Actor Aylam Orian is much more than a leading Hollywood actor (he recently starred in the MGM series Stargate Origins). Growing up in Israel, Aylam served in the Israeli army for 4.5 years, as a Lieutenant in the Military Intelligence. After serving in the army, Aylam studied psychology at Tel Aviv University before moving to New York City (and eventually Hollywood) to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Throughout his life, Aylam has also studied and practiced Tibetan Buddhism and Indian Vedanta for several years, where he learned some incredible philosophies that relate to the world of yoga and how we channel our energy through our bodies.
Asana Journal sat down exclusively with Aylam to dive deeper into his thoughts and found out why he truly believes that anyone looking at getting into yoga must find an authentic teachAsana Journal sat down exclusively with Aylam to dive deeper into his thoughts and found out why he truly believes that anyone looking at getting into yoga must find an authentic teacher who can teach them the philosophy behind the style(s) they select. er who can teach them the philosophy behind the style(s) they select.
1 How were you first introduced to yoga and what were your original thoughts?
It’s funny, I have known about yoga for a while, but had never really tried it. One day, while taking boxing classes at my gym in New York, I decided to check out the gym’s class schedule to see what other classes they offered. I noticed a class called “Kundalini Yoga”, and it sounded mysterious and interesting so I tried it and… never went back to boxing! Even though it was quite challenging physically, I immediately liked the mystical teachings behind it, and my teacher who opened the world of yoga to me.
2 What is the biggest misconception about yoga and meditation that you’ve come acrossed?
Most people here in the US, or in the west in general, think that yoga means just doing the physical poses – the Asanas. You go to a yoga class, stretch and contort your body, sweat some, say things like “Ohm” and “Namaste”, and that makes you a “Yogi” or a yoga practitioner. You leave the class, and live your life exactly the same as you did before. No change in your behavior towards others, your values or your level of consciousness. We know that yoga is a whole philosophy, a doctrine and practices to live life by – a life quite different than ours. The Asanas are just one “limb” of the “8 limbs of yoga”, and definitely not the most important one. They are just a means to a higher end. A higher end that unfortunately most people who practice yoga don’t seem to really care about. It’s the same thing with meditation: it’s not just a trendy technique to calm yourself, or to be more “spiritual” as many people think. It’s a very serious practice that serves to bring the practitioner to a higher end. So while it’s definitely great that lots of people practice yoga and meditation, I do wish they were taught, and had interest in, the bigger picture, as that’s where the real benefits lie, both for them, and for the world as a whole.
3 How important is an active, healthy lifestyle to you?
Very important. I begin to feel bad physically and mentally when I haven’t had the chance to exercise for a couple of days, or when I eat food that is less than 100% healthy. I am vegan, so whatever I eat is already quite healthy to begin with, but when once in a while I succumb to my sweet/pizza tooth and have some vegan pizza or donuts, I know, and feel, that they are not the best for me. But I keep a good balance I think!
4 You studied Tibetan Buddhism and Indian Vedanta for several years… What about these philosophies that you continued to have practise that have helped you be the person you are today?
Oh, so much… from the way I look at the world and my life, to how I interact with others in it. I am not an “enlightened” or “self-realized” being by any means, and I have much more work to do. But believe me, I used to be worse! Haha… But Vedanta has taught me to view everyone and everything in the world as connected, and coming from the same source. It also taught me all about the mind and its desires, and how to choose a higher desire for myself and my life: the desire to not harm any living being (or in yogic terms: “Ahimsa”), which led me to become vegetarian, and later vegan. Tibetan Buddhism has taught me all about Karma, and how what we do and say and think towards others eventually comes back to us, in the shape of our experiences. Likewise, whatever we want in life, we better give it to others first. It made me consider others much more than before, and to truly strive to help others with the right intention in mind. This led me to start a non-profit – “Our Planet. Theirs Too.” – to help animals. We created a National Animal Rights Day and The Declaration of Animal Rights!
5 Tibetan Yoga has been known to help with anti-aging. Have you found that your Tibetan practices that have helped you feel/look younger than you are?
Hmm… I can’t say that I was aware of that and I haven’t done it enough to develop a serious practice. But I do know that Tibetan Heart Yoga is aimed specifically at opening the main Nadis (energy channels) in the body, getting the Prana to flow freely in them, especially in the Sushumna Nadi (the central energy channel). This has amazing benefits to the body as a whole, including its outer shell. So I guess that explains why my Geshe looked 20 years younger than he actually was!
6 What type of yoga have you tried that really “shocked” you as a participant?
I don’t think any of them has really shocked me. I can say that Bikram Yoga was the hardest for me physically and mentally, as I really don’t do well with heat. But I did recently hear of a yoga class offered in New York, called “Drunk Yoga”, where you do yoga with a glass of wine in your hand, and sip from it while in the poses! When I first heard about it I wasn’t sure if it was real, or a joke, but after learning it was a legit yoga class, and of the story behind it (I actually know the woman who started it), I now want to try it. Should be… interesting!
7 What type of yoga do you tend to like doing most while travelling?
When traveling I like to go to the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta centers, as they are in so many cities around the world and they’re always so welcoming. You know exactly what to expect, from the orange robes, to a cozy tea corner, to their style of yoga which is simple yet powerful with authentic, pure teachings behind it. They makes me feel like I have a home away from home, a refuge with a community of like-minded people no matter where I am in the world. l always feel refreshed physically and mentally afterwards, whatever new city I’m in.
8 Where is your favorite place to do yoga?
Definitely outdoors, surrounded by nature, with a nice breeze caressing my body, and birds and other animals “participating” in the experience. But the most unique place I’ve done yoga was actually the opposite: a little concrete “island” in the middle of a super busy intersection in Manhattan, New York. It was a small yoga class with a yoga teacher I knew (we called it “Ahimsa Yoga”), which brought together people who had never done yoga before to practice right smack in the middle of the city, for free. So we did our little practice while hectic New York traffic was rushing all around us. It was quite surreal, and a great experience!
9 Is it hard to find time to do yoga with your busy schedule as an actor?
It can be challenging, yes! Especially in a city like Los Angeles, where many people are addicted to work and the hustle involved in following your dreams seems to never stop. This might sound ridiculous, but it takes strong determination, in this town and in my business, to actively clear two hours in your schedule, close the laptop, turn the phone off (risking the chance of your agent calling you right then with an audition, which by Murphy’s Law usually happens), and drive a few miles to the nearest yoga studio. And it gets even trickier if I do get an audition for the next day, or I’m on set for the whole day. But it’s a priority for me, and an important part of the lifestyle I want to maintain, so I make it work somehow!
10 Do you feel that participating in yoga and meditation has helped your career as an actor?
For sure! They haven’t only kept me in good shape physically, but they also ground me mentally, and allow me to take the ups and downs of this career with the right mindset and perspective. Work will come and go, and acting roles will come and go, so my happiness and wellbeing are not solely dependent on it. I have a loftier goal for my life thanks to my studies of yoga and meditation, and a spiritual point of view to look at life from, not just material. That can be valuable in any career, I’d like to think, but especially in the volatile and super vulnerable line of work of an actor.
11 What advice would you like to share with other practitioners based on your personal experience or others looking at getting into the same things you do?
I would say explore as many types of yoga as you can, learn the full “8 Limbs”, and find an authentic teacher who can teach you the philosophy behind it! Because like I mentioned before, yoga is so much more than just doing the physical poses on a mat for a few hours a week. So I would recommend reading about yoga, going to lectures, taking Eastern philosophies/ Vedanta classes and discovering the bigger picture behind it all, which will help you not only keep your body fit, but also elevate you spiritually (and I don’t mean to sound “new age-y” here, I mean something very concrete and real). Yoga says that we all have a higher purpose in this life, so try to discover what that is. And then let your Asana practice be in service of it!
12 What are your future dreams and goals both professionally and personally?
Professionally I would like to work on exciting and meaningful artistic projects, all over the world, ones that bring a positive value to people and the planet. Sounds lofty, I know… And personally, I’d like to have a bigger impact on the world in terms of helping animals. I’d like to see my nonprofit become a leading force in shifting the human race to practicing “Ahimsa” towards animals, not just humans. And through it all, I’d like to stay as serene and content as possible. Not too much to ask, ey?
13 If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
What I just mentioned… how we, humans, treat our fellow “Earthlings”, the animals with whom we share this planet.
We are not very “yogic” when it comes to that. As you know, in many yoga classes they recite a version of the wish “May all beings be happy and free”. But very few of us actually mean it and live our life according to it. I wish for life that truly acknowledges and supports the freedom and happiness of ALL beings, not just human beings. If all of us abided by this ancient yogic motto, the entire world would change dramatically.
I believe that all the problems that countries, people, and humans in general have on this planet, would disappear if we made that shift.