“The bigger your faith, the bigger your life.” Yogi Aaron lives by this mantra, his personal application of the yogic teaching of Shraddha. His deep faith and commitment to his saddhana, combined with regular yoga and meditation practices have helped him to manifest a beautiful, sacred space. Blue Osa Retreat Center in Costa Rica.
Leading yoga teacher training immersions and hosting other visiting teachers’ retreats is what makes up Aaron’s days in this stunning tropical resort. And when we asked him about what he’s actually creating, he spoke to us about the power of deep faith – or shraddha – to not just bring a yogi wellness, but absolute joy.
“People will come to my teacher training one-month immersion and they will be given the schedule and be really excited. In their minds, they think a good person is someone who meditates all the time. Most people don’t do yoga because they want to get happy. They’re doing it because they want to be a good person.”
Yogi Aaron’s immersions involve waking at 4:30am to begin morning practice. He finds that once the enthusiasm of the first few days begins to wane, the questions arise: Why am I doing this? Can’t I just back out? It is then, he finds, that the concept of Shraddha offers its greatest teachings to help the students find their why.
“Patanjali’s definition of Shraddha is so beautiful: Shraddha is the joyful state of mind, peacefully flowing inwards. Instead of going outwards, it’s coming inwards. But the way to do that is surrendering ourselves to the lord, to a higher power, to whatever it is. It’s also coming to the realization of how short your life is. And coming to the realization that I have very little time in this world, life is a precious gift! Do I want to waste it chasing after meaningless things? Or do I want to discover life’s purpose and live in it?”
Stepping back for a moment from their aversion to the pre-sunrise wake-up, Yogi Aaron likes to point out how incredible the yogic lifestyle really is. On retreat in Costa Rica, waking early for meditation and breakfasting on fresh fruits grown right at Blue Osa, how can one not be inspired to a joyful state of mind?
This, says Yogi Aaron, is where the practice of tapas comes in.
“Tapas is practicing being disciplined, doing a practice no matter what happens. My teacher says that the result of tapas, the result of discipline, the result of doing a spiritual practice for a certain amount of time is the resplendence of personality. I actually have a personality that becomes more of a pleasant one through tapas.”
The bigger your faith, the bigger your joy, it seems. Through commitment to a practice, the yogis believe there is this somewhat-sneaky evolution of the practitioner into a more pleasant, more joyful, more resplendent being. And moving through the aversion to the difficult aspects is the only way to touch that purity.
“It’s true, and I have seen this time and time again with people. If they are not educated, if they are not holding firmly onto why I am doing this practice… then it feels like its pain. That’s why a lot of people translate tapas as austerity. But austerities are painful! People practice austerities as a form of self-infliction, self-punishment. Tapas is completely the opposite of that: we are practicing it to get in touch with something that’s pure within us. But if we keep doing what we are doing, then we are never going to get there.”
So at the crack of dawn, you’ll find Yogi Aaron and his students coming to the cushion to begin the day in silence. That silence is held until 7:30 am to provide ample space for the quiet inner voice of Shraddha to be heard and understood in the powerful space of transformation. And this, says Yogi Aaron, is what really lights him up.
“There is so much joy in seeing the light turn on in people. That moment when the result of tapas happens. That moment when people see that I am not only the cause of my suffering, now I have the tools to change it…. When people have that kind of awakening it’s just such a charge for me, it’s a really potent moment to witness.”
“And I think that the only way for this planet to change, or whatever direction we are going in this world, is for as many people as possible to change their life at any moment and get on Purpose. And there is never a time that’s too late.”
Yogi Aaron, author of “Autobiography of a Naked Yogi” is the co-owner of Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa, where he brings passion and adventure to countless students through his teachings and lectures. Inspired by his own practice, he guides students to secret and far-flung locales, empowers them to realize their own limitless potential, and makes yoga relevant and accessible to the modern world. Since 2002 he has been traveling and leading retreats worldwide. He currently serves as the yoga director leading the Yoga Teacher Trainings at Blue Osa. Follow Yogi Aaron on Instagram.