caregivers and patients in hospitals. I would like to have a few more successful Yoga Shanti studios (there are three now). And even though we love teaching on the road, one day I hope Rod and I can slow down and enjoy our home in Sag Harbor, our families and our kids. (I counted recently, and we’ve have slept in own our bed 13 nights in the last six months)
“Know you’re enough.”
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Mother Teresa, Gloria Steinem, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan
New York City, especially the Chelsea neighborhood where our Yoga Shanti studio and our apartment are located. Calcutta is also close to my heart.
La Perla Underwear, James Perse tee shirts, Devachan conditioner, Organic Pharmacy Rose Water Toning spray
How will you stay the best?
I keep the pedal to the metal. I have a work ethic that doesn’t quit. My father passed that on to all of his seven kids. He worked in a factory and was hell bent that his kids wouldn’t have that same life. He drove that into us day and night. He busted his butt to make ends meet, to ensure we got good educations. My five brothers and sister all have advanced degrees. I became a fashion model, then a yogi, but I’ve had his work ethic in every job I’ve held. As a model I never missed a casting. As a yoga teacher, I’ve only missed 3 classes in 17 years. One was when I had just found out that my brother is law unexpectedly dropped dead. One was when I had a severe case of the flu, and the last time was when I got the call that all children dread. My mother has been rushed to the hospital and probably won’t make it through the night. For the first 10 years as a teacher, I would spend hours planning every class. I would write down the poses and what I planned to say about them and how I was going to lead students in and out of them. I literally wrote a 90-minute script for each class. Then I would find a poem and a music playlist that went perfectly with the spiritual theme of the class. I am not quite as obsessed now, but I still plan my classes carefully. I live and breathe teaching. Sometimes I worry that I’ve become a boring, one-dimensional person. I am constantly going over yoga sequences in my head. Thank God I am married to a yogi [Rodney Yee]. He’s just as much of a workaholic and a yoga nerd as I am.
What fascinates you?
Other people’s stories. If I weren’t a yoga teacher, I would want to be an interviewer like Christiane Amanpour and Diane Sawyer. Singing also fascinates me. I can’t sing at all, but nothing touches my heart more than music, and a beautiful voice.