Yoga for Life

 - a journey to inner peace and freedom -

Colleen Saidman Yee

with Susan K. Reed

afterword by Rodney Yee
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Book Details
 428 p
 File Size 
 21,764 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 978-1-47677680-4 (ebook) 
 2015 by Colleen Saidman

About the Author
COLLEEN SAIDMAN YEE is an internationally respected yoga
teacher whom The New York Times 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 Harbor, 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 three 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 nothing was missing? Maybe 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 we’re 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
enlightenment 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 her 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?”
This is the story of one woman’s life, my life, in and out of yoga. It isn’t
always pretty, but it’s as honest as I can be, and as memory allows. I’ve tried
to extract from my journey some of the painful and exuberant lessons I’ve
learned, and I’ve embodied each of them in a unique yoga sequence. For
dealing with suffering, the sequences are intended to be soothing and
nurturing; for dealing with growth and other life passages, the sequences are
intended to be celebratory and to lead you to your own insights. The
sequences I’ve designed address issues of alienation, addiction, and insecurity
as well as finding one’s voice and participating in the endless potential of
acceptance and love.

The goal of a yoga sequence is to create a physical effect, an emotional
effect, and a spiritual effect. The key is to investigate and listen to your body,
to increase intimacy with it in order to understand cause and effect. What
sequence of poses, breath work, and meditation creates greater peace? (Not
just peace in our joints, but peace in our guts, our hearts, our nervous
systems, and our lives.) We’re all “sequencing” every day. If you need to
drop the kids off at school and go to the bank, the post office, and the
grocery store, you figure out an optimal order in which to complete those
tasks. When it comes to the body, the same lessons apply. Yoga is skill in
action; part of that skill is learning the right sequence, on and off the mat.
A beautiful yoga playground awaits you in these pages, and, I hope, the
sequences I’ve created will reveal the blue sky that’s waiting inside you.
Today, I’m fifty-five years old and happily married. I don’t do drugs, and
I’m a vegetarian. Instead of chasing synthetic highs, I’ve learned how to
extract a high from the beauty of an ordinary day. I’ve learned that the best
high exists in the joy or the sadness or the mundaneness of the present
moment, unfiltered. Yoga allows me to surf the ripples and sit with the mud,
all while catching glimpses of the clarity at the bottom of the lake: my true Self.

I hope this book will help you do the same. Namaste.

Table of Contents
Introduction • Know You’re Enough
Chapter 1 • Roots
Yoga Sequence: Grounding, Opening, Nurturing
Chapter 2 • Trauma
Yoga Sequence: Relief from Anxiety and Trauma
Chapter 3 • Addiction
Yoga Sequence: Observing and Letting Go of Habits
Chapter 4 • Forgiveness
Yoga Sequence: Loving-Kindness Toward Ourselves
Chapter 5 • Confidence
Yoga Sequence: Strength and Courage to Stand on Your Own Two Feet
Chapter 6 • Awakening
Yoga Sequence: New Perspectives; Turning Yourself Upside Down
Chapter 7 • Service
Yoga Sequence: Subtle Practices for Difficult Times
Chapter 8 • Chaos
Yoga Sequence: Honing Our Attention
Chapter 9 • Fear
Yoga Sequence: Facing What Scares Us
Chapter 10 • Expectation
Yoga Sequence: Letting Go of Expectations
Chapter 11 • Truth
Yoga Sequence: Practicing Truthfulness
Chapter 12 • Love
Yoga Sequence: Finding Balance
Chapter 13 • Women
Yoga Sequence: Trusting Our Intuition and Finding Our Voices
Chapter 14 • Peace
Yoga Sequence: Final Relaxation
Afterword by Rodney Yee
About Colleen Saidman Yee

Yoga for life - a journey to inner peace and freedom
ATRIA Paperback
An Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020


Interior design by Paul Dippolito Cover Design by Chelsea McGuckin Cover Photograph by Zev Starr-Tambor

B132.Y6S36365 2015


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