Back of the Book
The very first time Colleen Saidman Yee took a yoga class, she left feeling inexplicably different something inside had shifted. She'd been a rebellious young woman with a dangerous heroin habit and then a globe-trotting fashion model, but she felt so alive with yoga that it became the center of her life. From learning to cope with a frightening seizure disorder to navigating marriages and divorces to becoming a mother, finding her life partner, and grieving the death of her beloved mother, Colleen has been through many of the challenges people must face in a lifetime. And she has discovered that yoga provides a path to finding our voice, our true identity, and, ultimately, peace. Each Chapter includes specific yoga practices that address issues ranging from hormonal mood swings to detoxing, grief, depression, and stress. Colleen's signature sequences, illustrated with photos and step-by-step instructions, will bring awareness to your physical body and your spirit-leading to increased confidence, energy, and joy.
Yoga for Life is the remarkable story of how one woman found herself through yoga-and will surely inspire others to do the same.
Colleen Saidman yee is an internationally respected yoga teacher whom the New York has called “The First Lady of Yoga” for thirty years, she has been a top fashion model represented by Elite and Ford Models. Colleen opened her first studio, Yoga Shanti , in Sag Horbor, New York , in 1999, and today co-owns additional studios in Westhampton Beach and New York City . With her husband , Rodney Yee, and Donna Karan, Colleen created and runs the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program , which is utilized in health –care facilities around the country. Mother to a daughter and there stepchildren, Colleen teaches retreats, workshops, and conferences internationally but calls Sag Harbor her home.
I watch women's chests. I watch the arches of their feet. I watch the positions of their pelvises and the placement of their heads. I watch women holding it all together, afraid that if they slow down, everything will fall apart. I watch women being ashamed that they are aging and feeling unworthy of love. I watch women collapse.
I also watch women's perfection, courage, compassion, and grace. We women can balance our heads over our lifted chests, supported by strong legs that are connected to the earth. We can raise the arches of our feet and we can soften our faces. We can carry ourselves in the world with confidence and ease.
I've taught yoga to thousands of women (and men) for close to two decades. Women are powerful and beautiful, and we are also in pain-physical, emotional, and psychological-stemming from past or present trauma. We're fearful about what the future may or may not bring, personally or professionally. Women in my classes cope with addiction, body and relationship issues, mother issues, competitiveness, and an inability to tell the truth. All of these things create stagnation and tension in the body. Yoga gives us tools to overcome the obstacles that exist between us and freedom, joy, and gratitude. I see why women come to yoga; they want to reclaim something in themselves. It's inspiring to watch women gain a different perspective and fall in love with their bodies.
I was a professional model for three decades and very confused about my value beyond my looks. I've experienced triumphs in life, but plenty of traumas, too. I've always been searching for something beyond what I can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. I've had glimpses of this mystery through prayer, intense exercise, and drugs. Yet it is yoga that takes me back to myself and has made me realize that the magic that I've spent my lifetime searching for is right here inside of me. All I have to do is stop running from it.
My yoga journey started in 1987 when a friend convinced me to go with her to a yoga class in New York City. When I walked out, I felt different than I'd ever felt in my life. As I stepped into the street and its lights, colors, and smells-all seemed different, so crisp and so clear. Something significant had shifted, and something opened up inside of me. I felt alive in a whole new way.
I love this definition of yoga from one of my first teachers, Sharon Gannon: "Yoga is the state where nothing is missing." When was the last time we felt noth- ing was missing? May be in utero. The term satya means "truthfulness" in Sanskrit. So many of us are lying to ourselves; we're putting an identity out there that we want other people to see, and hiding, from ourselves and from others, who we truly are. In truthfulness as in yoga, nothing is missing. We are present, whole.
Even after all my years of practice and study, I can't claim to know what en- lightenment is, or if yoga will take me there. But I do know that yoga lowers stress, improves posture, circulation, and digestion, while keeping joints fluid and muscles toned. It may also be the best antiaging regimen we have, and it can bring us to our ideal weight. Yoga eases everyday pains and frustrations and increases kindness and compassion. It hones the body and stabilizes the mind. Yoga can illuminate our spirits and free us from the shackles of our stories, which often limit our vision of who we are and what we are capable of achieving.
When you navigate the inner landscapes of your body through breath work, mindfulness, and postures, you notice if what you have just said, done, or thought makes you feel lousy or good. One day several years ago, my four-year-old nephew, Johnny, was talking to my oldest brother, Mark. Johnny said, "Uncle Mark, I really love everyone!" Mark replied: "Really, Johnny? I don't love everyone. In fact, I even have enemies." Johnny shook his head and said, "That's too bad, Uncle Mark. You must feel so bad inside." This awareness is the first step toward right thought, right word, right action, and maybe even peace. It could be that simple.
One night, my husband, Rodney, and I were surfing YouTube videos when we stumbled on a video of a Fiona Apple concert. It was an "aha!" moment for me. I thought: This woman is telling the truth with ber body. She's not what you would typically call a good dancer, she was jerky and unconcerned about looking pretty, but something about her was raw and real. She was moving with her wounds, with her limitations-she was moving truthfully. She wasn't hiding, and she wasn't afraid to be vulnerable and expose herself through her voice and movements.
Her courage and honesty made her dance mesmerizing and powerful. It penetrated something deep inside me. When you bow to someone and say, "Namaste," it means, "The deepest part of me acknowledges the deepest part of you." Fiona Apple's performance was a Namaste from her body to mine. I want to have the courage to be as honest in my life, my teaching, and in this book as she was in that dance.
Yoga can bring you to this kind of truth by helping you to observe, then to let go of, the habits you cling to and the stories you use to protect yourself. As you practice, you become intimate with your body, which many of us spend a lifetime either alienated from or waging war with. Yoga practice can pierce emotional places that most of us guard or avoid. Our bodies are intelligent, more a source of direct truth than our minds, but we rarely listen to the wisdom that's buried in our beautiful chambers.
I became a yoga teacher because I have experienced the real change yoga can create. With yoga, I'm at home in my skin. Yoga has helped me to become more honest. It has helped me discover my body, and through it, my voice. In the modern yoga world, yogis were often put into little boxes and expected to be celibate, or cult members, or tree-hugging, granola-eating hippies. I'm here to tell you that today a yogi can be anyone, even an Irish Italian girl from the heartland of Indiana.
Yoga has given me a larger family, my yoga community, a congregation of people willing to work to find the connectivity that's sometimes hidden. It brings to the surface what we need to feel and know. The late B. K. S. Iyengar, perhaps the most influential yoga teacher of our age, said that you can only be as intimate with others as you are with yourself. Alone and in community, we use yoga to get to our essence. Yoga peels away layer after layer of debris to uncover what has been there all along. It's like the Bob Dylan lyric: "How long, babe, will you search for what's not lost ?"
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