When Colleen Saidman Yee was a child she wanted to be a basketball coach. Now she's one of the biggest names in yoga. So how did she go from Indiana farmgirl to world-renowned yoga instructor?
Colleen came to yoga after a roommate urged her to attend a class in New York City, and it was not long after that first class that she was hooked. And in 1994, after enduring back surgery, Colleen’s commitment to her yoga practice deepened.
I talked to Colleen about how her Midwest upbringing influenced her practice, men and yoga, and how yoga has strengthened her marriage with husband, Rodney Yee.
MBG: How has your Midwest upbringing influenced your practice?
CSY: Being from the Midwest and from a large family (5 brothers and a sister) makes one keep it real. You have to learn to laugh at yourself, or die. Ha Ha. When students give a teacher attention, it can lead to a false power. I think that our roots keep us humble and grounded. We were always taught that growing and moving forward is done by shear hard work and a sense of humor. In Indiana, we were born with a basketball in our hands. This has given me a background of athletic exploration. There is not much else to do in Bluffton, Indiana so I turned to sports. We were brought up strict Catholics, and I got a lot of my sense of devotion early on. I bring a combination of all of that into the classroom.
How did you come to yoga?
Yoga was a combination of everything that I was interested in. I wanted to be a basketball coach and a nun. Hmmm... I guess a yoga teacher is a combination of that...I am making light. I realize that it is so much more than that. I was an athlete, and was asked by a girlfriend to attend a yoga class with her -- and I thought they were wimps.... but then grudgingly went along with her, and realized the beauty and grace of opening the body and finding space and clarity. In some ways that first class was the most profound because I had no expectation. I was hooked.
How has yoga influenced your eating habits and becoming vegetarian?
I have been a vegetarian for over 30 years. It started because my dad used to bring deer home and hang them on our back porch. I am constantly re-confirming my commitment. Sharon Gannon and David Life are both so passionate about it, that when I took their training, I knew I was in it for life.