My Day with Yogi Cameron
I admit I had doubts. What could a former male supermodel teach me about yoga philosophy?
Cameron Alborzian walked away from a successful career as a top model, working with the biggest celebrities in the fashion world and the money, fame and material and sensual indulgences that go along with it. But his true nature called him to another, far less glamorous path with few belongings and half his year spent serving and studying on an ashram in India. He now goes by Yogi Cameron.
After spending a day with him, I had to own up to my judgment of him based only on his good looks and material success. After all Siddhārtha Gautama lived as a wealthy handsome prince before walking away from the worldly indulgences to sit under the Bodhi tree. It turns out that what is most attractive about Yogi Cameron is not his looks -although yes, at fifty he’s still a very good-looking man – it’s the distinct lack of ego present. He has embodied the knowledge he is communicating and this is transmitted through his teaching.
So, what does a former male supermodel have to teach us about yoga philosophy? Here are a few insights I gleaned from our day with Yogi Cameron and his wife Yogini Jaima who co-taught the intensive.
The goal of Yogi Cameron’s new book The Yogi Code (launched at ABC on May 18th) is to help the student to sit with -and recognize- her true nature and then to align her nature with her life choices thereby living a more authentic and purposeful life. He utilizes the great knowledge found in ancient classic Yoga texts like the Yoga Sutra and interprets it through his own experiences for a modern audience who may have little or no knowledge of yoga.
When it comes to yoga philosophy, people usually have to find their way into it, and many do this by first discovering the benefits of the physical asana practice (what Westerners generally know to be “yoga”). Asana however, is only one of the eight limbs of traditional yoga and its original intention is to prepare the body to sit in meditation. The ultimate goal of yoga: alignment of mind, body and spirit, is reached only through deep states of mediation.
True to this intention, we participants spent the majority of the eight-hour workshop sitting as Yogi Cameron and Yogini Jaima took us through the seven “universal laws” that his book, The Yogi Code is structured around. These are: routine, practice, self-study, intention, purpose, service and love.
Beginning with routine, Yogi Cameron discussed practical tips on how to create a regular home practice, even if just a few minutes a day. A daily practice gives you a foundation for living “so you don’t fall apart when things happen.” Yogi Cameron said, giving a humorous example of a guy that started insulting him at a pizzeria when he was with his young daughter. Rather than getting angry and internalizing the insults, he stayed calm, told his daughter that the guy was having a bad day, and as he put it “that was done.” When we are able to step back from a situation with the eye of an observer, we are not acting from our lower emotional selves, we are allowing our higher self to handle the situation and it always makes better choices.
We learned five morning practices to start the day with (all outlined in detail in his book). These ranged from classic pranayama breathing techniques like three-part breath -which Yogini Jaima pointed out could be done on the subway- to other exercises like Humming Bee, a practice in sense control that involves plugging the fingers in the ears and humming. Yogi Cameron noted that this might be a bit more challenging to practice on the subway. His understated humor kept the mood light as we embarked deeper. And all the while, the annual NYC Dance Parade boomed right outside ABC Home and Carpet for most of the day. The yogis were un-phased. “It sounds like India”, said Yogini Jaima cheerfully.
Sankulpa the Sanskrit word for intention was an important focus of the day. “Intention is important. But you can’t just set an intention and then sit back and wait.” Said Yogi Cameron, “the journey is in the action, you must fuel the intention continually.” And no one can fulfill your intention but you, so you must ask: is this intention even for me? Don’t take an intention lightly, he said, “Start making less choices, having less desires. And bring more awareness to the desires that you are fulfilling.”
With each choice you make, Yogini Jaima suggested, ask yourself “is this going to disturb my peace?” Is this choice going to narrow your road in the long term? If so, that is a sign to make a different choice. Is your attention in line with your intention? This is important because our intention reveals our purpose and once we recognize our purpose we can eliminate whatever we can control that interferes with it. It is a process of refining, what can we cut out.
To illustrate this, the yogis turned to the first limb of the yogic path, the yamas (sometimes described as “the restraints” or as how we relate to other people). They focused on three yamas: Ahimsa (non violence), Bramacharya (control of creative energy) and Aparigraha (non-attachment to material things, not taking more than you need, and learning to want less). When it comes to food or material items, ask yourself: do I want this, or do I need this, suggested Yogini Jaima. Bringing consciousness to our relationship to others, our world, and ourselves is the goal.
This process clears the mind and brings more energy to your life so you allow space for seva, service to others. Yogi Cameron distills it this way: at all times you should be aiming to be either in service (through your job or life circumstances), or
cultivating an attitude of service. True service is without attachment to outcome or results.
“If we give our best to whatever job is put in front us without expectations of reward, this leads to love” said Yogini Jaima. She was describing a moment at the ashram when the couple felt resistant to the menial work they were given and wanted to give up, but when they persevered they found their hearts opened up.
Think of everything as elemental, suggested Yogi Cameron “we are all elements moving into balance.” In fact, he said laughing, “think of people as elements instead of their names, it will make them easier to deal with.”
Yogi Cameron’s teaching gives a hand onto the yoga path through accessible, doable and practical ideas for people at any level of practice. I was glad I put my doubts aside and spent the day with Yogi Cameron and Yogini Jaima, it brightened my day and left me with inspiration on my own path.