Talk Shop and Get Real About Life, Romance, and the Business of Yoga
As in Hollywood, there are many bright and beautiful stars in our modern yoga sky, where fame is marked by one’s flexibility and social media savvy. But unlike the Hollywood hills, the romantic status of ‘gurus’ and teachers is of little interest to adoring fans and followers. Those holding the torch on a spiritual path tend to have fewer “disposable” commitments—at least theoretically.
In fact, we aren’t exaggerating when we say that, not only do just two people hold the affectionate and informal title of the First Couple (Colleen naturally filling the title of the First Lady), but they’re also the only couple in the running! No two people could better represent the positive influence of yoga on relationships than Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman–Yee.
The Couple’s Start
Rodney Yee (now 59) began his practice while deeply immersed in the discipline of Dance. An introduction to Iyengar Yoga captured his burgeoning interest in the body mind association with it’s own focus on precision and alignment. To this day, Yee considers it to be the foundation of his personal practice and teaching. Yee rose to national prominence in the early 1990s, when he began starring in Gaiam’s instructional yoga videos and DVDs. He’s since developed and sold millions of programs and books, and featured in calendars and promotional products galore. His affiliation with Gaiam, and now Gaia, continues to grow in strength and in scope.
Colleen’s entrance into the yoga world has a different narrative, as she was brought “kicking and screaming because I didn’t have time to ‘stretch,” she says. At 26 years old (30 years ago), she embarked on her teacher training in the Jivamukti tradition, which took place at a studio where her now-husband, Rodney Yee, was offering a workshop. The two met and have since built a relationship—and a respectable and benevolent yoga empire, of grand proportions. When Colleen met Rodney, she had already been teaching for some time at a studio of her own called Yoga Shanti and had such upscale clients as Russell Simmons and Christy Turlington. Some time into the relationship Yee introduced Colleen to Gaiam. Having been a fashion model since the 1980s, Gaiam’s use of Colleen’s services in their catalogue was a natural extension. She went on to model in one of Rodney’s DVDs, and from there Colleen’s own relationship with the company grew organically.
Mixing Business and Pleasure
Ever since that union, the couple has been virtually inseparable in the public eye, to the extent that their coupledom might be considered a brand in and of itself. But according to Colleen, the relationship isn’t laden with such business overtures. The business of yoga may not have influenced their personal relationship, but their relationship values infuse every aspect–including the profession realm—of their lives: “We just like to be together,” Colleen says. “We don’t really think about ‘Brand.’ In a career that requires so much travelling, it wouldn’t make sense to do it any other way.” Rodney laughs, “She kicks my yoga butt and I soar into the empty void; we don’t have a brand.”
And really, who has time for “brand recognition” with a plate that’s overflowing with Colleen’s book-turned-course, Yoga for Life, which will air in September; a yoga talk show, a new program called Urban Zen Integrative Therapy, ongoing video production; retreats, conferences, teacher trainings; and the maintenance of three thriving studios.” Rodney tosses in his top three priorities, too: “Love, Yoga, and more time off.”
The couple has been around long enough to witness the transformation of yoga from a somewhat elusive interest to a wildly trendy multibillion dollar business—one in which each of them has a vested interest. We wanted to know their thoughts on this shift, whether yoga has suffered or grandly benefitted from the changing circumstances that Colleen and Rodney have been privy to. The couple both generally believe that, in Rodney’s words, “The more the merrier.” Colleen says, “The main shift is that so many people have discovered this transformative art form, and it ha become mainstream, which is a great thing.” Rodney adds, “Even though there is a lot of junk out there, there is also some amazing work going on that is pushing the envelope in a very provocative and ingenious way.”
The Truth About Romance
That same refreshing optimism carries through to their relationship, too. But everyone knows the tendency of media outlets to sometimes . . . glaze over the truth a bit. We wanted the inside scoop on the real deal behind the “world’s happiest couple.” Is every shot of them smiling as though they’re on their honeymoon, well, call me a cynic, but is this legit? Do they ever have a bad day? Rodney replies, “Ohhhhh yes. We have bad days and nights, but the chemistry is so interwoven and the passion is so meaningful that we are holding hands and wrapped around each other before too long.” Colleen says, “We are madly, passionately, and ridiculously in love and attracted to each other. We take that passion into our ridiculous arguments as well.”
So what’s the secret to carrying on a seemingly blissful marital union of over nine years? Colleen responds, “Each couple has such a different dynamic that advice can’t be that general. What works for us is to never miss our yoga practice, get plenty of rest so that we aren’t irritable, and to communicate even when it is a touch subject and you know the other person will get defensive. We hold each other accountable rather than become resentful. Learning to laugh at ourselves is huge. We believe in high touch with each other and our four kids, who are now 19, 20, 23, and 25 years old. So much difficulty melts with human touch.” Rodney’s response is a syndicated version of Colleen’s: “Be in love, be honest, listen, touch, and let the dice roll for our relationship.”