Day 21

Style: Yin
Teacher: Melanie Richards
Studio: Happy Tree

Aboard the night bus on the frozen highway, Montreal is disappearing behind me. In the dim light putting pen to paper, I'm feeling quiet and introspective. Finishing an amazing weekend with a restorative Yin class can have that effect.

Happy Tree came highly recommended by friends in Montreal, so I made my way out into the night and onto the metro, heading west across the city. The studio itself is beautiful with a modern design. No two Yin instructors are alike. Melanie led the class through a hip-intensive sequence, sprinkling interesting information in with the instruction. In final savasana she played a gong, sending my consciousness on a psychedelic trip.

Listening to the gentle hum of the bus with heavy eyelids, my mind wanders through blissful residual memories of the last few days. I've been dividing my time between yoga, friends, celebration and the love of my life. The experiment is spiraling me deeper and deeper within, anchoring me to the ground while at the same time sending me out past our atmosphere. Gazing sleepily out the window at the passing moonlit silhouettes of skeletal trees, I feel my mind start to shift its focus. Now looking forward at my upcoming week, some of the warm fuzzy bliss gives way for a creeping anxiety. I have a week so full it's bursting at the seams. My hours will mostly go toward earning money at a job I don't love. Again Yin has opened me up and hit me with the big questions. What is it all about? Where is it all leading? And what is it that I want?

I know I want out of Zombie Incorporated, surrounded by the living dead sleep-walking through daily routine. I need something else, something more. I have no answers at the moment, only an intuition that is persuading me to live fully and authentically. I'm not sure how yet, but I know I have to chase something profound and meaningful, and follow it wherever it may lead.

Day 20

Style: Naada
Teacher: Elizabeth Emberly
Studio: Naada: Yoga, Sound, Tea.

The yoga of sound. At the moment I am speechless, feeling utterly at a loss for words. I have only recently returned from an inter-dimensional time-traveling expedition. My memories of the journey are hazy and abstract, consisting mostly of color and vibration. Slowly sipping tea, I feel the rest of my consciousness returning. I have no concept of time - I was either gone for an instant or a lifetime. Now I'm back on solid ground, back on this blue sphere known as Earth.

As I slowly finish my tea, I am in awe of the truly transcendent experience I just had. Saturdays are the hardest day to find classes, as many studios are either closed or offer only morning sessions. Following a friends birthday last night, I was in no rush to get out of bed. After a delicious breakfast I transitioned into the afternoon looking for a new studio. I stumbled across this website, scribbled down the directions, grabbed my bag and headed out into the sunny but frigid city streets. Naada's studio is absolutely stunning, including an in-house tea cafe. This could be love at first sight. The class was other-worldly. The room for practice is actually a full sound stage studio with bamboo floors and high quality speakers installed in the walls. Live music emanating from quartz crystal bowls, tablas and a Shruti box gave rhythm to the breath and movements, massaging my consciousness into putty. An extremely fluid style with its roots in Hatha, Naada yoga is very distinct and unique. Naada is the English transliteration of the Sanskrit word nada, meaning sound. According to co-founder and instructor Elizabeth Emberly, "the idea is that students will feel as if they are in a womb-like world of sound that embraces and supports their practice." I couldn't have described it more accurately. She goes on to explain that “sound is a means of bringing focus to the practice by providing an environment conducive to meditation" and that it helps students to "become more receptive to the concept of energy as vibration by having their own clear and physical sensory experiences.” Naada yoga is unlike anything I've ever witnessed. Even Elizabeth's bilingual instruction had a musical quality. The class finally ended with the most sonically gorgeous Om-ing session I've ever heard.

Sitting here now, the experience still so fresh, I am in an unbelievably relaxed state, thoroughly calm in both mind and body. The sequence was so magical that I'm already excited to come back next time I'm visiting Montreal. I'm at a total loss thinking about what I should do now. There is no human experience that would be a suitable following act to the yoga of sound. I'm feeling unfamiliar with this strange planet and the bizarre creatures who call it home. Walking back outside and raising my eyes to the sky I can't help but wonder what lies beyond our pinprick of understanding. The vastness of time and space is staggering, but for a few moments today I feel like I may have had a taste of something far larger... something friendly and wise and infinite.

Day 19

Style: Moksha
Teacher: Britton Darby
Studio: Moksha Yoga Montreal

Moksha: [mohk-shuh] –noun Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism. Freedom from the differentiated, temporal, and mortal world of ordinary experience. Pretty dramatic name for a style of yoga. When I first heard it I assumed Moksha yoga was probably the ultimate most powerful yoga dating back to ancient India, practiced by enlightened Gurus on lone mountains peaks long before modern civilization.

As it happens, Moksha yoga has much more recent origins. Developed in Toronto by Ted Grand and Jessica Robertson, the creators were trained by a wide-range of yogis. This is probably why Moksha has a yoga-fusion vibe to it, influenced by a variety of styles. For me, Moksha is basically Bikram Choudhury and Baron Baptiste in a blender. It has a similar Bikram structure with touches of Power Vinyasa flow. When I found myself in Montreal during last year's ninety days, Moksha Yoga Montreal was the closest option. It was my first non-Bikram hot room experience. This year I'm back and I forgot how stylish the studio is. With its front doors opening onto Saint-Laurent, Moksha is definitely the most popular, trendiest center in the area. Every teacher I've practiced with has been excellent, and this afternoon is no exception. Back in the 40 degree heat, I feel centered and calm, moving through the vigorous sequence with comfort and focus.

Sipping Earl Grey at a cafe in the Plateau area of Montreal, I am feeling thoroughly detoxified. The post hot-room feeling is decadently similar to a post-outdoor spa / hot tub feeling. It's nice to be on vacation.

Day 18

Style: Hatha
Teacher: Kim Zombik
Studio: Bliss

Champagne Yoga. Have you ever tried? The style isn't very complicated to learn. All you have to do is wake up in another city in a comfortable bed. Greet the Sun and Sky and Infinity and Beyond. Stretch. Prepare one chocolate croissant, chill one bottle of champagne. Return to bed, into a comfortable position. Synchronizing movements, alternate between pastry and bubbly. Focus on your breathing.

Venturing out into the night hours later amid cascading snowflakes, I'm making my way to Studio Bliss for the first time. Stepping out of the cold and climbing a long staircase I find myself in a quaint, rustic candle-lit room with light music drifting through the air. A perfect introduction to Montreal.

Day 17

Style: Ashtanga
Teacher: Michael Dynie
Studio: Rama Lotus

I missed the bus. Arriving at the station ten minutes too late, I've just been informed that the next departure is at 2:30 am. My options are either to wait here for three hours and get to Montreal around 5 am or go home, get some sleep and get on the early bus, starting my day fresh. I can't help but feel frustrated; I had plans of climbing aboard and relaxing back in my seat, writing my thoughts of tonight's Ashtanga class. Now I'm stranded at the station with all my luggage at midnight.

Flashback three hours ago. I'm warm on my mat working my way through a challenging Ashtanga sequence. My friend, here for the first time, is realizing that yoga isn't exactly what he'd expected. Regardless, he is a good sport and true to his word. In the end, it even seemed like he enjoyed the experience.

Talking to him before class, I found it interesting that his preconceived notion of yoga wasn't so much thinking it an easy, simple process or flaky, pseudo-spiritual nonsense. It was more that it seemed to be a trendy, shallow fad. Just another "in" thing to do, no different then going to Starbucks or a tanning salon. I can understand the perspective. There is sometimes a subtle, underlying pretentiousness in the yoga world. This is something I can definitely expand on when I'm not sitting at a bleak, deserted bus station in the middle of the night. The reality is, even if you came to yoga strictly for the superficial benefits, you can't escape the inner shift that slowly begins to occur.

Weighing my options, I've decided to weather the storm and take the 2:30 bus under the stars. The thought of waking curled up with my sweetheart is just too exquisite to pass up.

Day 16

Style: Ashtanga
Teacher: Michael Dynie
Studio: Rama Lotus

You know what's really annoying? Introducing someone to yoga, then three classes later they're already doing headstands with no wall support. After dragging myself through countless classes I'm only now coming to that point.

On that note, another element of yoga I've had to get my head around is that ever-prevailing spirit of competition. In our culture the idea of measuring yourself against your fellow human is perpetuated from every angle, in everything from our obsession with sports to climbing the ladder of success in the (rat race) working world. Based on its roots and early teachings, yoga should truly be devoid of that mentality, but as you might imagine, it's easier said then done. Reflecting back on past classes I'm aware that - especially early on - if I was suffering in something like the Warrior sequence, the solitary thought I sometimes clung to was a stubborn drive to outlast my closely neighboring yogis. The thought of saving face and sparing my ego carried me through some tough moments. When I look at it, it's really the reason I find practicing at home so hard. Alone, literally just me and my mind, it feels ten times harder to give a hundred percent. That much more difficult to take the poses all the way to their edge. Alone in the void it was only too easy to come out of a pose if it became unbearable or if I "thought" I couldn't take it anymore. After all, who would see?...

Tonight I'm at Ashtanga with a few friends, and I catch myself doing it compulsively. Seemingly on their own accord my eyes steal glances of other students, analyzing and critiquing posture, subtly congratulating myself if I'm thinking I have better form in a particular pose or feeling envious of another's advanced variation. We always want the one-up, the advantage, the higher status. The prestige, the reputation, the success. Our egos love recognition. Again and again I have to reign in my thoughts like untrained, vicious dogs snarling at the end of their leashes.

I guess overall the idea is to really go within and study yourself... and if there needs to be competition, let it be between you your concept of you. Every human has totally different skeletal measurements, asymmetries, muscle structures, history of injury. One could take naturally to flexible poses but struggle with the strength-based aspect, and vice versa. Individual people have completely different biochemical combinations, each as unique as one fingerprint from another. So I'll focus on that lesson like a mantra, letting it sink in overnight. Tomorrow I'll contradict myself completely and sadistically enjoy watching a smack-talking soon-to-be yogi getting tossed around in the tide at Wednesday nights class, before I take off with a bus ticket and a paycheck to explore the Montreal side of yoga for a few days.

Day 15

Style: Bikram
Teacher: Martina Elliott
Studio: Rama Lotus

Alarm clocks are a curse on the human race. As the digital jingle slaps me across the face I awaken with a gasp at 6 am. Am I completely out of my mind? Walking outside under the moonless sky long before sunrise, I continue to question my sanity as I jog through the pouring rain. Staring out my windshield with near torrential showers hammering down, alone in the black of night, I can't help but notice that I seem to have walked into a scene from an 80s slasher-horror film. I suppose it's only fitting as I start my engine and begin to navigate the treacherous conditions to an early morning Bikram class.

This morning was a struggle, that's the only way I can describe it. Unrolling my mat, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't practiced in the heat since day 01, and here I am at day 15. This is a stark contrast with last years challenge. The first time around, I was in at least 4 Bikram classes a week, and usually 6 of the 7 days in the Hot room. As I got deeper in, it balanced out into more of a 50/50 relationship. This hasn't been a conscious decision as much as a result of choosing my preferred classes day by day, slowly gravitating from Bikram and in effect keeping me out of the heat. This strikes me as funny because there was a time I'd thought I wouldn't be able to do yoga whatsoever if I wasn't in a hot room. This time around, two weeks after being away from the heat, I realize my body seems to be completely unaccustomed.

As soon as class was afoot I realized I was in trouble. Light-headed, thirsty but unable to drink, my stomach started doing backflips. Uh oh. Please don't let me throw up all over my mat, shocking the rest of the concentrating yogis. Closing my eyes and breathing deeply, I begged for some strength to maintain composure. Head spinning, hot flashes, racing heartbeat... menopause? Moving from one pose to the next, little by little I regained control of my senses. Winding out of a spinal twist, I arrived completely back to myself with a sigh of relief. Still breathing.

Here now, walking out under the freshly risen sun, the rain beginning to dissipate, I have to admit I'm feeling amazing.. and the day has barely begun.

Day 14

Style: Yin
Teacher: Louise Sattler
Studio: Rama Lotus

Choice. Sunday night is easily my favorite time to practice Yoga. Washing away the week, coming full circle, it is pretty much the most rejuvenating, reawakening experience available. During the last challenge, I would always find myself at Rama Lotus at 6:30 torn between two paths. One way leads to Ichih's Power Vinyasa, the other to Yin with Louise - two of my favorite classes. I usually let my body decide, choosing based on what state I'm in. After the last few days of physically demanding classes, I'm definitely feeling it. A Sunday evening Yin sounds like a perfect end to the second week of this challenge. In the wall-to-wall filled Earth room, there's no place I would rather be then here, unrolling my mat across the cork floors.

It's always interesting bringing someone to yoga for the first time. Tonight I came to class with a few friends, one who had only been once, and never to Yin. He managed to survive, lasting through the most hip-intensive Yin class I've been to yet. Yin can be a scary experience. One moment you think you're about to do some stretching and the next it's like "hi, allow me to introduce you to yourself". Louise is an amazing teacher, calmly, soothingly and lovingly torturing and abusing her students. Sinking into the mind-numbing gecko pose my eyes widened and I seriously thought I was going to snap, go over the deep-end and finally end up being helped out of the studio and checked into the closest mental institution. And I don't even want to talk about double pigeon, but I think it scarred me for life.

People seem to have a few misconceptions about yoga, and I guess I was no different before I'd experienced it for myself. The attitude that I find the funniest is that there's nothing to it, that its easy. I have a yoga-hating friend who has volunteered to come to a class. I'm thinking Mike's grueling Wednesday night Ashtanga will do the trick.

Day 13

Style: Hatha
Teacher: Janice Tokaryk
Studio: Adishesha

And for those of you wondering, no, I don't actually live at Rama Lotus. Although, other then one evening in my living room, I can see how one might jump to that conclusion. Even during last years challenge, I did maybe 95% of my classes exclusively at Rama Lotus. Honestly, I've never even been to another studio here in Ottawa. A few times during the last challenge I found myself in Toronto and Montreal, and I had a lot of fun searching out and experimenting with different studios. In Ottawa, though, it's a much bigger challenge. Rama Lotus is just so nice! Consisting of 4 separate studios with construction almost finished on their gorgeous new Sun room, it stands as the most impressive studio I've been to yet. The teachers and staff also make practicing there so much fun. I've gotten to know everyone and they've created the most amazing family atmosphere, serving hot tea after morning classes. Did I mention I love Rama Lotus?

In keeping with the spirit of adventure and exploration, another aspect of this challenge was that I intended to visit many different studios. Its taken a while to reluctantly tear myself away from my home base, but on this sunny Saturday morning, I decided to venture out into the unknown. The first new studio I decided to try is Adishesha, located on 4th ave in the Glebe. It was recommended to me by Mark Laham, one of my usual instructors, and he said that the owner of the studio, a woman named Basia, had taught him more then anyone about yoga. That's a large compliment coming from him, so I decided to check it out. Arriving this morning, it turns out coincidentally that Basia is on vacation in Costa Rica. However Janice, our substitute teacher, was excellent.

I've only ever been to a handful of Hatha yoga classes, and this will be the first of the next ninety. From what I understand, every single style of yoga that we practice in North America that involves asanas, or physical postures - be it Bikram, Astanga, Power or Yin - has its roots in Hatha. It's an excellent starting point for anyone new to yoga, as it covers all bases to a certain degree. Hatha yoga attempts to balance mind and body through physical postures and exercises, controlled breathing, and the calming of the mind through relaxation and meditation. Asanas teach poise, balance and strength practiced to improve the body's physical health and clear the mind in preparation for meditation in the pursuit of enlightenment. Or something like that.

It is always a strange experience going somewhere new. New paintings on the walls, new layout, new people, new instructors, new everything. On top of that, Adishesha seems to be the polar opposite of Rama Lotus. Where Rama Lotus has a large lobby, at least 3 separate change rooms and many classes occurring simultaneously in different rooms, Adishesha is much smaller. Walking in the front door, I was a bit shocked to realize I actually stepped from outside directly into the yoga room. The entire place is essentially one open space, with the cash register literally in the same room that you unroll your mat. Very different. After changing and finding myself a spot, the class began. It was a lovely experience, with the early afternoon sun washing in through the large windows and across the twisting, stretching yogis. Afterwards, coming out of final Savasana, I squintingly looked around, wondering just where exactly I was. The experience of waking up in an unknown place with unknown people is always surreal, sort of like regaining consciousness after a long night of drinking with no memory of how the night before ended or how you found yourself here in your current location. A little bit bizarre but a little bit exciting at the same time.

Day 12

Style: Power
Teacher: Jacquie Davies
Studio: Rama Lotus

What is Power Yoga? The name itself always struck me as some sort of Americano-styled yoga led by an instructor wearing camo fatigues holding an AK-47 barking orders at his downward dogged soldiers. Or a butchered floozy watered-down North American adaptation of yoga. Maybe a less sincere materialistic ego-driven fitness approach? ...So what is Power Yoga?

The story goes that the term "power yoga" was first used in the mid 1990s, when several yoga teachers were looking for a way to make Ashtanga more accessible to western students. The essential difference is that power yoga does not follow a set series of poses, meaning that any power yoga class can be a completely different experience, but would still have the same emphasis on strength and flexibility, and can be credited with popularizing yoga, bringing it into the gyms of North America. People began to look at yoga as a way of working out as opposed to the chanting, Om-ing crystal ball stereotype at the time.

Today, in the afternoon sun I'm back at Rama Lotus in the Sky room. My mind is extraordinarily calm, in direct contrast with last night. Jacquie, our instructor, used to teach the Ashtanga class on Tuesday nights I frequently attended during the first challenge, the same class taught by Mike this year. Moving through the poses today is an absolute joy and before I know it, I'm unwinding with spinal twists, wringing out any remaining negative energy. The day has only just begun and I feel clear headed, awake, and in love with life.

Day 11

Style: Power Vinyasa
Teacher: Ichih Wang
Studio: Rama Lotus

What happened to us? Have we always been this way? How long has the struggle gone on? Man vs. Mind... where along the line did we lose complete control? And why? Is this how we've been programmed? This was more or less the theme song of my brain during tonight's Power Vinyasa class. It all started innocently enough...

Arriving at Rama Lotus, mentally and physically exhausted, I inwardly cursed myself for deciding to focus on more strength-oriented, physically demanding classes for the next few days. Although in high spirits, I had a looming sense of trouble as I unrolled my mat in the Crystal room, ready to enjoy this smaller, more intimate class. Things started uneventfully - sun salutations, breathing, side planks and other positions. Physically, my body was performing at its optimum level, deepening into postures comfortably. Inwardly, however, a very different story was being told. All I did was ask my mind to please lower its voice for the next 90 minutes, and to please keep any and all opinions to itself. Well maybe Mind woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but it was not amused. As the class proceeded, the chatter continued to build. Images flashed across the inside of my eyelids, accompanied by a chorus of arguing maniacs. Broken sentences attached to emotional reactions became more and more chaotic. My mind was a mess. Synapses flashed at the speed of light as thought-form collided with thought-form, creating a fifty thousand car pile-up. Horns blaring, insults flying, attention fluctuating... and class was only just beginning. As we moved into balancing postures, things reached their peak. Having just completely lost my ability to focus, any and all balance had flown out the window. Standing on one shaking leg, the room seemed to spin as I slipped and stumbled out of each pose again and again. And all the while the chaos in my mind escalated. The more I uncontrollably interacted with my distraught thoughts the more my actual physical strength seemed to evacuate my body, adding to my inner frustration. Trembling, weak, off-balance... with my mind showing me total disregard.

I did what everyone says you should do in order to focus. I concentrated on my breathing. I fought with myself, forcing my breath to become deeper and slower. I would be close to getting the upper hand, starting to feel a calm rising, when suddenly a single solitary thought would fire off like a gunshot in the night. Split-seconds later an all out brawl would ensue. Back to my breath, back to my breath. I've heard it said the breath is what connects the physical to the non-physical. Whatever the case may be, tonight my mind was not going to allow me to make that connection. As any comfort would begin to timidly approach, my thoughts would dash my efforts and before I knew it I was lost in a psychedelic trip through days of old, unable to distinguish between reality or fiction. As the next ninety minutes unfolded I felt like a boxer in a championship fight with his arms tied behind his back, taking hit after hit. After the mental massacre, rolling up my mat and taking a hot, much needed shower I gathered my things and left the studio tired and wrecked. Walking home, the glowing lights of the LCBO caught my eye and I bought myself a bottle of white wine and continued home. Sitting here now by the fire, halfway into this bottle, I am reluctant to follow through with my plans for an early-morning yoga class. It's my day off after all. Can't I just sleep in?...

Day 10

Style: Ashtanga
Teacher: Michael Dynie
Studio: Rama Lotus

Namaste. Ashtanga round two. Day ten! Officially in the double digits. On to the next one. A bad habit of mine during the last challenge was constantly showing up two minutes before class started. Basically, I would wait around until the last minute, realize that I was probably going to be late, franticly run to my car fumbling with the keys, throw my yoga bag in the back seat then tear out of my driveway in a cloud of dust. Praying I would only encounter green lights, I'd race across the city and screech into a parking spot three minutes before class was about to begin, scramble into the change room, tangle myself up in my clothes, grab my water bottle and stumble into class seconds before it began, finding myself the last available slice of floor to unroll my mat and lay there, gasping for air. Very Zen. If the idea for yoga is to bring about peace of mind and a general calm to your state of being, then leading up to class I practice anti-yoga.. rushing as fast as I can getting as frazzled and stressed as possible. True story: Once, late for a class and not paying complete attention, I ended up cutting off a cop half a block from the studio. He blasted on his sirens and pulled up beside me, asking me "what the hell I thought I was doing." All I could do was stare back blinkingly. Shaking his head, he took off.. just another dazed yogi posing a hazard to the road.

Along with completing the challenge in one piece, another personal goal has been to arrive early to the studio and walk whenever I can. I can say I’ve only been late a few times so far (maybe last nights Ashtanga.. my bad Mike!), and I’ve even walked the distance through this deadly Canadian winter. I’ve rediscovered the beauty of foot transportation. With a few layers of warm clothes and some good music on my ipod, I’m growing to love it. Putting foot to earth is an immensely satisfying activity. You might think that the worst part would be the walk home, that after a long class, all you would want to do is climb into your warm, toasty car and jet back home as fast as possible. I've experienced the exact opposite. Coming out into the fresh air half-hidden under a cozy scarf, my heart has leapt out of my chest as the open road stretches out in front of me and I place one foot in front of the other, alone under the sky. Maybe life works the same way. All in all, it's all just one long pilgrimage.

Day 09

Style: Ashtanga
Teacher: Michael Dynie
Studio: Rama Lotus

I love Ashtanga. After this Yin-tensive week, it's good to be home. I think I'm slowly becoming that strange green dude from my childhood as my connective tissue turns to molasses. It feels good to step back into the ring and go pound for pound with an Ashtanga sequence.

The yogic apple of my eye is an ancient system popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois. The word Ashtanga means "eight limbs" in Sanskrit, which refers to the eight limbs described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The style is characterized by a focus on Vinyasa, or a linking of breath. Essentially the breath dictates the movement and the length of time held in the postures. Ashtanga differs from some other yoga styles in that attention is placed on the journey between the postures and not just the postures themselves. Like the Bikram method, there is a set order of poses. However, they differ in two ways (at least); first of all, the teacher isn't bound to the sequence slavishly. There is a freedom to play with the order to some degree. Second is the complexity. Where Bikram consists of 26 poses, the primary series of Ashtanga consists of 75 and takes an hour and a half to two hours to complete. It starts with sun salutations and moves to standing poses, seated poses, inversions and backbends before relaxation. Due to time constraints, teachers usually have to pick and choose certain moves to leave out, but the overall structure always remains the same.

As we twist and bend in this late-night yoga class, passing through Warrior poses and binds, back-bends and headstands, it suddenly dawns on me. I'm happy. Even with my turning the practice of yoga into a 90-day marathon, I still absolutely love it. After all the Yin of the last few days, and the infinity-of-forever that are it's poses, I feel like the Ashtanga sequence is flying by me. Flowing from posture to posture, time blurs past and before I know it I'm sinking into final Savasana. Relaxation taking over, I close my eyes. This final pose is like a one way ticket for a flight off-planet, and I climb aboard my spacecraft. The countdown begins, and I levitate through the ceiling of the Sky room, passing through the clouds and the eye of the moon.

Day 08

Style: Yin
Teacher: Mark Laham
Studio: Rama Lotus

This Yoga is gonna be the death of me. Or Mondays. Or maybe yoga on Mondays? Waking up for work at 4:30 am followed by 8 hours of school equals one tired yogi. Somedays I have to ask myself why. Am I a glutton for punishment? One day off couldn't possibly hurt... could it? Ah, who am I kidding. After one missed day the entire project would fall apart and disperse into a half-assed attempt, all conviction and confidence scattered to the corners of the Earth. No, I must continue. The 91st day will come, and on that day I will chill out and relax. Until then, the battle continues.

On the menu tonight is another Yin. Week 1 of the challenge has seen many Yin classes, and it's having a truly amazing effect on my mind and body. After tonight's session, I'll be shifting gears to more physical, strenuous styles as the second week progresses. For now I'm off to Rama Lotus. Coincidentally tonight's class is being taught by Mark, the teacher from last night via DVD. Tonight it's the live, in-person version. If I can manage to make it through, I'll be back under my covers and teleporting to dreamland as fast as I can, trying to get in a few hours sleep before 6:00 am work tomorrow. May the force be with me.

Day 07

Style: Yin
Teacher: Mark Laham (DVD)
Studio: Home Practice

I can't practice yoga at home. Why do I feel this way? For some reason, unrolling my mat alone at home is the most impossible task in the world. All of a sudden I'm cleaning and tidying any random thing, floating here and there, procrastinating. It seems completely tedious. Why is this? I love yoga!

This Sunday evening I decided it was time to do a class at home. Lighting some candles and inscence and unrolling my mat, I set up my glowing laptop on a coffee table. Mark Laham is a teacher I've gotten to know at Rama Lotus during the original yoga challenge. He teaches a great Power Yoga class, as well as an amazing Yin class. Months ago I picked up some of his DVD's at the studio knowing I wouldn't make it in the next day. Before that, I'd done a few home classes I'd downloaded off iTunes, and they were honestly horrible. Mark's are different, accompanied by relaxing music and well-worded instruction, and the experience has been great. Maybe it's just me, but for some reason I've found it really hard to focus and be in the zone alone at my house, surrounded by an infinity of distraction. Again and again teachers emphasize the importance of developing a strong home practice, and it's something I plan to really get into over this challenge.

On this winter Sunday night in the warmth of my living room, I'm finding it easier then ever to forget my world and enter my inner universe, letting go of all the details of my life. After putting it off all day, the feeling of finally letting go and surrendering into the process again is like a sigh of relief; a soothing late-night end to a long first week.

Day 06

Style: Yin
Teacher: Lucy Tuplin
Studio: Rama Lotus

There's nothing quite like melting in a Yin class as the sun goes down. On the hardwood floors of the Sky room, my mind is at ease and my body is responding comfortably, sinking into the poses deeper then ever. My eyes closed, guided by gentle words and light piano notes softly floating through the setting glow of the sun. Feeling my breath fill my lungs, I flow through the motions in this full saturday evening yoga class.

Yesterday after yoga I drove out of the city, to the small town of Chelsea. Santa Claus blessed me with passes to the extravagant Nordik Spa over the Christmas Holidays. Completely outdoors, this relaxation technique originates in Finland and apparently dates back 2000 years. The concept is an alternating between hot, cold and relaxation periods. Without getting into detail, the experience of walking out of a eucalyptus steam room into the crisp winter air and plunging into violently cold, crystal clear water, resurfacing and running over icy stone to enter a steaming hot cascading waterfall and finally submerging underwater transported me to another dimension. Leaving the spa hours later, I've had a residual sublime buzz follow me everywhere. Here tonight in this Yin class, in the dimly lit room glowing with candlelight, I'm utterly at ease. As any thoughts attempt to give their two cents I lazily wave them by, completely and thoroughly present. Hot tea, warm blankets and a good movie are the only things I can think of to end this cool January night.

Day 05

Style: Yin/Yang
Teacher: Tara Porter
Studio: Rama Lotus

Dark and light, female and male, low and high, hot and cold... Yin and Yang. This style of yoga is a combination of the receptive, releasive Yin aspects with the more assertive, muscle oriented Yang. Different teachers decide how they mix and incorporate the two styles into their sequence, making for a different experience every time. This is the first class I've ever taken with Tara, and she seems to have her own distinct unique style. Today was much more of an emphasis on Yin, with Yang elements in the middle, and ending with deep Yin twists. Her style of Yin was different then other instructors I've met, really taking long periods of time in each posture.

Today my mind was relaxed and quieter then the night before. Moving through the end portion of spinal twists, feelings of deep relaxation began to well up from within, sending soothing energy through my whole body out to the tips of my fingers. Floating into the final relaxation pose I felt more like the observer of my own thoughts then their creator. It was almost like they were foreign individual beings, passing through the plains of my mind like a colorful, noisy and expressive caravan full of chattering characters and wild circus performers. Tara explained that negative energy is released through the softening of connective tissues, echoing Ichih's words last night. That the energy needed to pass through you on its way out, and to not be surprised if you were suddenly feeling angry out of nowhere. This time I seemed to view the thoughts from afar as they began to make their way further into the distances, being replaced with luxurious relaxation and moments later I drifted off into sleep, a dreamland... or somewhere in between.

Day 04

Style: Power Vinyasa
Teacher: Ichih Wang
Studio: Rama Lotus

"You have evolved since your first sun salutation."
Waking up early for work, I soon became aware of the lingering effects of last nights Yin class. My body had completely re-calibrated. My intention was to take another Yin class today, but after scheduling malfunctions and commitments to the "real world" I missed the class. Luckily, later in the evening there was an amazing alternative. Power Vinyasa, taught by Ichih. Her specific style of yoga was designed by Baron Baptiste. To be honest, I haven't researched the style beyond Ichih, who is an incredible teacher. What makes her so amazing to me is the way she communicates with the class. She is incredibly inspirational, acting as a gentle but powerful guide through one of the most physically challenging sequences of yoga I've ever tried.

"Your whole life is your yoga mat." As I moved through the flow-styled movements, all linked to individual breaths, Ichihs words drifted through my consciousness. "The way you face one situation on your mat is the way you face every situation in your life." She calmly repeated again and again, that when things get intense and seemingly unbearable, you have a choice. As I transitioned into the deadly pigeon pose, her words began to take on new meaning. The inner demons that the deep Yin poses had begun to unearth appeared at the gates of my mind once more. Snarling, rabid swirls of panicked thoughts engulfed me, sending me spiraling frantically through abstract visions of frustration and fear. "Hips are a warehouse of anger. When you experience things that make you mad, you file away and suppress the energy." Trembling, my breath caught mid-way in my throat, I faced the invading ghosts of forgotten memories erupting from somewhere deep in my subconscious. "Breathe. Breathe. Always remember to breathe. Breath is prana. No prana, no life. No prana, no yoga."

So is it true? Is this me versus my life? When the shit goes down, when the real challenges make their mark, I fall apart and crumble? Underneath layers of exterior persona's I've cultivated to interact with the outside world, is there really all this anger and frustration and violence and pain? Is this how everyone feels? Is this the human condition? Do people constantly keep moving to avoid their own culminating madness? Where is this leading?

As the tidal wave crashed over me I held on with clenched teeth, refusing to lose control of my entire existence here tonight twisted on the floor of this yoga studio. Whenever a pose gets to the threshold of unbearability, I tend to catch my breath in my throat. I inhale deeply, but as I exhale I lock up and choke, maybe afraid to let go completely, to surrender to the sensation. Noticing this I fully empty my lungs, and moments later I am filled with prana life force breath energy or whatever it is, and my pounding heartbeat eases its assult and the battlefield drifts into sparse echoes. Moments later we transition into new territory, and the class continues through the sequence. The mysterious energetic beasts that seem to reside deep within have subsided for the moment. As the evening comes to an end and we enter final savasana, my exhausted consciousness flickers out and evaporates softly into infinity with Ichihs last words trailing close behind...

"Did you discover yourself today?"

Day 03

Style: Yin
Teacher: Louise Sattler
Studio: Rama Lotus

Either I fell down multiple flights of stairs or I was run over by a truck. Or it could have been that Ashtanga class last night that's making my legs feel like cement is drying in their veins. Wow. Deadly. Amazing. At this point any normal person would have taken today to rest, recover and relax, and maybe hit the mat again in a day or so. However, this is not an option for me. My Alternative? Yin.

The Yin style of yoga is very unique unto itself. While many styles emphasize strength, internal heat or the lengthening and contracting of muscles, Yin yoga generally focuses on the connective tissues of the hips, pelvis, and lower spine. It is quite hard to explain actually, exactly what Yin yoga is. It really has to be experienced. If other yoga styles require effort, determination and endurance, Yin requires the opposite. Instead, the idea is to release all effort, let go and really sink in. The postures are held for a much longer period of time. At first glance, the still, motionless positions could appear overly passive to an action-oriented yogi. When you experience it, however, you instantly realize there is much more going on. Of all the different styles I've experiemented with, none draw me as deep within myself as fast. Yin holds you in the now and dismisses that western mentality of "doing" and introduces you to the concept of "being". To just release all effort and drift into your true self. Sounds easy. One catch. The deeper you dig into the dark recesses of self, the greater the possibility of unleashing something so powerful and destructive that it could destory your entire world-view and concept of self in a single instant...

Day 02

Style: Ashtanga
Teacher: Mike Dynie
Studio: Rama Lotus

"Holy shit, I have 89 blog posts to write!" When I woke up this morning, this was the first thought in my mind. What have I gotten myself into? The struggle that the first yoga challenge presented was simply to attend ninety classes in a row. It was a purely physical challenge, and I looked at it completely in terms of surviving the experience. As the first month passed, however, I began to really understand the true nature of the challenge. The battle was on the inside. I came to realize that I had very little to no control over my own mind. Thoughts barged in whenever they pleased, traveling in packs, in swarms... non-stop fast-paced internal arguments arising uninvited, out of the blue. The real challenge was being drawn inward and forced to face myself.

This time around the challenge is that much larger. Not only to attend the ninety classes, but to really study and understand the inner changes that are taking place. To write in my own words specifically how I feel and what I'm experiencing. I'm used to finishing class with a blissful tired yoga-buzz and proceeding to chill out and let go. Now I have to take the time to self-analyze and really materialize new insights as they arise. To truly go within and pass through the fire, and to honestly consider the impact of the transformation.

That being said, there is still a massive physical aspect to this challenge. I guess I took a longer break from yoga than I'd thought, because today my legs are stiff as hell! On top of that, tonight I'm doing Ashtanga yoga, one of the most physically demanding styles of yoga in the world. It has also become my personal favorite. Not to say that it's better than any other style, but I absolutely love it. During the last ninety-day challenge, almost every tuesday night I took an Ashtanga class at Rama Lotus. Taught by a woman named Jacqueline Davis, they were some of my favorite moments of the yogic-experience. In 2010 however, the tuesday night class is being taught by Mike Dynie, a friend of mine. I've taken a few of his Ashtanga Basics classes last time around and they've been great. I'm interested to see his approach to the style teaching at a more advanced level.

Learning to stand on my head really has shown me the world from a different perspective.

Day 01

Style: Bikram
Teacher: Martina Elliott
Studio: Rama Lotus

As I opened the door, the fires of hell devoured me. Obviously I was in the right place. Enter: Bikram yoga. The first ninety days began with a Bikram class, so it's only fitting that the next ninety hold true to tradition. Practiced in a room heated to 40.5°C (105°F), with a humidity of 40%, the intense heat can be a dizzying experience. The style is described as a "torture chamber" by its founder, Bikram Choudhury - a controversial trash-talking character from Beverly Hills, known for copyrights and lawsuits against yoga instructors. And black leather baseball hats.

Somewhere along the line in the first ninety days I developed a love/hate relationship with the Bikram style. Though commonly categorized as "beginner level", the poses are actually quite challenging if done in their full variation and the high temperatures can be incredibly overpowering. The first time I tried Bikram I left the class halfway through, almost fainted, then proceeded to throw up a bottle and a half of water. After a few classes, though, your body adjusts to the heat and it becomes very cleansing. Obviously I've never attended a class taught by Choudhury himself, but the teachers I've come across are much less military-training-bootcamp oriented than he seems to be. All in all, Bikram's yoga method is based on the solid, respected lineage of Bishnu Ghosh and his brother, Paramahamsa Yogananda. The heat is his "innovation" and the sequence his creation.

Lying on my back in the heat before the class began, it suddenly dawned on me that it had actually been well over a month since the last ninety-day challenge, and between then and now, I'd unrolled my mat only once. I felt an anxious energy twisting in my stomach. Can I even do this again? My mind was sparked and suddenly a whirlwind of thoughts spun my inner-world, each one doubting my ability to pull this off. Shhh. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and focused my attention inward, and moments later the class began.

Each pose is always done twice. The first half of the sequence consists of standing and balancing poses. The second half is done on the mat, with savasana between each posture. The fact that the style is always the same 26 postures every time is criticized as less-interesting and more watered-down by some yogis, but personally I find it becomes very easy to mark your progress. As I continue to practice this style, I can clearly see my balance and stamina improving, my flexibility increasing bit by bit, and my mind slowing its chatter as I sink into a posture, locked in time and space. I've heard it said that eventually a plateau is reached where no more benefit can be gained, but that is definitely nowhere in sight. With everything it has to offer, I'm aiming to develop my Bikram practice over the course of this 90 day adventure.

However, there is one issue I cannot overlook. No downward dog!

(Video after the jump)

Day 00

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
- Lao Tzu

I survived 90 consecutive days of yoga. Having only ever attended a handful of classes, I naively embarked on an incredible adventure that would end up changing my life forever. I experienced incredibly ecstatic heights, soul-crushing lows, and by the end I felt like tempered steel that had been through the fire for months, only now showing signs of inner strength. Even today, three weeks after completing the challenge, I'm finding it difficult to put the experience into words. A process of change has begun on every level. My body is changing. My mind is changing. Even the way I look at and relate to society and the world at large is changing.

My body is transforming. My flexibility, posture, strength and balance are rapidly improving. My breathing is becoming much deeper, slower and more deliberate. My mind is being altered. First I noticed the sheer mass and speed of my thoughts, and began to realize just how noisy and uncontrollable it is within the confines of my own skull. As the days progressed a calm was setting in, and the thoughts seemed to be slowing their pace. By the end of the ninety days, I was even noticing the spaces in between the individual thoughts...

I've decided to start over, to embark on another personal 90 day journey, only this time I will chart the entire experience. I plan on using this platform to document and log my thoughts, feelings, stories.. anything that the experience may give rise to. To put in black and white everything I can - from breakthroughs to breakdowns - and to share the inner journey as honestly as possible.

Standing on the edge of such an extensive challenge, I'm feeling both nervous and excited. Excited because I know the feeling of peace that could continue to be awoken, nervous for the pain and struggle waiting for me to face them. Needless to say, a chemical transformation is taking place and I intend to take it as far as I can.