About the Author
Yogi Cameron first started practicing Yoga in Paris at the Sivananda Ashram in 1987 while living a supermodel's life as the face of Versace, and the muse of Madonna and Elton John. He moved to India and studied the Yoga principles and Ayurveda for over a decade before coming to America to teach westerners the power of The Yogi Code. He has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show, Extra, and Martha, amongst others. He has also been featured in The New York Times, Men's Journal, The Wall Street Journal, The London Times, and ELLE magazine, and he is the author of two previous books and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, Mind Body Green, Thrive Market's Website, and Sharecare, a health portal which is part of Dr. Oz’s outreach program for health and lifestyle experts.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The Yogi Code
Activate Your Yogi Code
You don’t need any special qualifications to become a yogi. You don’t need to be part of an exclusive caste, club, or group. You don’t need to drop your current life and relocate to a hermit’s cave. All you need to do is start where you are.
The yogic life chooses you—you don’t choose it. It requires an open mind-set and a yearning from deep within your soul, something within driving and pulling you in a certain direction that you have no real control over. Everything that happens in your life is a prelude, drawing you closer and deeper onto the path even if you are currently in a whole other seemingly unconnected world or lifestyle.
Lahiri Mahasaya, the great kriya yogi, had an office job as an accountant and later was posted at a mountain military site, as recounted in the epic stories told by Indian guru and yogi Paramahansa Yogananda in his beautiful book Autobiography of a Yogi. It was there that he met his guru, Babaji, and went on the yogic path, creating a lineage and legacy of generations of yogis in India to this day. Every bit of his life had been preparing and leading him to take that journey. He was a regular person living a “regular” life just like you.
In my own trajectory growing up in Iran, who knew I would end up on the yogic path as a yogi? I was living a “regular” family life with my mother and father when the revolution and war began in 1979. My mother rushed me out of the country to avoid being deployed to the front lines at the age of twelve. I landed in England, and within a few weeks was placed in a boarding school, even though I could not read or write English. My mother immediately returned to Iran to be with my father. I was on my own, dislocated from home and family, until my parents could find a way to safely leave Iran. I wouldn’t see my father for four years and only saw my mother periodically when she could come and visit a couple of times a year.
I continued from boarding school to college for a year and then dropped out and headed to London to try my luck at any job I could get. I was nineteen, and my family was not pleased with my decision; they worried I would stay adrift. However, within a few weeks, while I was walking down one of London’s hippest streets, a modeling agent scouted me. I soon ended up on the catwalks of Paris, Milan, and New York.
I traveled the world for twelve years, working and becoming friends with some of the most famous people on the planet and landing exclusive jobs, like appearing in Madonna’s “Express Yourself” music video and being on the covers of fashion magazines like Vogue and GQ.
Never in my life would I have guessed I would become a model and be named one of the most famous supermodels of my time. It would seem my life had reached a pinnacle and couldn’t get any better. The life of a supermodel is probably regarded as the most exciting, carefree, and glamorous life anyone can live; you make lots of money and people revere you as a beauty symbol. Life couldn’t get much better on the outside. But what about the inside?
What I didn’t know then was that I was at a crossroads, and the next chapter of my life was about to begin. Everything before had been preparation for something beyond my imagination—destiny would lead me to the extraordinary.
* * *
I had traveled from New York to Cape Town, South Africa, for a fashion show for Versace at Nelson Mandela’s home. Upon my arrival at the hotel, I saw my friends and fellow models Kate Moss, Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell, and a few other well-known faces. It was like any other day on the job, nothing out of the ordinary.
We were scheduled to meet the president at the Palace Gardens the next day as well as prepare for the fashion show. That morning the atmosphere was both calm and electric as we stood in the receiving line and moved one at a time, as security didn’t allow people to gather around Mandela. When it was my turn, I approached him to shake his hand. To know a person you look at their face; to know their soul you look into their eyes. I gazed deeply into Nelson Mandela’s eyes. I don’t remember what we spoke of; I just remember his eyes, sensing a silent exchange.
The gathering was over a few hours later, and we proceeded to a dress rehearsal and fitting. The house of Versace makes high fashion in a very colorful and extravagant way, so I knew it was going to be a spectacular event. I was excited and looking forward to the fun. Later that evening, there would be a private party.
When I woke up the next morning, something felt different. I couldn’t place it, but I felt something within coming to the edge of my awareness. Before I could explore any further, I was distracted by the day’s events. The show was amazing, and the glamorous after-party was filled with VIP guests from all over the world. It continued until the morning, and after a couple of hours of sleep, I was on the plane and headed home. Three days had gone by like a flash.
Back in New York, I reflected on my time in Cape Town. I recalled all the amazing moments, extreme excitement, beauty, glamour, and fame. And then I remembered meeting Nelson Mandela. Here was a soul who had it tough all his life; he courageously fought for freedom and basic human rights. He went to prison for twenty-seven years and came out smiling. In his eyes that night, I saw that his soul had always been free, although he had spent years in prison. I didn’t see those walls being a hindrance; on the contrary, the prison was part of his soul’s evolution. The prison had given strength to his soul to master a freedom that could not be taken away or lost; it did not control the spiritual freedom he had within. I came to see and understand that this experience of imprisonment and liberation was part of all of our paths—the need to be spiritually free and find our purpose.
I had arrived at a crossroads sparked by meeting Mandela and reflecting on his life. From my viewpoint as an observer, I wondered where I fit in. I started to see how on one side, I was living my outer beauty. It was an exciting life and fulfilling on many levels, especially for sensory pleasures. It was a life that very quickly met most of my desires. I thought: Maybe this is why I’m seeing my life differently now. Have I had all my desires met? What more is there to achieve in fashion? On the other side, I felt something more powerful pulling me toward it, but I didn’t know what that journey was yet. All I felt was its undeniable force, which I wasn’t quite ready to surrender to.
So what was my purpose? This was the question I was exploring at this new crossroads in my life, and I had to decide which path to take. I decided to alight from the fashion ride at the next stop, but without knowing my true destination. What I was sure about was I needed to get off. I couldn’t control the “wherever,” but I could control the “whenever,” so I took that action right away.
I retired from modeling, and after a few years of wandering and searching, I ended up in India training in the sciences of yoga and ayurveda. Ayurveda is the traditional Indian medicine that comes from the oldest books of knowledge: the Vedas. And now, some fourteen years later, I live part of my life as a yogi in a rain forest in India and spend the other part traveling and sharing yogic teachings with people around the world.
If anyone had looked into the future and explained to me that this was going to be my life, I might have had a hard time imagining it. Mine is definitely not a common spiritual path! But then again, spirituality doesn’t discriminate against professions or people; it is available to anyone who chooses to follow it. And at times, even if you don’t choose it, the spiritual path often prods until you surrender and do.
When I first left Iran, my only wish was to stay with my family. I remember being dropped off by my mother at boarding school in the north of England. As she drove away, just one tear slid down my cheek, and that was the end of my pain. I had a wonderful time at school, and I barely missed my family from then on. Something within me was totally okay with being alone. I had an intuitive feeling that I was taken care of and that things would always be fine.
Looking back, I can see how this experience of early separation from my family was preparing me for the yogic life. My past karma (actions) was steering me through what I had to experience as part of my spirit’s journey and purpose.
I also learned that it’s best not to expect someone to be solely there for you, even if they want to, because ultimately at times circumstances dictate our situations. Maybe at best we can depend on others to assist, but relying on someone to always be there for your needs is a risk that can steer you outside of your life’s purpose (as well as the other person, who has his or her own life’s purpose).
I learned early on to trust the voice from within, although I wasn’t fully conscious of where this voice was coming from at the time; it would become my guiding star to the yogi path.
When the Yogi Is Ready, the Path Will Appear
A yogi is quite detached in his being, and this was my training from an early age. I spent a lot of my young adult life alone, focused on my modeling career, until I met Ron, who would become my best friend and spiritual mentor, in Paris.
One day in the gym, I saw a man who appeared to be in his forties or fifties wearing a green tracksuit and headband and looking at me with a cheerful, friendly smile. I introduced myself to him, and we started talking like we’d known each other a hundred years. After some weeks of regular chatting, we learned a lot about each other. I found out that Ron had contracted HIV.
With my growing friendship with him, a new part of my life began. By day, I was shooting magazine covers for GQ in Milan, doing advertising for Guess jeans and Versace on location in Hawaii, and filming music videos for Elton John in London. But on my days off and at night I was mainly hanging out with Ron.
He introduced me to the study of spirituality, guiding me through his own knowledge and experiences. He had me read a diverse range of books on spirituality from the 1960s and 1970s and took me to seminars by Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson, when she was teaching A Course in Miracles. At nineteen I was leading a dual lifestyle—model by day, spiritual seeker by night. Then in 1998, I decided to leave the fashion business after meeting Nelson Mandela.
When I first met Ron, I would not have viewed him as a mentor. I realized he was more like a mentor to me only after he passed away fourteen years later. While he was alive, he was just my best friend. I remember us walking around Paris all the time hand in hand or arm in arm, chatting away about life. Most people thought we were in a romantic relationship, because they saw me everywhere with this older man. We found this very amusing, and even played it up at times just to keep people guessing. It was fun, especially because I had a girlfriend, which made people even more curious and confused. My mother is English, and most of my childhood was spent in that culture where our “English sense of humor” is just this way.
I learned from early on that when a young man has an older gay male friend or teacher, the world will comment, have opinions, and judge, but that was okay with me. It was all part of the process of being both an individual and part of the whole. Ron taught me never to react and to allow others to have their opinions, but always try and live by what was true in me. It was an extremely valuable lesson that has been with me ever since. It allowed me to be comfortable with myself and leave others to be themselves—no judgment, no reaction. Ours was a true and loving friendship between two beings who enjoyed spending time together—it was my experience of a deep and caring friendship.
Spirituality and the quest to reach our purpose were our common goals and favorite topics of discussion to the very end of his life. I remember looking into his eyes shortly before he left his body and seeing the same thing I saw in Mandela’s eyes. He was free and had completed his purpose.
After Ron’s death, I left Paris and went to New York. I wanted to expand on what we had been discussing all those years, but again, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Although I had been practicing yoga and living a pretty healthy life, I didn’t think I had been using what I’d learned in a daily practice. I was a casual spiritualist.
In early 2003, I trained for six months in yoga teacher training at Integral Yoga Institute in New York. This was a good start to walking the yogic path, but I felt I needed much more knowledge on the subject. I had read a book by Dr. David Frawley called Yoga & Ayurveda, which explains how the two sciences are practiced together according to the teaching of the ancient rishis, or sages, of India. This was my missing link.
Frawley says that ayurveda is the science of the body, while yoga is the science of the mind and beyond. This is exactly what I was beginning to experience, and I realized that I needed to go to the source of these two sciences to evolve more deeply on this path. In more than fifteen years of trotting around the globe, I never had the urge to visit India, the land of spirituality. Now I know why: I was not ready to meet my teachers until I had done some prior work to prepare myself for what was to come.
Two weeks after I finished my teacher training in New York City, I traveled to India, where I met and went to school under the guidance of my guru, Sri Vasudevan. When I say guru, I should explain that at times it means teacher and at other times it means guide. This can apply to a variety of people in your life, but a guru who is enlightened and can leave the physical body at will is something else entirely. This higher being has given up control in order for his soul to be completely in charge of his body and life, and these are rare beings you will not meet under normal circumstances. My guru is a teacher and guide. I have yet to encounter my enlightened guru and master. This will come at my next stage of spiritual training.
I understood these spiritual teachings were not easy to grasp and were even more difficult to put into practice unless I had a guru to lead the way. I also came to understand that the “outer guru” is a reflection of our own “inner guru” that is also teaching and guiding us. The outer guru guides us to the point where we can learn to follow the inner guru.
With guidance and years of study and practice, I realized that not only did I want to teach this path, I wanted to devote my life to it and live as a true yogi. This is when I went from “Cameron” to “Yogi Cameron.” After making my commitment, along with receiving more training and guidance from my teachers, I was finally ready and was allowed to teach. I was instructed that it was time to go back to America to share this knowledge with those who wanted to become yogis or to apply these practices to their daily lives.
At first I was a little uncomfortable with this instruction. I liked the life of meditation in India, so I suggested I stay longer—or even forever! “And if you stay, what are you going to do here?” asked my guru. I hadn’t thought this through, so I said unconvincingly, “Practice and learn more!”
We both knew it was time for me to leave and start to share the...
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