Last Wednesday, Lolë White Tour hit The Great Lawn in Central Park with 10,000 yoga-lovers taking in a powerful session as one. This session highlighted Lolë’s 2015 season with each of the five events on this year’s Tour looking to be a mindful and invigorating experience for body and soul, led by world-class yoga instructors and set to live music performed by internationally acclaimed artists. 2015 was kicked off under the Eiffel Tower in Paris before reaching the brand’s home of Montreal, then Toronto, then New York, where it will continue on to Los Angeles and Cambodia early 2016.
“Next year’s event in Cambodia will bring our message to a truly universal stage, affirming our dedication to the boundary-erasing power of yoga, meditation, and inner peace,” said Bernard Mariette, President and CEO of Coalision, which owns Lolë.
Having experienced the event first hand, from wearing the all-white uniform, to doing every warrior pose, it did provide a sense or feeling of ease to be in a communal space. No one judging. No one competing. It was just a group that came together to get their yoga on. Then again, how can you complain when you’re instructed by Elena Brower, Colleen Saidman Yee and Rodney Yee to the strains of Donna De Lory – and are treated to a live performance by Ingrid Michaelson immediately after.
Before leaving, we took a few moments to chat with Colleen Saidman Yee and Rodney Yee about Lolë and the practice of yoga.
What is it about that Lolё White Tour that you wanted to get involved and why?
Colleen: They called me, was it last year or the year before last?
Rodney: A couple of years ago.
Colleen: A couple of years ago and asked if I wanted to go to Paris, and teach in the Grand Palais to thousands of people. You just don’t say no. I love what they stand for. When everybody is wearing white, at first I thought it was a little corny but when you see the visuals almost like when you see a sunset, and you become ruptured in awe of the visuals. It’s almost like seeing art work in motion. Also, I think everyone dressed similarly creates less separation, and with less separation there is the possibility of more peace. Yeah, love it.
Rodney: The idea of peace as we all know is very complicated and difficult even in a single person’s life but sometimes when you get a group of people doing similar architecture together there is somethings drops down, and drops away. You feel movement en masse is really special in some ways, and it’s now like you’ll get home, and starting to do it in the classroom. Do it in Central Park under the blue sky with the beautiful park, and all these people, the music, it’s an amazing feeling, and how often do you get that?
The technique seen today seemed to differ. I felt yours [Rodney] was a bit faster, and yours [Colleen] was slower but it was more mindful, you know? Was that intentional or is that something that you practice faster than them?
Rodney: No. We do all things in the yoga practice but we discussed it before. Colleen actually created the routine, and we took different sections of the routine. We played around with it a little bit, and then just said, “Okay, you do. You do that and I’ll do that.” It was really just to give everybody a full experience but we teach different ways all of us.
Colleen: Rodney, because he’s got such a strong male grounding voice, he was perfect to do the standing poses at that point. Elena is very ethereal, and so after her beautiful opening practice, we felt the crowd needed to be grounded, and Rodney was perfect to do that. Then I brought them back into a mindful meditation flow.
Rodney: And a mindful opening too. It was a lot of back bending, and opening but really much more meditative, and quiet, and then right into Savasana, which was incredible.
Are there any, I guess, trendy yoga practices that you don’t promote?
Rodney: There’s a lot actually.
Colleen: There’s a lot. I’m not going to go there.
Rodney: I don’t think we should mention them though. (laughs) Basically, we want yoga to be beneficial for everybody. We want people to be mindful like you said. We really want people to be appropriate also for whose in front of them, and so you have to be well-trained like any other teacher you have to be well-trained in your subject, and you have to respect who your audience is. If you can do those things, the different styles don’t matter so much as are you a good teacher? Do you know your subject? Do you know your demographic?
Colleen: Also, the reputation of yoga is important to us, and what it’s seen us, and sometimes it’s watered down, and turns into gymnastics or just getting a good sweat, and also dangerous sequencing, pushing too hard, and then the public says, “Yoga is dangerous. You get hurt from yoga.” That’s unfortunate.
Rodney: It’s the wrong sequencing. It’s also the wrong attitude. You can have people really drive you, drive you, drive you and there’s no receptivity then. There really needs to be that cognitive receptivity.
Exactly. What are people who are wanting to start practicing yoga, what would you tell them to wear? Because I feel as if right now apparel is so trendy, and people don’t keep in mind you may be moving in different sequences that you will be concerned with your shirt riding up, or your pants falling down. Things like that.
Colleen: There’s so many yoga clothes out there, and they are getting more hip, and more and more beautiful. I think leggings, and a shirt that doesn’t ride up, something that’s tight. I prefer a sports bra, or a shirt that has a bra tucked in because as you know bras are pretty uncomfortable. When you start moving you are constantly adjusting. A t-shirt without the arms so you can sweat if you are in that kind of class. Rodney likes to show the knees because you can tell so much about a yoga practice when you see the knees but when you get to be a certain age sometimes you don’t want to show your knees anymore. (laughs)
Rodney: When you are practicing at home you can go for complete comfort, and also, for seeing your body.
Colleen: Are you talking about naked yoga here?
Rodney: It’s not a bad thing as long as no one else is watching but the materials these days are amazing but a lot of times when it gets too baggy it really is counterproductive. You really need to see the body. You are trying to make minute corrections to the alignment of the body, and you don’t want to be impeded by things getting in the way. Like you said, a shirt coming up and so forth. There’s a lot of things to consider but more and more the apparel companies … They really are actually doing quite an amazing job.
Where are you two based?
Colleen: We live in Sag Harbor, New York but we are really based on airplanes traveling all over the world spreading the yoga love.
Rodney: We have three main studios. Colleen has Yoga Shanti Sag Harbor, and then us and three other partners have Yoga Shanti in New York here on 24th and 6th. And then we have another studio that a friend is running in Westhampton Beach, New York. So, there’s a lot of things that we are really trying to promote. Again, alignment, you know, safety, ease and sequencing.
Do you practice yoga every day?
Colleen: Yes. We practice.
Rodney: It feels like 24/7,
Colleen: Yeah, 24/7. That’s like …
Some people who do different workouts. I wouldn’t call yoga a workout, I would but it’s not like cross fit, you know what mean?
Colleen: There’s so many aspects to yoga. It’s not just doing a lot of postures. There’s meditation. There’s breath and the thing with yoga too you start to tune in. You do tune into your body, and you know what your body needs on that particular day and it doesn’t need 100 sense citations every single day. You learn how to balance the body with the practice. It’s not like you should only do two days of cross fit, and then you do to do a slow walk. It’s not like that because you can get all around balance within the yoga practice from day-to-day.