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Yogi Yee

30 Sep, 2013 By: Angelique Flores

After more than three decades, yoga veteran Rodney Yee still has fresh ideas

Rodney Yee said he has made close to 45 videos.
“I really lost count,” he said.

And he’s coming out with another one Dec. 3. Yoga for Your Week ($14.98), on DVD from Gaiam, offers five 20-minute practices, each with a different focus: morning, evening, strength, energy and flexibility.

“It is based on the idea that you really should have a balanced practice,” Yee said. “Each practice has a quality. I give people set practices. You learn these practices, and then you start mixing and matching to augment your day.”

With so many videos already made, Yee doesn’t find it hard to offer something new each time.

“To be honest, the art of yoga is huge,” he said. “You keep on evolving, you keep on practicing. There are 88 keys to a piano, but there are infinite compositions, infinite emotions and physicality. In some ways, the deeper you reach inside something, the more it retains its freshness because you realize its beauty.”

Yee has been practicing yoga for 33 years. Previously, he spent eight years as a ballet dancer for the Oakland Ballet and the Matsuyama Ballet Company of Tokyo.

“I always searched out to increase flexibility and coordination,” he said. “I found that yoga did way more than that. I was hooked on yoga. I found myself doing it everyday.”

Yee has since forged a successful career teaching yoga, yet he said it still remains something special.

“I still have the fever of that first yoga class 33 years ago,” Yee said.

Yee and his wife, Colleen Saidman, another renowned yoga instructor, live in Sag Harbor, N.Y., where they both teach at Yoga Shanti. Yee also teaches around the world, doing workshops, retreats and teacher training courses.

“I’ve been on the road for 20 years,” Yee said.

In addition to teaching and creating DVDs, Yee and Saidman, together with Gaiam, developed Gaiam Yoga Studio (www.gaiamyogastudio.com), an online yoga studio with videos, audio classes and pose guides for $19.99 a month. The site launched two years ago, Yee said, but it recently has been revamped.

“It’s the most comprehensive guide,” Yee said. “It’s good for beginners, beginning teachers, intermediate practitioners. It’s like getting your bachelor’s of fine arts in yoga, but it starts at the kindergarten level.”

Yee credits Gaiam for doing “an amazing job of making yoga available to everybody.”

“The Gaiam DVDs have been incredibly instrumental,” he said. “There isn’t a day that goes by that someone doesn’t comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, your yoga DVD got me started on yoga. Now I teach.’”

One demographic that is seeing a rise in yoga practice is the male demo. There is a 6% increase in men participating in yoga, according the 2013 Yoga Single Sports Participation Report. Still, 74% of all yoga participants are women.

“It’s still predominantly female, but I’m swiftly seeing that change,” he said. “I think it’s because at first yoga was identified as something that had to do with flexibility, has to do with new age, which is ironic. Now you see every really good athletic organization using yoga. People are taking it out of its stereotypes.”

Yee notes that only 50 years ago in India, yoga was dominated by men.

“Finally men in this country are beginning to realize that ‘Wow this is for me too. It’s not only good for my cross training and my ability to be focused, but it’s benefiting me as much as any woman.’”

Being in a country where most practitioners were women never affected Yee.

“I didn’t really think of it much,” he said about being outnumbered. “I was an Asian male who was dancer. I wasn’t in uncharted territory.

“I got to study what I wanted, and I got to make a living out of what I love to do,” he said. “If anything I felt unbelievably fortunate.” 

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