A former model uses tales of sex, drugs and rock and roll in a book hitting stores on Monday to introduce the healing power of yoga sequences and demonstrate how the ancient practice of breath and meditation can fortify the mind as well as the body.
In “Yoga for Life: A Journey to Peace and Freedom,” Colleen Saidman Yee, a former fashion model turned yoga teacher, recounts how yoga helped her battle a heroin habit, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after she was injured in a car accident when she was 15 years old.
She hopes readers lured by the drama of her life story will stay for the step-by-step yoga instruction the rest of her book provides.
“It’s sort of raw, but that’s who I am,” said Saidman Yee, 55, about putting her personal demons in print. “I’m hoping people will see themselves in the book.”
Saidman Yee designed the book’s illustrated yoga sequences around specific challenges.
“They’re issues that pretty much everyone has: self-esteem, mothering, divorce, whatever our parents passed on to us, alienation, even boredom,” she explained.
New York-based Saidman Yee, and her husband and fellow yoga star Rodney Yee, have been dubbed the power couple of yoga. The two, who married in 2006, head a yoga operation of DVDs, international workshops and three studios in the New York area.
With fashion designer Donna Karan they run Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program, which brings yoga to hospital patients and healthcare professionals.
Most yoga research has focused on the purely physiological benefits of improved flexibility, muscle strength, endurance and balance, said Jessica Matthews, senior adviser for health and fitness education at the American Council on Exercise.
But research suggests yoga can be effective against emotional distress as well. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology showed that yoga significantly reduced PTSD symptomology in women with treatment-resistant PTSD.
“Yoga intervention: breathing, meditation/mindfulness, and physical practice, was found to reduce tension, anxiety, and (the incidence of) trigger events,” said Matthews, an exercise science professor at Miramar College, San Diego.
Saidman Yee attributes her success to the yoga she has practiced since 1987. She takes to her mat every day according to her changing needs.
“Some days I need more balance,” she said, adding other days she needs backbends and different poses.
“When my daughter left for college I just laid on my mat and cried. But at least I got on the mat.”