We know that yoga can make us one with our inner selves, but for two yoga instructors, the centuries-old practice led them to love. Rodney Yee and his wife, Colleen Saidman Yee are among the most sought-after and renowned yoga instructors in the world. They teach together both nationally and internationally, and have been featured in many lifestyle publications such as SHAPE, Vanity Fair, New York Times and television networks like Oprah and PBS.
Despite their love scandal that rocked the yoga community in 2002, the couple’s impressive clientele–from Christy Turlington to Russell Simmons– continue to be faithful devotees. The Yees shared advice on marriage and tips for yogis of all levels.
NewsOne: Yoga is considered an individual practice. How does it bring you closer together as a couple?
Colleen Saidman Yee: It’s like speaking the same language. It’s a way we communicate. It’s almost like having a child that you both love dearly.
Rodney Yee: It’s our life. It’s so great to be involved in something together. It feels like it constantly teaches us. We’re in love with the practice because we’re in love with each other. It’s amazing to share your life passion with your partner.
NO: Besides practicing yoga, what daily routines are part of your healthy lifestyle?
CY: We’re vegetarians, we love to walk and we’re both family people. So we have a lot of quality family time that keeps us grounded, humble and happy. Music is also incredibly healing and moving and I can’t imagine life without it.
RY: Yoga is pretty complete for us, we devote a lot of time to it. But we love to do other things like window shopping, going to the theater and other normal things. We like to balance out yoga and all the great things that yoga brings. At the moment, I love coffee. I also make her tea every morning.
NO: What tips and advice can you give to beginner yogis?
CY: Just get on the mat. If the first time is not a good experience, find another teacher. If that’s not good either, find another teacher. Every practice is different and there’s a type of yoga for everyone. If you’re intimidated, try out a DVD. Doing it at home first is less intimidating.
RY: We have found very few people who didn’t enjoy their first yoga class. But if you’re thinking about starting yoga, just tell yourself, “No more excuses.” Do a little research and ask around, then get out your appointment book and just go. It’s really just about getting there. If you want to try out DVDs, they are easy to fit into your schedule. That 15- 30 mins will make a huge difference in your life.
NO: How about advice for yoga experts and teachers?
CY: Don’t ever think you’ve got it. Keep learning, keep growing, and keep studying. There are so many more levels to dig, dig and dig deeper. It’s good to have a colleague or partner to push each other and to hold each other accountable so you can practice consistently.
RY: My dad used to tell me that “if you think you’re good, there’s always someone better.” Don’t ever be smug about what you’re doing. The real gem is constant curiosity. There are people who are constantly inspiring and you can learn from them. You might get to a plateau but theres always more. It takes diligence to get off the plateau.
NO: Can you remember a time when you had a breakthrough during a yoga session?
CY: when I don’t even know how emotionally wound up I am and I end up crying during savasana from sheer relief and release. Can’t pin it to one particular time. This is not uncommon.
RY: The first time, every time that you go into an asana, you’re put into a strange place. The first time doing a full lotus, it was like “is that really my legs doing that?” You’re breaking through mentally; the experience takes you outside your own mental boxes.
NO: If you can only do one pose from now on, what would it be?
CY: I’m currently in love with the triangle pose, but I would say halasana, the plow pose. It’s an incredible release for my back and is like a safe cocoon especially when you bend your knees into ear feet pose (karnipadasana). Even a soft breath becomes audible and is a comforting lullaby. The exhale is easy in this pose which leads to relaxation.
RY: Padmasana, the full lotus pose. It’s one of those postures that sets up the spine and sets the foundation for beautiful mediation. Once you dial in, it teaches you to relax.
Their current projects are perfect for at-home practices. Rodney’s latest Gaiam DVD, Yoga for Your Week, offers 5 segments, each with a different focus and intent, to carry you through the week and Colleen’s Calorie Killer Yoga, combines the mind and strength aspects of yoga with the benefits of torching calories that you normally can only get from a cardio workout.
Both Rodney and Colleen are involved with Donna Karan’s Urban Zen project, which aims to “change the current healthcare paradigm to include integrative medicine and promote patient advocacy.” The pair teach together at the Yoga Shanti studio in Sag Harbor, NY, and lead teacher trainings, workshops, and yoga retreats around the world. In March 2014, they opened a 2nd Yoga Shanti studio in New York City.