See how a life spent largely outdoors-in the wilds of northern Canada, the underwater wonderland of the Caribbean, and throughout the untamed Himalayas-presented the challenges that shaped a timid mother's boy into a confident yogi and ambassador for self-transformation. Through humorous and poignant life stories--attending an all-male boarding school, coming out as a gay man, building a successful yoga career--here Yogi Aaron shares lessons in living with empowerment and authenticity.
From the creator of Hot Nude Yoga, a global phenomenon during the early 2000's, a story of struggle and healing found through the practices of Tantric yoga. Today owner and yoga director at Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa in Costa Rica and leader of world-wide retreats through Blue Osa Journeys, Yogi Aaron is known for his humorous yet vastly knowledgeable approach to teaching this centuries-old wisdom.
A must-read for aspiring yogis, yoga teachers, world travelers, nudists, gay men, people wanting to manifest positive change in their lives.
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Autobiography of a Naked Yogi
By Yogi Aaron
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Yogi Aaron
All rights reserved.
The Early Years
You cannot force the creative process--life unfolds in its own time, in its own way.
Most kids come from plain old copulation.
I, on the other hand, am the product of a pagan fertility ritual.
The moment I was conceived--in a quaint room above a Cornwall, UK pub on the eve of Beltane, a colorful maypole visible just outside--a series of events was unleashed that inextricably linked me to the great mysteries of the cosmos.
Before I was born, my mother thought I might be a Valentine's baby-yet, I am no saint, so I made my appearance on earth in my own time, in my own dramatic fashion. It was February 16, 1972 and my Mum was 25 years old.
She had one of those pregnancies that lasts forever--dragging on beyond nine months, her belly mushrooming, false labor taunting her again and again. Finally toxemia forced her to the hospital in Victoria, Canada where her doctor would induce labor. Transferring Mum from bed to stretcher before rolling off to the delivery room, a nurse discovered I was crowning.
I was ready to come at that moment--and was delivered on a gurney, in a hallway--all 9 pounds of me.
I was born an Aquarius, the water bearer. The healing, loving touch of the ocean, of mountain lakes and streams has been a constant throughout my days.
But so has the pull of Mother Earth--whether in the heart of the Indian Himalayas, the Costa Rican jungle, or the seaside playground of my childhood, Cordova Bay. Getting back to nature takes me back to myself. My truest self.
The fury of a Beltane bonfire still smoulders in the deepest recesses of my being. I harness that energy to fuel my strong will. If I think it, it will be.
The more I look at the unfolding of my life experiences, it's clear that all is connected; conquering the wilds of Canada ultimately led me to the beachfront cabina I now call home.
The Sailor and the Bathing Beauty.
One warm day in 1970, my Mum lay sunbathing on her front lawn, her bikini leaving just a bit to the imagination.
Along came a tall, handsome young man in a naval uniform--a lieutenant in the Canadian Navy--and they struck up a conversation. It must have been some talk--or some bikini; one thing led to another and they began seeing each other.
The young man would soon depart for Plymouth, England, to attend naval engineering school--and he suggested the young woman, Mum, join him for the year.
Always one to dive head-first into life's opportunities, Mum agreed. My grandparents were elated; their daughter had finally snared a respectable man.
They were to stay with an aunt in England, but she insisted they first marry. They complied on October 17, 1970 in the company of friends from the military college.
In less than a year, on the night of May 1st, 1971, I would be conceived. It's a night my mother has said she will never forget, an evening of raucous laughter, dancing and merriment that ended in a celebration of love in the bedroom; the ancient Celtic ritual Beltane, dedicated to optimism and fertility, proved an epically synchronous time for my parents to come together.
A Childhood Fantasies Are Made Of.
If pictures tell a story, it must be true that I was very much wanted by my parents. Big smiles are a common thread among the photographic images of our young, small family.
It seemed everyone else adored me as well. Parishioners at church passed me around so that my mother hardly saw me throughout an entire service. Neighbors greeted me with hugs and candy. And my mother's parents — particularly my grandmother, "Mammuck" — took great pleasure in doing special things for me.
On Sundays we gathered around Mammuck's kitchen table for roast beef, yorkshire puddings, and fresh vegetables from the garden. With the voracious appetite of a growing boy, I ate my fill and then some, yet always left room for Mammuck's special desserts.
My younger sister, Marianna, always looked up to me; my older sister, Jeannie, took care of me like a real-life baby doll — even doing all the talking for me, an unusually late bloomer.
Mammuck wisely proclaimed that I would speak when I was ready, when I had something to say.
As I grew it became apparent I was a natural at connecting with Others--and to this day, it's my strong suit.
In many ways my childhood was idyllic. We lived my first ten years on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, in a quiet town called Cordova Bay--our quaint home at the end of a picturesque lane, adjacent to acres of forest, horse pastures and fields of blackberry bushes and cherry trees.
And, within a ten minute walk, the ocean was our playground. We passed summers picnicking on the sandy, pebble-dotted beach, a happy family. Tidal pools invited exuberant splashing as we explored sea life at low tide. I fancied myself an Olympian as Mother and my older sister encouraged, "Paddle! Kick!" My dad's back proved an ideal perch for riding the undulating waves.
Always an avid swimmer, Dad bought me my first set of swimming goggles when I was six. Watching him maneuver in and out of the surf in his goggles and Speedos, I wanted desperately to emulate him. The first time I placed those goggles over my face and dipped into the water, a new world opened up before my eyes. A deep and abiding fascination with the underwater world was born in that instant, and still I'm happiest in or near the ocean--the place where my family was closest.
When we weren't at the beach, neighborhood fields and forests became our domain--the trees so tall I felt I could reach the sky as my sisters and I climbed as high as possible. We were always in search of new territory to explore while riding our bikes, breathing in the fresh salt air in the shadows of Mt. Douglas.
Winters brought Christmas caroling in the car as we sought out fanciful light displays; warmer weather meant barbecues at Elk Lake Park and summer camp on Thetis Island, where I saw in my "mommy" glimpses of her carefree, earth mother, hippie past as she played house-Mum to a cabin full of giggling girls.
In every season, the magic in this Pacific Northwestern fantasyland captured my imagination. If there exists on earth a picture-perfect place to grow up, it's Cordova Bay.
It's no wonder I will forever be a pioneer at heart. For as long as I can remember, the outdoors invited adventure and discovery. As a boy, that's where I found inspiration. And, it's where I felt safe--because, in truth, the memories of my childhood are not all pleasant fantasies.
The Painful Reality.
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of the child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him." Proverbs 22:15
Home was no sanctuary. Instead, it was where we tread lightly, the tension so intense I was often genuinely afraid to be there--the perfect excuse to remain outside exploring the woods or taking long bike rides with my sisters.
During my childhood, Mum was a born-again Christian. Her church provided community, yet the religious family that was her best support could be a double-edged sword.
When she got pregnant with Marianna--I was only a year old-she was devastated. Her five-year plan for a second child was out the window, and along with it, her plan to devote all of her time solely to me. With her conservative religious views, though, abortion wasn't an option she would consider.
Marianna was conceived and born a fighter--created while Mum had an IUD in place and delivered a full six weeks before she was due. She was strong and fearless--a tomboy, unafraid to get dirty, the rough-and-tumble chip-off-the-block dad longed for, something I never would be.
My older sister, Jeannie, was Dad's daughter by his first wife who had passed away some years earlier. My mother adopted five year-old Jeannie to raise as her own.
So in just a few years' time, Mum went from a young bride to mother of three. Her hands were full and she was not happy about it. And though I was a mama's boy, I couldn't escape the spankings. Her anger and frustration built up like an expanding balloon, stretching to its limits, and then exploded. She took it out on any one of us, at any time, without any reason.
It was difficult to be an awkward, clumsy kid in our household. We stopped after school one day to get fresh milk from a dairy farm-and once home, Mum asked me to carry the 2-litre bottle inside. The glass bottle, thick in condensation, slipped from my grasp, smashing and spilling all over the driveway. She got out the spanking stick, paddling until my bottom was raw. I was heartbroken by the violation.
As painful as it was to be on the receiving end, though, hearing my sisters get their turn with the rod was agony.
Mum was very strict when it came to food--another reason I found sanctuary at Mummuck's, where I could count on delicious, healthy meals. Mum went through phases in her cooking: vegetarian, ethnic cuisine, typical home-style foods. The worst meal ever, though, was liver, the sight alone enough to make me feel ill. But I was forced to eat every morsel as she consistently reminded me that the starving children in Africa would be happy to trade places with me. She also experimented with seasonings such as cayenne pepper, making our meals so hot they brought my sisters and me to tears as we ate. What was supposed to help improve our circulation and brain function only reminded us of the hell we were enduring at home. While our mother was volatile, Dad was a triple threat. Military. A Brit. Conservative.
He served in the Canadian Navy until I was nine years old, perpetuating his staunch beliefs on how a family should function: Mum caring for her husband and children, while he maintained control of everything. A simple look spoke volumes about how we were expected to behave.
Though Dad didn't discipline us as much as my mother did, he was quick-tempered. Something as simple as walking to the basement barefooted could elicit a spanking.
He was determined to make a "man" out of me from the time I was a toddler. One day, taking the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver, the attendant asked my parents, "How old is your little girl?" Back home from that trip, Dad marched me to his barber to cut my long, blonde curly hair. Mum wept. He was delighted I would no longer be mistaken for a girl.
And the fight over my masculinity only escalated as I grew. I loved stuffed animals, not action figures. I wanted a doll, but my father wouldn't allow it. Mammuck bought me one I could play with at her house, but only when Dad wasn't around.
By the time I was five, Dad enrolled me in soccer, which I detested. I was afraid of the ball. Didn't like to get wet or dirty. The coaches benched me. Yet Dad insisted I continue with it for the next six years, even though I preferred ballet or piano--anything that Jeannie was doing.
Ours was a love-hate relationship. As often as Dad was disagreeable, there were also times his affection and lessons in manhood were heartfelt. As a small boy I would climb into his lap and fall asleep against his strong chest. We cut trees on the beach down, hauling our bounty home for the wood stove to provide heat. We camped together, and he shared coffee he'd brewed over an open fire. To this day, my first cup every morning puts me right back beside that campfire, feeling the father-son bond that should have come easily.
Ultimately we never knew which version of our parents we'd get-the ones who read Chronicles of Narnia with us or the bullies who seasoned our food to the point of leaving our taste buds and tonsils raw.
When Dad retired from the navy, we moved to Vancouver for a short time. And that's when any semblance of a picture-perfect fantasy life fell apart. It seemed we'd left everything with meaning behind in Victoria: home, church, family, even Mammuck.
It was as if the movers packed away all that was good from our lives to this point and failed to deliver any of it to our new home. I didn't fit in at school. Dad was away most of the time. Mum eventually moved out of the master bedroom and rented it to a friend and her young son. Even the magic surrounding Christmas was gone.
Then, within the year Dad was ready to uproot us again--and Mum wasn't having it. She had already given up too much. They divorced.
I was 11 at the time my parents split--and as rocky as things had become, as most kids would, I wanted them to stay together. There are two versions of what came next: Mum's version: She wanted to keep us; Dad vowed to fight her to the last penny to prevent it. Dad's: Mum didn't want us; Dad blames her for not fighting for us.
However it happened, my dad moved Marianna and me to Hay River in the Northwest Territories, a very small town with almost no daylight throughout the long subarctic winters. And without Mommy.
This was a town where not much was going on--literally at the end of the line, where the continental railway system ends.
Hay River, located on the edge of the Great Slave Lake, Canada's largest lake, was the hub of the NorthWest Territories. Located at the end of the Hay River, the town borders the great tundra--a vast, flat, frozen Arctic region. It's every bit as bleak as it sounds.
In the summertime, the dark of night time lasted only from around 11 pm until 4 am; during winter, we were lucky to see the sun at all, with daylight from 8:30 in the morning until 3:30 in the afternoon. It wasn't unusual for temperatures in the winter to drop as low as 40 below zero; and even when winds reached 20-30 mph, making the windchill factor a dangerous -60 degrees, we walked the three kilometers (about two miles) to school. In the summertime, temperatures climbed to a muggy 30 C / 85 F with pesky mosquitoes all around, forcing many people who worked outside to wear bug-protectant clothing. Wintertime may have been without sunshine, but at least is was without mosquitoes, too.
The town's population was then, and still is, around 3000 people.
But at least there were video rentals, Fruit Loops and soda pop instead of the millet, vegetables and overly-seasoned "healthy" meals Mum had always insisted on. Dad was clueless about these things--and the path of least resistance meant allowing us to have whatever we wanted.
School here was difficult, and not because the subject matter was tough. I was a peculiar child, ahead of my years. And I carried myself differently.
Many of the Inuit locals were held back in school, even repeatedly. The older boys were big and mean. They punched the daylights out of me on a regular basis.
Oddly, I found my saving grace in the Pentecostal Church. When Dad made trips away from home from time to time, a local nurse stayed with us. She and I spent hours discussing religion, faith, heaven and hell. Mostly hell. She encouraged me to visit her church's youth group--and there I took refuge, safe from the bullying at school and mounting tension at home.
This didn't help the growing rift between my dad, an agnostic, and me. I resented him for keeping me away from Mommy, for making it difficult to have any kind of relationship with her--and I missed her terribly. He insisted I pay for long distance calls and forced me to cover half the cost of visits to her in Vancouver, including air travel at $800 a pop.
But there were bright spots as well. My sister Jeannie was now married, and while she was away at University, her husband lived with us. He was someone I could talk to and we enjoyed hunting and canoeing together.
And in 1985 when Dad took us to visit his brother in London, we spent days taking in the sights and enjoying each other, riding the tube from one end of the city to the other.
During one afternoon there he left me on my own. I made my way to the West End, where punk rockers in X-rated shops gave me an eyeful--and inspiration. Everywhere I looked, body parts were exposed and/or pierced.
So I did what any fashion-forward 13 year-old rebel would do: I pierced my ear. I am not sure why, except that I wanted to be different.
London captivated me, an ordinary boy from northern Canada thrown into the midst of London's West End. It was cold as I walked the strange windy streets, and yet the excitement coursing through me kept me warm. I was intrigued by the foreign sights and smells--men and women in an array of attire: professionals in business suits, beautiful people in designer goods, youth sporting outrageous punk fare, their long spiked hair dyed incredible colors from florescent pink to royal purple, and my favorite, ocean blue.
Excerpted from Autobiography of a Naked Yogi by Yogi Aaron. Copyright © 2015 Yogi Aaron. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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