Rodney Yee is one of the most recognizable and successful people in yoga. He took his first yoga class in 1980, and ten years later was one of the first yogis to begin starring in instructional yoga DVDs. Since then, his DVDs have sold millions of copies, in turn getting many people without access to local studios to begin a home practice.
But how did a small town boy growing up in Oklahoma turn into an international yoga superstar? Rodney shares his thoughts with us on his Midwest upbringing, his practice today, vegetarianism, and more.
How did your Midwest upbringing influence your practice?
Growing up in the small town of Altus, Oklahoma for the first ten years of my life was pivotal in forming many perspectives that are still prominent in my life today. Having wide open spaces and a safe neighborhood to wander in as a child allowed me the freedom to explore both inside and out. We were always moving our bodies, challenging and testing our agility and physical prowess. The safety of the small town some 40-50 years ago also afforded us a ground to facilitate our confidence and our relationships to our community. This connectedness to our bodies and our relationship with friends and family are the same foundation that holds up our yoga practice.
How did you come to yoga?
I was a philosophy and physical therapy major at UC Berkeley and a dancer for the Oakland Ballet when I took my first Iyengar yoga class in search of greater flexibility. Even after my first class I knew I had happened upon something very special for my sanity and well being. As the single class per week turned into practicing everyday in the matter of 3 years I realized my passion for the yogic arts was lifelong.
You're vegetarian, how did yoga influence this decision?
After 3 years of daily arduous asana practice I realized that my diet was a barrier to deepening my relationship between my philosophy and my body. First I gave up red meat and then poultry and then seafood. 6 years into the practice I became a vegetarian.
How has yoga bounded you and your wife Colleen Saidman Yee, as a couple?
Colleen and my yoga practice is an essential bond and commonality that creates deep intimacy and understanding. Our practice is time we spend together and a profound sharing that goes beyond words and trivialities.
What does yoga mean to you?
Yoga is an inquiry into who I really am and what really matters. It is a sounding board for me to slay my ignorance that gets in the way of my peace and joy.
Any tips for someone beginning their practice?
If you are just starting out in yoga do some shopping around and find out what appeals to you. There is a lot of different schools of yoga with many different things to offer. What is appropriate for you is something you have to find.
Men doing yoga -- any thoughts?
Men in yoga -- what are you waiting for!!!!! Get to the mat and reap the benefits for your mind, body and soul.
What are you working toward right now?
We are part of a movement to create a greater infusion of the yogic arts into everyone's everyday life. Urban Zen -- please check it out.