Rodney Yee + Colleen Saidman Yee in Paris

On Wednesday night at The American Church in Paris, Beyoga hosted Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee for a 2-hour Master Class. Having never taken a class with these two American yoga celebrities, I was eager to hear and feel their teaching -- not just in terms of their asana sequencing, but also their philosophy, their perspectives, and the voices they are lending to the conversation of yoga.

I use the word “conversation” deliberately because this was Colleen’s theme: your body is in conversation with all of its other parts, talking and listening, back and forth, all the time. To find balance, we must bring attention the talking part and the listening part, and modulate the push and pull between them. As an example of a conversation that is not in harmony, she cited the difference between New York and Los Angeles yogis. In New York, she said, people’s feet are so full of energy, they seem to be talking too much, whereas in Los Angeles, everyone’s feet are listening floppily.

This is, of course, an oversimplification. I have been in as many New York classes where students’ feet were asleep as I have been in Los Angeles classes where everyone’s feet were on fire, but it served to bolster the theme that Rodney put forth at the beginning of class which was that much, if not all, of what we do on the mat is designed to bring us into alignment, to draw every part of ourselves -- our skin, muscles, bones, gaze, breath and minds -- toward the central channel, the Shushumna Nadi

What this meant from a Hatha yoga practice point of view is that we did a lot of twists (wrapping around the axis of the Shushumna Nadi,) many centerline-hugging and grounding poses (uttanasana, utkatasana, dandasana,) and we emphasized drishti, a vital tool for coalescing our attention to a single point. The sequencing paired with Rodney and Colleen’s alternating voices, the conversation taking place within our own bodies as well as the larger one happening energetically between all of the different mats, was a striking illustration of Hatha itself -- “Ha” the Moon and “Tha” the Sun, complementary forces coming together.

Walking to the métro after the Master Class, I was moved by the impromptu memorial to Nelson Mandela in front of the South African Embassy. A potent reminder that focus and dedication to a principal cause can bring disparate elements together, in cooperation and peace.