Practice with Cyndi
Cyndi Lee is the founder of OM yoga and the author of Yoga Body, Buddha Mind and May I Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Yoga, and Changing My Mind. A practitioner of both hatha yoga and Tibetan Buddhism, she has been a columnist for Yoga Journal and Shambhala Sun for many years.
Interview with Cyndi Lee
What style, tradition, and/or lineage are you a part of (if any)?
I teach OM Yoga, which is a three-part braid of vinyasa, precise alignment, and the Buddhist methods of mindfulness and compassion. This method arose organically over a period of years, as a result of my own passions: movement, precision, and Buddhadharma.
My way of creating class structures and sequences is influenced by my training as a dancer. I was fortunate to study at the feet of some of the most important modern ballet choreographers of the last century, Antony Tudor and Eugene Loring. Sharon Gannon, Rodney Yee, and B.K.S. Iyengar also impacted my understanding of yoga.
I have been a Tibetan Buddhist for about 30 years, studying and practicing with my root guru, Gelek Rimpoche, who authorized me to teach meditation many years ago. Over the last decade, I have also stepped into the Zen Buddhist lineage under the auspices of Roshi Joan Halifax, who ordained me as a Lay Buddhist Chaplain in 2018.
What can I expect from your classes?
Whatever we are working on—hip openers and closers, inversions, restorative poses—we are always exploring how the body is the vehicle for getting to know the mind. Mindfulness comes from the ancient Pali word, sati, which actually means remembering. So I give lots of reminding instructions to help students gather the mind back into the breath and body.
Some classes are quiet and some are rousing! There are many skillful means of learning how to become fully embodied. The point of practice is to cultivate a thread of awareness: to get familiar with being present and to rest in an unbiased mind, no matter what arises inside or outside of us.
What’s on your mind these days yoga-wise?
The more I practice and teach yoga, the more I wonder what I have to offer. And the answer is always the same—offer what is showing up for you. After a tough year with two hip replacement surgeries and a long, difficult recovery I am coming back to life. So I am thinking about sustainability in terms of movement, mindfulness, and impermanence. I’m thinking about working with all parts of ourselves, not throwing things away, gently repairing ourselves with “mendfulness.”
What do you like to do outside of yoga?
Well, you know, I could be a smarty-pants and say, Nothing is outside of yoga. And I would only sort of be kidding. After so many years of studying and practicing yoga and Buddhism, my whole way of living is imprinted with these approaches. But I also really like knitting, sewing, and embroidering portraits and prayer flags. My hubby and I take long walks outdoors every single day, no matter the weather. And I like cooking at home and then eating with a nice glass of wine. Playing with my beagle. I’m writing a new book and that is half fun and half work.