After speaking to Colleen Saidman Yee about her new gorgeous book “Yoga For Life” I wanted to rush to her next Sag Harbor Yoga Shanti class. I’ve taken many of her classes, which she gives with her husband Rodney Yee. They always impart a lot of ‘beyond the mat’ learning in their classes – but now Colleen has brought us inside her personal life even deeper with this story.
Colleen is a poster girl for BA50, and that’s what makes this book perfect for us.
The photos are spectacular and you can see that at 55 years old she is hip, edgy, honest and totally relatable, and so is her book. You may recognize her from her 30 plus year modeling career on the cover of Cosmo and the major mags.
I interviewed her about her book for an hour and we could have gone on all day. Colleen doesn’t look like the everywoman, her life may not read like the everywoman’s but nevertheless – we can all relate to some piece of it –there’s something for everybody.
Women will relate to the honesty of her journey. The events are dramatic at each stage of this coming of age story, but still – I bet you can find some of your stories in these pages.
Colleen may look “perfect” – but she is clear that she is not perfect. “I don’t need to pretend to be perfect. I am real and relatable”.
This book will make you feel like you are not alone. You will feel like “me too” – “I experienced that.”
She grapples with the big issue that touches many of us and deals with it elegantly – it is the question – Are we enough?
Felice: At 55 years old — How do you think your age affects your teaching – do you see a shift?”
Colleen: Absolutely, I am no longer trying to impress anyone. With getting older you realize you have something authentic to share rather than what other’s think you are supposed to be in the classroom.
My physical practice has changed and I teach what I practice. At this over 50 benchmark, I’m finding that I’ve lost a lot of muscle tone – I’m using my body weight more and holding warrior poses longer vs. really fast cardio.
Alignment and sequencing for the health of the joints and spine is key. The practice is now taking into account a more balanced approach.
I know what I need depending upon the time of day, or the circumstances of the moment –like if I’ve had a lousy night’s sleep, or just got some bad news.
If I feel more burdened or sad – I lay over a bolster to open my chest, so that my breath becomes easier. It is a pose of receiving rather than rejecting life.
If I feel panicky I do more forward bends – which is about containment, and relaxation.
Yoga is actually more interesting and more rewarding now.
Felice: Speaking our minds, truth and honesty in our 50’s is a trademark of this decade for most women. For those who are still carrying their secrets with them – what would you say?
Colleen: Iyengar said “Our body is our road map.” “Every lie we have told takes another toll and another toll.”
So when something you’ve done is not accurate – the body clenches and holds and so you can’t really hide from it.
As Yogis you begin to listen to the body more than the mind – You can go to the body and start unwinding these areas – like lying in Shavasana (flat on your back on the mat) and just sob.
Or you can say: “I am ready to set this lie aside and speak the truth – I’m ready to tear away my armor and be naked and wounded –“
And once you make that step – there is a clarity you can flush through.
Felice: I’ve seen people’s faces looking “younger” after yoga classes. How does that happen?
Colleen: Follow my instructions… “Soften Your Face” Colleen says.
“Feel the skin drape over the contours of your face.
Bring your awareness to the width between your eyebrows and the ease of your forehead.
Notice the release of your jaw.
Feel the softness and fullness of your lips – feel this.
You can feel when everything squeezes to the mid-line of your face — and I encourage you to spread the skin across your face.
Softening one’s face can calm the nervous system, and make you feel more relaxed, yet alert. It makes it easier to listen and respond. Try it in the middle of an argument.
Softening one’s face can be a conscious practice.
We will all have wrinkles but letting go of the resistance in our faces releases the hardness – and then the look begins to soften.
Felice: Women and their body image – how does your book “Yoga For Life” help us with acceptance of our changing bodies.
Colleen: Body image is such a tricky tender subject. I try to get them to fall in love with their body. I try to get people to stop waging war with their body. Women who are over exercising and not eating enough – it’s a form of self-hatred. It is the same for women who don’t exercise and eat too much.
So my approach is to create better body understanding so women can understand and feel what their ideal body feels like.
With yoga it’s about falling in love with your body and when you fall in love with your body you respect and listen to it and hopefully respond in a loving and compassionate manner.
Yoga gives us the tools.
But this is a tough topic. I have 3 teenage girls and I would never tell them to not eat something because it will put weight on them. As a mother – I would show them that beauty is other than what they are seeing in the magazines. I would encourage them to learn about their bodies and so of course Yoga is the best way to do that.
I would encourage mothers to figure out how to get their kids to yoga, but I am biased.
Felice: This is not a question – this is a statement –“Your Hair”
(That was my question – “Your Hair”)
That was all that needed to get Colleen going.
Colleen: I love to ask my students, “What’s your favorite part of your body?” Most people can’t answer that but I can. It’s my hair. I never wash it – ever– it’s easy – I scrunch and go – I spend a fortune on highlights. I run conditioner through it on a fairly regular basis.
I use Nopoo and Devachan One Conditioner – no other products. I love my hair. It is low maintenance.
Felice: You talk openly about your medical situation which is not easy to control —randomly occurring seizures – what advice would you give to 50-somethings who come to your classes who have medical and intense physical issues that they feel burdened by.
Colleen: The seizure disorder is a big teacher in my life. It’s been humbling yet a beautiful teacher in some ways. As of today I haven’t had a seizure in 8 weeks, which is a reason to celebrate.
We can still be a whole complete person even though we have difficulties in life. I like to think that we dance with our wounds and that is a more interesting, and inspiring dance.
It doesn’t make us less desirable. In some ways it makes us more compassionate. And in many ways I think I value life more because it’s been almost taken away so many times.
We need to keep our expectations in check about our bodies. Our bodies do wear out. We have some control by taking care of it and keeping the bits and pieces moving. But, when you have had it for a long time, things shift. It is a natural occurrence and it is nothing to feel guilty, or resentful about.