Colleen Saidman Yee is an internationally renowned yoga teacher, who teaches yoga workshops worldwide with her husband, Rodney Yee. Before coming to yoga, Colleen had a varied career: She was a cover girl, a student of shiatsu, and she lived in Calcutta, working with Mother Theresa at the Home for the Dying and Destitute. More recently, together with Rodney, Colleen helped to create Urban Zen’s Integrative Yoga Therapist Program, Donna Karan’s worldwide initiative. Colleen is also the author of Yoga for Life – A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom. In this interview, she discusses themes from her recent book, and the impact yoga has had on her life.
Q. Colleen, from the looks of it, you’ve had a charmed life–first a widely known supermodel, and now an internationally renowned yoga teacher teaching all over the world. The New York Times in one article even christened you “The First Lady of Yoga,” in a recent profile.
But surprisingly, beneath the fairytale, you’ve had some pretty significant challenges! In your book, Yoga for Life, you write very openly and honestly about these. You have had to find your way through some serious health challenges: You got hit by lightning, were in a serious traffic accident, had PTSD, developed epilepsy, had a serious back injury–far more challenges than most people experience in a lifetime!
What did going through these challenges teach you, and how have they shaped your work as a yoga teacher today?
Colleen Saidman Yee: “Empathy” is the word that comes to mind. I can empathize with people’s struggles, their difficulties, their shame, and their embarrassment, because these are all things that I have been through.
For example, I developed epilepsy after the lighting strike. That’s an illness that is quite embarrassing, especially when it happens in front of a classroom of eighty people. Seizures are not sexy; I don’t care how you paint them.
But I think dealing with those difficulties has made me a better teacher. We tell the teachers in our teacher training that unless you’ve overcome a difficult body or difficult situations, it’s really hard to see where your students are.
As my husband Rodney says, those yoga students who have tighter bodies are going to be the best teachers, because they have more limitations and have to work extra hard to learn to overcome them. If someone is really flexible and doesn’t understand the hindrances that the students have, it’s really hard to teach them. Continue reading >>