Rooting and Uprooting

By Colleen Saidman Yee, January, 2014

When I was eight years old, we moved from Corning, New York—where all of our extended family lived—to Indiana, so that my dad could start a new job. The move was hard on us all, but it was especially hard for my mom: sometimes I would find her looking out the window of our new house with a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other, tears sliding down her face.

I remember one day asking her why she was sad, and she said, “I miss my trees.”

“Trees?” I thought. “After everything we’d lost, you miss trees?”

My mom loved trees, especially old maples. And, though my first thought was sassy, I knew she missed much more than her trees: she had been yanked from everything that she had ever known, and moved to a strange, treeless place where she had no roots, no history. My mother’s trees were a symbol for all that she’d lost.

Many years later, that my mother would grieve the loss of trees seems even more bittersweet: the whole idea of roots and growth and balance and connection—and symbolism—is yoga, which is my love. Yoga gives us deep roots, so that we can blow in the wind and stay grounded, no matter what storm might come along. Yoga gives us a healthy, strong, stable trunk, and leaves that dance in the wind before they fall off, only to grow back more vibrant as winter turns to spring. If only my mom could have put her body in the shape of a tree, and balanced on one foot while steadying her gaze and following her breath: maybe she wouldn’t have felt so disconnected.

In the last few weeks I’ve been asking myself what new seed I should plant in the form of a New Year’s resolution. Should it be the same one I’ve attempted to plant for the last ten years—to stop eating sugar? (Those roots don’t seem to want to deepen!) Maybe the fact is, that I’m fine as I am—a strong, old tree. In any case, to commemorate this new year, I’m going to plant a maple tree in honor of my mom, who had her final uprooting two years ago this month.

Whatever seeds you plant, may they take hold and grow strong. Happy New Year to my whole Shanti family.

Love, Colleen

Colleen Saidman Yee

A graduate of Jivamukti’s 1998 teacher-training program, Colleen opened Yoga Shanti, in Sag Harbor, in 1999. She has taught several teacher trainings at Yoga Shanti, some with her husband, Rodney Yee. The New York Times christened Colleen "The First Lady of Yoga," and has also been featured in Vanity Fair, New York magazine, Oprah, Marie-Claire, Allure, and Yoga Journal. Before that she had a varied career: She was a cover girl, a student of shiatsu, and she lived in Calcutta, working with Mother Theresa at the Home for the Dying and Destitute. More recently, together with Rodney, Colleen helped to create Urban Zen's Integrative Yoga Therapist Program, Donna Karan’s worldwide initiative. Colleen's latest yoga DVD is "Calorie Killer Yoga." Colleen is a co-founder of Yoga Shanti New York.

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