Cosmos Vickery has embraced his love of yoga since he was a teen. Through the years he’s grown in his understanding that the beauty of life is all about being present in the moment, knowing that we are all loved. In this episode of Nourish Your Health at Every Age, he shares his deep understanding of the “yoga of living” with host Jan Swift.
A Lafayette native, Cosmos Vickery was raised by what he calls “two hippies who were in the Peace Corps.” His dad and grandfather were named “James,” and he was named James Cosmos Vickery with the pronunciation of his first name being “Jame-us.” In early high school, he switched to using his middle name, Cosmos, which his mother told him means to “walk the universe in harmony.” An apt name, given the path his life has taken since then.
After graduation, he became somewhat of a nomad, traveling first to North Carolina to work on a Christmas tree farm, then to New Orleans to attend U.N.O. Yet, he couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that there was more to life. After meeting Ryan Hornback who introduced him to a vigorous form of yoga called Ashtanga Vinyasa, he gave away all of his possessions and pursued the practice of yoga six days a week, two hours per day. He was searching for truth and following the strict lifestyle of Ashtanga Vinyasa.
A stint living in North Carolina where he apprenticed in three different eco-villages gave him an opportunity to focus on his yoga, while he lived simply with no money, trading his time and skills for food and a place to lay his head at night. This led to a meeting with a Sanyassin (a person who is liberated from material desires, innerly detached from worldly affairs, free of egoism, and genuinely caring for the well-being of others) who awakened Cosmos to the Osho philosophy and encouraged him not to take life so seriously. As Cosmos recounts, the sannyasin told him, “Don’t let life upset you, upset life! Live and experience life. Accept life in its totality.”
So Cosmos was inspired to really live his life. He left the eco-village and traveled to South Mexico and Guatelema to meet other Osho-Sanyassins. He then returned to Louisiana to marry a young woman he had met while in an eco-village who was also a Lafayette native.
Cosmos believes that all physical practices such as yoga, exercise or even psychotherapy can be useful if they lead you to a true, natural meditation where the mind is allowed to relax and open up. Just as plants need to be hydrated with water to stay alive and to flourish, humans also need to “hydrate and loosen their soil” from hard-held beliefs that have crystallized and hardened about who they are or how they and others should act. The manner in which we are raised has a profound on these hard held beliefs and can keep a person from truly experiencing life and being able to relax. Various programs such as the 12 steps, exercise, or even religion can lead one to a loosening of this soil within the mind.
Yoga means to “yoke together” or “union,” and is a physical as well as a mindful, spiritual practice. A very small number of people are open to experiencing the enlightenment that yoga can bring to the mind and spirit. For most of us, being mindful of our body’s aches and pains and accepting that it is best to work within our limitations, without pushing beyond these limits, can be challenging. Cosmos shared that very few people, especially in health clubs, show up for yoga with a desire to just relax; they typically show up knowing that they want to sweat or get stronger physically. But, they’re not willing to open up the possibilities of what a yogic disposition may bring into their life.
Every yoga position you put yourself into as you learn how to handle the posture, even when it’s uncomfortable, can be a tool to help you learn how to lean in and handle life’s experiences. The postures help you open up and “love the problems,” and this realization can be carried over into life’s everyday challenges. As Cosmos puts it, “Yoga is about loosening up the exterior of your identities in your mind.”
Learning to relax is the first step in yoga. Cosmos’ best teachers taught him that he needed to learn to relax before he could move forward in his practice. So he recommends that people go into Shavasana or the “corpse pose” before (not after, as is traditionally done) they begin their yoga session. Yoga is all about relieving and freeing your body from stiffness and pain so that you can go out and do the things you really like in life. Restorative yoga is a great place to start as you relax and hold propped-up poses for 5 to 7 minutes, rather then moving quickly through more challenging poses.
Cosmos likes to work with clients one on one to identify their limitations before they jump into yoga classes. It can be very easy to injure yourself if you start a class and aren’t prepared physically for a challenging move. For people who don’t have physical limitations, he suggested Rodney Yee as a free resource on youtube for beginner yoga exercises for those who want to loosen up, condition, and strengthen their bodies.
Meditation is an important tool for self-realization. There are many forms of guided and mindful meditations; through the years, Cosmos has settled on Transcendental Meditation (TM) which doesn’t focus so much on breath and how your body feels as it does on the deep “self” within. You allow your thoughts to bubble up to the surface slowly and it can alleviate stress. Practitioners such as Cosmos let their awareness “rest to the depth of their being” which can be a hard thing to describe to those unfamiliar with meditation.
According to Cosmos, “Life is all about people. You can go meditate for forty years, but there’s nothing better than being fully present with other people and being sincerely interested in them.” Cosmos meets weekly with his friend, Dr. Jesse Saloom, a philosophy professor at UL – Lafayette, whom he describes as someone unlike any of the people he would have crossed paths with in years past. While the two men are very different, one is creative and one leans more on his critical thinking skills, they have found a common bond in relaxing together to “talk about life, what is a good life, and how do I live it?” Once they work out answers to their questions, they go play music together, whether it is on piano, African drums, guitar, or the didgeridoo. Interestingly, while both were trained to play certain instruments, they now can both play every instrument they choose. As Cosmos says, “It doesn’t matter how good they sound!” They have each other’s best interest in mind and it’s OK to just be.
Being fully present in the moment opens space for you to be OK with people as they are. You can also accept your self and know that you are loved by your Creator. When you decide to enter that moment, you can palpably feel it and be fully engaged in life, just as in the OSHO philosophy. It is very hydrating for your soul and spirit.
To contact Cosmos Vickery for a yoga session or deep tissue pain management massage, call (337)296-2071.