Over 25 years ago, Colleen Saidman Yee hung up her running shoes, deflated her basketball and stowed away her boxing gloves. It happened very soon after her first yoga class. A roommate had convinced her to try the practice.
“I walked out [of the class] and I felt high. Like everything was clearer and crisper and I could hear better. I hate the word spiritual, but it was a very spiritual moment.” Recalls Colleen.
But before becoming “The First Lady of Yoga” (The New York Times, April 2013), Colleen was a cover girl in Europe and the USA, a student of shiatsu, and an aid to Mother Theresa at the Home for the Dying and Destitute in Calcutta, among other things.
Growing up in Bluffton, Indiana, the yogi had one mantra: “I’m going to New York, I’m going to New York, I’m going to New York.”
And she made it happen. She moved to the Big Apple and took a large juicy bite.
True story: Colleen was “discovered.” She was working at a restaurant’s coat check when an agent walked in and, instead of handing her a coat, gave her his business card. This triggered a successful modelling career that put her in the cover of magazines all over the world.
But eventually modelling grew demanding, Colleen had a strike of bad luck (literally, she was struck by lightning…) and began to get injured while practicing sports. She decided to focus on yoga and just like her previous endeavours, she took this one to heart.
Colleen embarked in the 800-hour teacher-training at the renowned Jivamukti School in Manhattan. After graduating, in 1998, she opened her own studio in Sag Harbor, +Yoga Shanti. This year, a second Yoga Shanti space opened its doors in the heart of New York City (46 West 24th St, Ground Floor). If you stop in for a class, you might find yourself on your mat, listening to a duo of Colleen and her husband Rodney Yee lead your practice. The pair often teaches together, providing yogis with intense yet light-hearted, unique classes.
The Yee’s Ying Yang
The Yees are as zen as it gets, but still lead modern New York City lives. At home they have a gold-ceilinged room matching the one at Yoga Shanti, where they meditate facing each other every morning, or sit together to watch American Idol.
For the couple, yoga is just the beginning.
“I never want to be called a guru. All I want to do is guide women into their own bodies so they can be more content.” Confessed Saidman last year to the New York Times.
True to her mission, and together with Rodney, Colleen helped create Urban Zen’s Integrative Yoga Therapist Program.
Imagine a healthcare system where the patient is treated, not just the disease. Imagine a system where eastern healing techniques, yoga therapy, essential oil therapy, and nutrition are used in combination with western medicine in a holistic approach to patient care. Conceived by Donna Karan, Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman, in 2009, the Urban Zen Foundation launched a new program designed to meet this vision: the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy (UZIT) Program. It is a 500-hour advanced therapist-training program focused on integrating multiple therapies into patient care. Learn more about UZIT in this video.
Colleen will be co-leading a yoga session dedicated to peace with her husband Rodney Yee and renowned yogi Elena Brower, at the MoMA. The session takes place this Thursday May 22nd. Tickets are sold out, but you can experience the event following Lolë on the social media channel of your preference and looking into the official event hashtag, #lolewhite