Ohm Out East at Yoga Shanti
by tracey toomey
In Sync: Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee are perfectly balanced.
“If power means balance,” Colleen Saidman Yee muses, “then I think Rodney and I became more powerful together than we ever could have been apart.” She leans back against the chest of her husband, Rodney Yee; her long limbs intertwine with his as they sit on the polished floors of Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor. “We balance each other out in many different ways.”
Sunlight filters in through the vibrantly colored window curtains, reflects off the gold ceiling, and illuminates the altar where pictures of gurus from India are featured alongside photos of Mother Teresa and Bob Dylan. Colleen and Rodney have just finished a grueling 10-hour day of co-teaching aspiring yoga instructors as part of the Yoga Shanti Teacher Training program. Remarkably, they don’t seem tired; they look relaxed, peaceful, and genuinely in love.
“When we teach together, there’s a real sense of back and forth in a way that creates an amazing balance,” says Rodney. “Colleen has definitely given me a sense of what devotion is. By devoting myself to Colleen and to our family, it bleeds over into understanding what devotion means in yoga.”
Before teaming up both romantically and professionally, Colleen and Rodney were each respected members of the yoga community. Colleen studied and taught at the prestigious Jivamukti Yoga School in Manhattan before opening up Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor in 1999. Rodney rose to fame by starring in yoga videos and making appearances on CNN, PBS, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Now together, this whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. After all, it was as a couple that they joined forces with Donna Karan to create the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program, which brings yoga, Reiki, essential oil therapy, and other holistic healing modalities to mainstream health care. “Urban Zen has almost been a third partner in our relationship,” says Rodney. “It harnesses our energy. Working with people in the hospitals requires us to go to the essence of the yoga practice.”
In addition to their work with Urban Zen, the Yees have three new videos coming out this summer and are busy promoting Gaiam TV, an online channel that features all of their programming. Plus, the couple continues to teach their devoted students at Yoga Shanti, which offers an expanded schedule of classes for the busy summer season.
Seeing them snuggled on the floor together, laughing and finishing each other’s sentences, it’s difficult to imagine a time when they didn’t coexist in perfect harmony, but Colleen says it wasn’t always this easy. “It’s taken a lot of practice to be able to teach together the way that we do at this point, because we were both used to being headliners,” she says. “To share the classroom took a lot of work on both of our parts, but I really feel like we’ve mastered it. We speak the same language.” “Actually,” echoes Rodney, “we don’t even have to speak, because we know what the other one is thinking." 32 Bridge St., Sag Harbor, 725-6424.
photography by zev starr-Tambor
makeup by sergey logvinov for chanel beaute