In Yoga Journal's upcoming online course, Yoga for Inner Peace, Colleen Saidman Yee—acclaimed yoga teacher, former fashion model, and the wife of yogi Rodney Yee—offers 3 yogic practices a week for 12 weeks to transform your body, mind, and heart and support YOU in your personal journey toward inner peace.
"My favorite mantra is 'I am enough,'" says Saidman Yee, who recounts her own sometimes rocky road to inner peace in her memoir Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom (Atria Books, June 2, 2015). "When we don’t feel like we are enough, there is a sense of desperation, which is the opposite of inner peace," she explains. "A clamoring to do something better, a sense of comparison and competition, a mentality of 'I’ll be enough when …' and that is anything but peace."
So how can yoga—and this new course—help you achieve inner peace, and get rid of that nagging feeling that you are not enough? "Yoga helps you to develop an intimacy with your body and your thoughts, with what pulls you out of a sense of peace and contentment," she says. "The body is a road map for everything that happens to us. Yoga reveals that road map so that you become aware of where different emotions, thoughts, traumas, and triggers are in the body, and then you sit with them and then it’s like, 'OK, I’m really angry, I'm not gonna pretend I'm not.' When conflict bubbles up internally, you can sit with it and feel the pain, feel the tears, without judgment, rather than running away and covering it up. There's an acceptance and a dissipation. Attention is love. There's a settling, a calmness."
In her memoir, Saidman Yee recalls how yoga took her on a path from addiction, trauma, and divorce, to truth, love, and peace. "Most yogis would agree that from time to time, you do touch a place that is complete space and light and joy," she tells Yoga Journal. "Once you've had that experience it's a tether, even during times when you're pulled away from that place. Rather than that voice saying you’re not enough, it’s more like: 'I’m still here.' In the following sequence for enoughness, Yee offers 7 poses to calm your mind, open your heart, and help you achieve inner peace.
YOU WILL NEED 2 yoga blocks and 2 blankets
Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
I believe that sitting meditation is a key component for inner peace. You take a seat and watch what comes and goes. You notice thoughts, reactions, and emotions. Easy Pose is the classic seat for meditation, and meditation is a training of the mind. One of the best tools for training the mind is to give it something non-verbal to focus on. That something is the breath. Peace lies within the breath, according to Indian mystic poet Kabir.
Sit with crossed shins, right in front of left. Stay for 5 cycles of breath, then put the other leg in front for 5 more cycles of breath. Come to stand at the front of your mat.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Warrior II gives you grounding and strength. For me, Warrior II creates a feeling of “I’m not apologizing, I’m here and I’m right in the center, reaching from the heart through the fingertips with my chest open, head in line, eyes deep." It’s a powerful expression, a pose of courage, a statement that "I have something to offer and it’s important and it’s enough."
Take a giant step open to the right. Reach your arms parallel to the floor and walk your feet as wide as your hands. Turn your left foot in 15 degrees, your right foot out 90 degrees. Bend your right knee to 90 degrees. Stretch your middle fingers in opposite directions, feeling as if they were rooted between your shoulder blades. The main work in this pose is to keep the rooting of the back outer heel while bending the front leg all the way to 90 degrees. Remain for 5 breaths. To come out of the pose, straighten your front leg and turn your feet parallel. Change sides and repeat on the left. Come to stand at the front of your mat. Fold forward into a bent-knee Standing Forward Bend and walk your feet back toward Downward-Facing Dog.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Camel Pose creates vulnerability. It opens the front body in a world where our armor gets hard. This pose opens the chest, moves the head back, and says, “Here I am, world.”
Kneel on your mat or folded blanket (or on sand as shown). Lift your head and chest into a backbend—first with your hands on your hips, then with your fingers interlaced behind your head, then with your hands on your inner back thighs. If possible, take full Camel Pose (shown)—hands on lifted heels or pointed feet. Hold for 3 breath cycles per variation. Then release your seat to your heels, cross your shins, sit down behind your feet, and lie on your back, arms alongside your body.
Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose is one of the best poses for deep relaxation. It also optimizes digestion, circulation, and respiration, all of which help to steady the mind. A deep state of relaxation is so important for enoughness. We are exhausted—the body is our vehicle, and when it’s optimized, it’s a sweeter place to live.
Scoot yourself to the wall if you have on close by. Either way, lift your hips and place a block at the lowest height under your sacrum, lifting your legs into the air. Place them on the wall if available. If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees slightly. Bend your elbows with the palms facing each other. Press your upper arms strongly down as your chest floats upward. Keep the groin deep and soft by keeping an anterior tilt to the pelvis. Stay in the pose for 3–5 minutes, keeping your legs moderately active. Bend your knees, either press the feet into the wall or onto the floor, lift your hips up, and slide the block out. Lower your hips to the ground. Roll over to your right side and come to sit.
Head-to-Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana)
Head-to-Knee Forward Bend turns you inward, releases your muscles from "fight or flight," helping you let go of the sense of having to fight for position. It's a pose for softening, listening, and relaxing.
Straighten both legs into Staff Pose. Bend your right knee, deeply folding your leg, and open it out to the side. If your hamstrings are tight, sit up on a blanket. Turn your navel to face your straight leg. Slowly, and without force, walk your fingers forward as you undulate your torso up and over your straight leg, creating length in the waist and broadness across the collarbones. Listen to 8 cycles of breath. Change sides and stay for another 8 breaths.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose is deeply relaxing. It optimizes the breath, making it super free, easy, smooth, and sweet, and it’s a simple hip opener and a backbend. Your vital organs are exposed; it's a pose of vulnerability. Many of us think that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is a form of weakness. The alternative is that we become hard and isolated. Strength and connection come from vulnerability.
Take the soles of your feet together, with your knees dropped open. Support the legs with blocks until there is no stretch in the groin. Lie down on a folded blanket supporting the spine, and place another blanket under the head for a pillow. Drape your arms alongside your body with palms facing up. Stay here for 3–5 minutes.
Easy Pose (Sukhasana), Hands in Prayer (Anjali Mudra)
We have found the power of our legs, the openness of our front bodies, the relaxation of our nervous system, the turning inward of our senses, and the power of vulnerability. Then we sit with what is. We are raw, quiet, exposed, and content. We dwell in the visceral sense of, "I am enough."
Return to Easy Pose with hands in Prayer. Watch 5 cycles of breath, then let go of the training wheels of the breath and just "be" with what is for 2 minutes.