Colleen Saidman Yee, celebrated yoga teacher, and wife to one of the most internationally recognized yogi’s, Rodney Yee, is opening an artfully appointed NYC Yoga Shanti location. Those New Yorkers, both students and teachers, who flock to her Sag Harbor studio for rest and reprieve during the summer months, are bound to be excited about having another Yoga Shanti home in their backyards.
Touted as a work of art and labor of love, Yoga Shanti NYC is set to open in March at 46 West 24th Street in the Flatiron District in the historic Masonic Building. “We want all who come to the studio to be filled with awe.” Colleen stated during a phone conversation. They didn’t have a preconceived notion of where their actual NYC location would be, but when Colleen and her business partners found the space they knew it was serendipitous.
Colleen, a former professional model, is no stranger to NYC as she lived downtown in the 1980s and 1990s, did teacher training at Jivamukti Yoga, and then moved to Sag Harbor as her kids got older. “NYC feels like home to me, I’m really a city girl at heart.” Even back when she was in 3rd grade she was dreaming about a life in NYC as Colleen recalls after finding a child-hood diary she kept.
The concept for a NYC location has been marinating for years for Colleen and Rodney, as they wanted a place where the teachers they trained had a home to teach under and where their teachings can stay in tact. “We care so much about the teachers we train and in many ways we feel like their moms and dads” Colleen stated. Colleen along with her 4 other business partners, Rodney Yee, Joyce Englander Levy, Ariel Levy, and Jenny Hudak McCabe brought this vision into reality.
Artistic Design and Inspiration
Both Colleen and Rodney fell in love with Morocco after first doing a retreat there years ago and have been back yearly to teach. “We fell in love with the aesthetics, sounds, smells, lifestyle, and overall the people of Morocco” said Colleen. It was natural for them to choose a Moroccan influenced design. The majority of the studio is appointed in hand-picked Moroccan items that derive meaning for both Colleen and Rodney.
Beyond a labor of love, or as Colleen likes to say “her baby,” every aspect of this studio is handmade and genuine from the gold leaf ceilings, hand-carved arches, carpets, tile work, chandeliers—even the lockers and sinks.
A dedicated and acclaimed team was assembled to transform the space into art. The Architect was John Paul Murray of Caseworks. Moshe Herzberg of JSN Interiors and Construction built the space to ensure every square inch was crafted with integrity. The murals were painted by Denise Regan, an acclaimed painter and colorist, who currently shows with the Kathryn Markell Gallery. Emerging artists Evan Yee, son to Rodney; and Joel Seigle designed, painted, and did several hand-carved pieces. Even the concrete sink was a work of art from Keelin Kennedy of Barefoot Designs. Last but certainly not least, Colleen explained with a laugh of how Rodney was the task-master extraordinaire over the entire team.
Offerings and Aspirations
The 2,000 square foot studio aspires to be an oasis and university for continuing education for yoga teachers. Renowned senior teachers will conduct workshops monthly. Every day there will be teacher specific drop-in hours to be used as an innovative think tank where teachers can practice, share ideas, and get re-energized and inspired.
In addition to their Iyengar-influenced vinyasa classes there will also be a focus on beginner yoga. They’ll offer daily classes that will be geared towards helping as many people get on the mat. “Beginners Clubs,” a popular concept used in the Yoga Shanti Sag Harbor location, as Colleen explains helps “build commodore and takes the intimidation out of yoga by all the class participants being at a similar place when starting their practice.”
In a world of constant over-work and over-stimulus, especially in NYC, they will offer “Urban Zen” classes as a meditative sanctuary. Restorative poses, aromatherapy, reiki, breath awareness, and meditation create this unique and restorative hour long experience.
Within the studio there are two yoga rooms where up to 10 classes daily will be offered. A boutique carrying yoga mats, clothes and other yoga inspired goods will be offered as well as lockers and a changing area.
For their loyal Yoga Shanti following in Sag Harbor, Colleen sees the NYC location as just an extension of their yoga family and that nothing, including her and Rodney’s time at the studio, will change. You can expect to see Colleen and Rodney at the NYC Yoga Shanti studio teaching a few classes every other week, similar to what they currently do in their Sag Harbor location.
Surprising how this yogi finds time for all her many projects! Colleen’s latest endeavor is a new DVD called, “Calorie Killer Yoga,” by Gaiam Inc., is set for release on March 18th. The DVD will have five different practices, and integrates cardio/strength into the yoga sequences.
She also has a book deal with Simon & Schuster set to come out next year that is part memoir and part yoga sequences to aid with challenges in life and to promote balance. Interspersed will also be thematic musical playlists and personal poems.
“I’m walking around feeling naked from writing this book—I’m brutally honest.” said Colleen about the book.
Both Rodney and Colleen will also continue their work as Yoga Directors of the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program part of famed fashion designer and philanthropist, Donna Karen’s, Urban Zen Foundation. The program trains integrative therapists to work in hospitals, outpatient care centers, support groups, private practices, corporate environments, nursing and medical schools to transform healthcare to include eastern healing techniques with western medicine.
Schedule of Events:
March 9th March 15th: A Week of Free Classes (limited schedule)
March 16th: Schedule Begins
March 18th: Gaiam Media Event for DVD Release
April 1st: Beginner’s Club Starts
For more information call (212) 255-YOGA or visit www.yogashanti.com
Christine Beal Dunst is a marketing and strategy consultant and freelance wellness, nutrition, and lifestyle writer who lives in Brooklyn. She has a Masters in Public Administration in Health Policy and Management, is certified in Pilates Mat, and is enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.