Day 49

Style: Power
Teacher: Bryan Kest (DVD)
Studio: Home Practice

Flying through the Universe, catapulted from the dream-state and crash-landing into my bed, I'm back on Earth. Waking up, showering, and walking downstairs, Sunday morning sunshine washes in through the windows and across my hardwood floors. Initially I was planning on an evening Vinyasa to wrap up the weekend, but I have a bit of an Olympic dilemma. Canada plays the US tonight in men's hockey for the Gold medal on the final day of the Olympics. I think it would be wise to keep my evening open. Instead, before I do anything, I'll unroll my mat for another home yoga. Of the five or so classes-on-tape given to me by Mike, this morning I think I'll try Bryan Kest's second of the three in his Power yoga series. The first was called Energize, second is called Tone, and the third is Sweat, and are described as beginner, intermediate and advanced respectively. Despite having a vintage, dated feel to the DVDs, the instruction and sequencing are top quality. I'm even digging the 1990's relapse. You can see for yourself.

I'm also using this early morning freedom to investigate possible international travel involving yoga. A preliminary internet scouting mission, bringing back information on flight prices and different yoga-organizations and workshops world-wide. I want an adventure. I'm ready.

Day 48

Style: Iyengar
Teacher: Karen Holtkamp
Studio: Iyengar Yoga Center

Secret society yoga? Iyengar is easily the most elusive style around. No yoga studio can teach this. It can only be taught specifically in an Iyengar center, a studio exclusively certified and dedicated to this type of yoga alone. The way I've understood it, there is no such thing as a drop-in class in the world of Iyengar. A student must sign up for an entire session, slowly increasing in posture complexity under the careful guidance of the instructor week after week. All in all, it's been completely shrouded in mystery, with talk of being tied up and hung from the walls. Becoming an Iyengar teacher takes longer then any other style of yoga, requiring at least two years of rigorous training for the introductory level certificate. To move up to the intermediate and senior levels of certification, this can sometimes take a decade or more. Focusing on the minute details, a student will progress very slowly, earning access to new more advanced variations. Essentially they're the Freemasons of the yoga world.

The style was created by a man named B.K.S. Iyengar. Among the many books he's written, Iyengar wrote "Light On Yoga", one of the most definitive volumes of all time on the subject. First published in 1966, it's considered a yoga-bible of sorts which describes and illustrates hundreds of yoga poses and many breathing techniques. Iyengar is known for its meticulous approach, characterized by great attention to detail and precise focus on body alignment. It also comes with a reputation for using an array of props to guide the body into that proper alignment. I'm really not quite sure what to expect. One thing about Iyengar: it has no flow. There is no concept of Vinyasa, or a linking of breath with the the movements. It's a much less cardiovascular approach to yoga. Either way it seems very unique and my curiosity has continued to build. The mother of one of my friends is an avid Iyengar student, and she let me know that once a month, before the beginning of each session, there is a free introductory class which allows students who have never experienced the Iyengar method to have a taste of what it's all about. This just so happened to be today.

Walking into the studio and heading toward the change rooms I spot the notorious Iyengar rope-wall from the corner of my eye, looking a little like a dungeon torture chamber. As the class began, I quickly realized that I wasn't going to get the true experience of Iyengar I was hoping for. Lasting only an hour, the class was simplified down to the bare-bone, accommodating the most inexperienced yogi. It seemed to be designed for someone who had never been to a yoga class in their entire life. It was so basic and brief, never moving beyond a few basic positions. We did use a wide range of props in the short practice, everything from blocks, straps, bolsters, blankets, even a chair, but in all honesty it was the most simplified, beginner level class I've ever been in. It was more of a tease then anything. The strange ropes hung from the wall the entire time, remaining untouched. I'm still as confused and intrigued by the style as I was before I came, left with more questions then answers. Unfortunately, Iyengar remains the most unexplained, un-understood style of yoga from my perspective. In the future I hope I have a chance to find myself in a slightly more advanced level, something that I can sink my teeth into, to really understand what's going on behind the scenes.

Day 47

Style: Power
Teacher: Bryan Kest (DVD)
Studio: Home Practice.

Tonight I feel like staying in. I'm truly growing to love doing yoga at home, developing it into a personal practice. I own two yoga DVDs, a Yin and a Power, both taught by Mark Laham. While both are amazing, I want some diversity. Over beers at the Manx last night after yoga class, Mike coincidentally gave me two of his own videos. Ask and you shall receive.

As the Bryan Kest Power yoga DVD begins I time-travel back to 1995, to a world of synthesizers, spandex, Jheri curls and light blue cut-off jeans. It takes me a moment to get used to standing still in a room by myself with someone speaking to me through my laptop. As the video progresses and the choreography presents itself, I find myself getting into a groove, getting beyond my preconceived notions. Before I know it I'm sinking into my bed, powering down all systems for the night, utterly relaxed. With a tendency toward late-night yoga, it's amazing to be able to roll off my mat and under my covers, with no travel time between the studio and home.

Day 46

Style: Hot
Teacher: Michael Dynie
Studio: Rama Lotus

It's a bit of a strange feeling. Today marks the crossing of a threshold, the passing of the halfway point. When I think about it, I feel like I've come a long, long way. At the same time though, it's like I'm still standing at the starting line. The process has only begun to make its mark on me.

Tonight I'm back in the Sun room at Rama Lotus, paying homage to the room that inadvertently won me 30 classes. When I was last here, they had some glitches with the temperature. Moving through a challenging Hot yoga sequence in the sweltering heat, gallons of sweat forming a puddle on my mat, I realize they must have figured it out. The heat is loosening and relaxing my muscles, helping me move into the positions deeper then ever.

Something is definitely happening to me... something special, something that isn't easy to describe. It's hard to remember a time when I didn't have a daily yoga practice. Maybe it was in a past lifetime. I look forward every day to that small slice of time when I put the world on hold and journey inside, penetrating the shell of my consciousness. When this challenge finally comes to an end, when I find myself on my ninety-first morning, what will I do then?

I'll probably unroll my yoga mat. Om Shanti.

Day 45

Style: Yin/Yang
Teacher: Laurie Howe
Studio: Rama Lotus

The entire Universe has a pulse. It's great to be back at Rama Lotus. It feels like I've been away for a long time. Laurie's Yin/Yang sequence tonight was original. She explained how everything has a pulse, that nothing is stagnant. When the body is locked in a pose, it's actually still in motion. She designed the Yang portion of the class with that in mind, pulsing in and out of the poses, keeping everything fluid. Rama Lotus is a studio of such quality, and I love being a part of it.

In a stroke of good luck, I won 30 free classes. I received the call last week, just before I left for the Ashram. Unbeknownst to me, anyone who took a class in the new Sun room during its first two weeks was entered into a draw, and they happened to pick my name. My bank account let out a long sigh of relief - that's a third of my challenge paid for. I'm incredibly grateful, and I'm excited to get back into the rhythm. Spring is in the air and it's getting warmer outside. Soon the snow will melt away and the Sun will shine, and all the plant-life will wake up and stretch. With another day off tomorrow, the world is my oyster. It's simple. I'm happy.

Day 44

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

Today I'm fully re-immersed in the familiar ebb and flow of civilization. The human race has welcomed me back into the fold. I've returned to my position in the wheel, building my paycheck. The city moves on, unchanged. Everything is as it always has been. Life at the Ashram seems so far away, so long ago. I'm back into the swing of things, going through the motions. One last time staying hidden from the world, tonight I'll be doing another Yin at home. A week ago, yoga at home was my dreaded worst enemy, now I'm finding comfort in my own space, my own seclusion. The immediate world around me is reflecting a calm, more organized approach to life. By some coincidental alignment of the Universe I have a few days off this week, and tomorrow is one of them. I plan on rising from sleep after my body wakes up naturally, of its own volition, enjoying the gift of being alive. At some point in the day I'll definitely get outside into the fresh air and make my way back to Rama Lotus. I'm feeling a little homesick.

Day 43

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

Where am I? All day today, watching the city operate in it's usual fashion, I feel a distance from it all. I almost don't recognize it. I forget the customs these humans have, the certified interactions required between earthlings to function acceptably within the machinery. At school I'm surrounded by aliens. I actually miss life at the Ashram. All day, fragments of wisdom I absorbed over the weekend are coasting peacefully through my consciousness. Thoughts and concepts from the deep discussion and teachings, the flow of the lifestyle. Reflections, contemplations, insights and understandings. Astral traveling. Retreating back home after my classes, I set up shop in my newly personalized shelter. In an attempt to avoid the outside world a little bit longer, still adjusting back into the pace of society, tonight I'm going to do a Yin at home. My friend's sister, Zia, crafted me two customized yoga blocks made from oak and birch. With my spine folded over one of them in supported fish pose, I feel new levels of relaxation and stillness setting in. Something is different. Something has shifted. My time at the Ashram makes me want to travel. I want to explore and study and evolve. I want to learn from Masters. The future is a complete mystery, an unknown, and anything is possible. I welcome the awakening.

Day 42

Style: Hatha
Teacher: Shambhu
Studio: Sivananda Ashram

Out into a morning bathed in darkness, we began our silent walk. Every day at the Ashram begins with Satsang - meditation, chanting and philosophic discussion. Today is different. Today we move in silence, out into the woods. Walking the long winding country roads, the world still asleep, there was no sound in the air aside from the crunching of snow beneath the different sets of shoes. I could feel the cold creeping in all around me, but remained safe and snug under warm layers of fabric. The trees were black shadows, peering out at us, wondering who these strange quiet creatures were. Entering a clearing, we all stopped and stood silently as the sun rose. It was invisible in the grey winter skies, but made its presence known as light began to slowly wash over the wilderness. Turning around, we began the long walk back to the Ashram. As the world around me slowly came alive, the dark trees regained their rich, forest-green tones. Sleepy birds began to chirp and the pure white was returned to the blanketed snow, wisps of icing-sugar flakes drifting lazily through the winter air. Placing one foot in front of the other out here in the wild has got me thinking of a pristine planet, pre human footprint. My mind wanders further, wondering if this truly is our original home. Sometimes, looking up at the stars, I can't help but feel like we're from someplace else. Why do I get this feeling that the town of my birth is actually somewhere out there, light-years away, deep in the vast expanse of outer space, far beyond the reach of human imagination?

Back on the road, Sivananda is disappearing behind me, dissolving into past experience. My intention was to stretch out in the passenger seat on the ride home, reflecting on the weekend and writing about it. As it happens, I'm at a loss for words. I can only stare out at the passing horizon, quietly observing the outside world in motion. Most of what has transpired has yet to fully sink in. Closing my eyes and leaning back in my chair, I feel sleep start to lurk around me. I let go and fade out of 3D physical existence into something beyond, something I never return with any memory of.

Day 41

Style: Hatha
Teacher: Sivdas Chaitanya
Studio: Sivananda Ashram

My mind and body betray me. Gently waking up to the distant reverberating of a bell, my eyes slowly regain their focus and I remember where I am. Transitioning from sleep to waking life with no alarm clock is a welcomed luxury. Showering and dressing into warm clothes, Meredith and I make our way out into the dark morning, back to the Krishna temple.

Last night was my first experience of Satsang. As we entered the temple we were greeted by exotic aromas straying from burning incense. The temple looked exactly how I might imagine it: carefully decorated altars, statues of deities and gods, and pictures on the walls of the founding Guru's, Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-Devananda. Places were set out on the floor, consisting of a small rug, a pillow and a book with the title "Kirtan: Mantras and Chants". I notice a woman in an orange robe bowing down, forehead to the floor, angled toward the main altar with a life size flute-playing statue of Krishna, and I do the same. When in Rome... After everyone silently took their places we entered into meditation. Sitting with my legs crossed, I closed my eyes. The instructions were to focus on the space between the eyebrows, the inhaling and exhaling of the breath, as well as inwardly repeating a mantra. If we didn't have a personal mantra, we could focus on the sound and vibration of Om.

As time began to bleed with infinity my mind was slowly growing restless. Focusing on my breathing and silently Om-ing, I continued to calmly and kindly reset my focus. Again and again my mind would burst into theatrics and one-way conversation, struggling against my attempts to control it. After endless back and fourth, my inner world slowly started chilling out. The success, however, was very short lived. A subtly increasing numb pain had slowly been building in my crossed-legs, completely unaccustomed to the position. Now as the battle was increasing in magnitude I slowly started to lose my grip and my mind used the window of opportunity to blurt out an opinionated rant about everything and nothing. It's astonishing and perplexing that the majority of modern mankind has little to no control over their own thoughts. I'm subtly fidgeting as my attention wavers uncontrollably and I struggle to keep my lower back from collapsing and curling over into an exaggerated slouch. I experience desperate relief as we're given our cues to return to earth. Painfully unwinding my legs and crossing them the opposite way, we opened our book of sanskrit writings and proceeded into the chanting segment. This is another first for me, and I found myself fending off a self-conscious stage fright. Closing my eyes and humming along with the melodies, I drifted away with the hypnotic music emanating from the harmonium, pakawaj drums and karatal hand cymbals. Everything about this place is other-worldy.

Outside the temple doors early this morning, we pick up where we left off last night, diving back into a meditation. Now my legs and hips are burning and my mind concocts hellish visualizations of being shocked to death strapped to the electric chair. I feel a cold sweat on the back of my neck and a panic rising up my spine. I'm about to lose control and possibly burst into tears or uncontrollable psychotic laughter. I feel like I'm bordering on schizophrenia. Breathing in as deeply as I can, I blast out a silent ear-shattering internal Om, drowning out my inner chaos. It's scary. It's scary, but with some dedicated practice the chance to rise above the chatter exists. Still, it is pretty unnerving how intensely my mind and body rebel a few short moments after I request stillness. It's as if they fear for their own well-being, terrified of their own demise. To keep any change from occurring they're willing to lash out, setting me on fire.

Later in the yoga studio I feel relieved to be back in my comfort zone. At this point, even with its inherent struggle, yoga is safe and familiar territory. I twist, bend, and stand on my head, distancing myself from this morning's internal altercation. Yoga is mysterious, but pure meditation is far more unknown for me. It's a strange, undiscovered world full of bizarre landscapes and lifeforms.

Style: Hatha
Teacher: Jananadev
Studio: Sivananda Ashram

I could get used to Ashram life. After spending all afternoon reading, hanging out in the library and napping, I eventually make my way to the second yoga class of the day. I take back comments about Hatha being boring and plain. They call this yoga classic Hatha, and it's anything but boring. It's a rigorous sequence containing a four-minute headstand and rivalling the exertion of any Ashtanga or Power class. I'm only back in my room for half an hour before the evening Satsang, and I'm feeling anxious. I'm not really looking forward to sitting cross-legged and making the pilgrimage into the darkness of my inner world. Overall though, that's a lie. I am looking forward to it. It's a new adventure, and an intuitive Jiminy Cricket is perched on my shoulder, whispering in my ear just how unbelievably important and beneficial this process truly is.

Day 40

Style: Hatha
Teacher: Pierre
Studio: Sivananda Ashram

A place of refuge. On the road to Montreal by 8 am, I'm feeling a host of butterflies migrating with me, keeping up with my car on the highway. I'm not sure whats causing this nervous energy, but it's probably tied in with a fear of the unknown. What am I walking into? A full-fledged cult waiting for their next human sacrifice to arrive for a 3 pm check-in? Luckily I won't be alone. Meredith, my girlfriend, will be with me to share the experience. Arriving in Montreal, I pull up in front of her apartment. I still can't believe I'm doing this.

After an amazing breakfast at a near-by diner in the Plateau, we're back on the road, on our way to the Laurentians. As time drifts into the past, the city recedes and melts away, making way for the rolling hills of the Quebecois countryside. Having some company on this journey is already filling me with relief. About an hour later we're approaching the Ashram and the butterflies are back. Stepping out of my car and looking around, I'm instantly drawn in by the beauty of this place. Stone statues half hidden under fresh white snow stare back at the two newly arrived strangers. After checking in at the reception area, we are told that a yoga class begins in a half hour. After walking down a few hallways, we find our living quarters for the weekend. It's a small room with two single beds, a closet and a window looking out at the frosty wilderness. It also has a washroom with a shower. It's more comfortable then I'd anticipated. Stretching out on my bed and staring at the ceiling, I have a strange feeling, almost like I'm expecting to be here for longer then three days. Moments later I'm drawn back out of my daydream by the sound of a bell ringing in the distance, signalling that the yoga class was about to begin. Changing and grabbing our mats, Meredith and I lock up our room and head to the studio.

Okay. The people here seem fairly normal. The class features a wide age-range, a mix of people who are arriving for the weekend, some who are about leave, and a few who are living at the Ashram. Our teacher started the two hour Hatha series off with thirty minutes of pranayama breathing excercies, including alternate nostril breathing, which was a first. Afterwards we made our way to the dining area where we found a delicious vegetarian meal waiting for us. The food was unbelievable. Eating all we could, once again we're back in our room. As Meredith quietly dozes off, I open my journal and press my pen into the paper, gathering my thoughts. I'm feeling right at home. All my preconceived notions are falling away, leaving me with a clean slate, ready to learn. Soon another bell will sound off and we'll make our way to the Krishna temple for Satsang, the heart of life at the Ashram. I don't know what to expect, but I feel ready.

Day 39

Style: Hatha
Teacher: Julie Salter
Studio: Adishesha

I'm going to live at an Ashram. No, really. Only for the weekend though. A few months ago I bumped into some friends early on New Years Eve, telling me they were on route to an Ashram near Montreal. There would be chanting and meditation, yoga and contemplation. The idea of an Ashram reminded me of a secluded hut somewhere remote in India where you could go and learn ancient secrets from a wise Guru. Never imagining there could be one so close, I filed that information away in the back my mind for future use. Yesterday I decided to do some research. After giving the website a quick scan I spotted the phone number. Asking for some information, before I knew it I'd booked a room for two nights this weekend.

Today was a beautiful, warm winter day with a hint of spring in the air. I decided to head over to Adishesha, the cozy one-room studio in the Glebe. I'd been here a few weeks ago after hearing high praise for the owner, Basia. When I got there I was informed that she was in Costa Rica. Today I find out that she has in fact left for Costa Rica once more, having departed only this morning. Standing in today was a woman named Julia, leading the way through a satisfying Hatha sequence. It was conducted in a more open-ended fashion, taking requests and narrating the class with a lovely British accent, reminding us to keep a "noble posture". There's something really nice about this studio, not to mention it's a five minute walk from my house when the canal is frozen.

The Ashram I'll be staying at is called Sivananda. It's located an hour from Montreal, tucked away in the scenic Laurentian Mountains. There are close to eighty Sivananda locations around the world, and the organization has trained more than 10,000 yoga teachers. I'm not really sure what I've gotten myself into. Looking at the daily schedule, I notice wake up is at 5:30 am. I'm beginning to understand that this might not exactly be a leisurely weekend getaway. By 6 it's meditation, chanting, and discussion on the philosophy and psychology of yoga. After that it's a full yoga session. And all of this before breakfast! All meals are vegetarian, served twice daily. While not quite a herbivore myself, I am a huge fan of vegetarian cuisine. I'm really just a fan of food in general. Reading on, I notice they are quite adamant, explaining that no meat, fish, eggs, garlic, onions, narcotics, alcohol or smoking are allowed at the Ashram. No cell phones are allowed. Silence must be maintained from 10pm to 8am daily. Oh, and please dress modestly. I'm not sure what to expect. Is this going to be a weekend at the convent with a bunch of yogi-nuns? One way or another, it'll be an experience, and I will pass through it with an open mind.

The total ban on technology does present a bit of a challenge blogging-wise, but the solution is simple. During the three days at the Ashram I'll log the experience in my journal, the old fashioned way. Upon return Sunday night, I'll transcribe the entries and post them chronologically. Crisis Averted.

Day 38

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

Going through my entire wardrobe with a fine tooth comb, I find myself onboard a time-machine. Item by item I'm organizing my life. I'm discovering clothing I wore in high school, outfits I wore in the years after that, when I lived in Montreal. Each neglected item is tied to old memories, to moments long since past, and each memory in turn is attached to an array of emotion. The past plays out against my eyelids in a haze. Was that really me back then? Every scattered object has it's own unique vibration. Right now, all my belongings combine into a cacophonic symphony, obliviously playing out of key. The chaos they display resonates inside me, and in return I feel that same discord. Everything I never wear and no longer feel attachment to, I pack into boxes. Sometimes I find myself feeling hesitation parting with certain things, but I somehow manage to move on after a sentimental moment or two. I need to lighten my load, to make space for something more. I want to cling to nothing. Things become more organized and arranged, and I feel a lightness building from within. As I continue to make room in the world around me, I notice I have access to a more spacious internal world. All day I continue to eliminate any and all clutter. By the end, in the early evening, I feel like I'm in an altogether new home. The Feng Shui effect is no lie. Now that everything has it's own place a soothing balance hangs in the air. I feel a giddiness taking over, taking up the space previously occupied by debris. My floors have room to breathe, my walls have room to stretch. I can't help but notice the correlation between the clearing of house and the space gained within. Now that order is in place, an over-all design, a simplicity... my soul has room to breathe.

In the middle of cleaning I found my other previously misplaced DVD, Mark Laham's Power yoga. It's a sign, the Universe gesturing me to stay home and create a personal sanctuary. Accepting the challenge, I add the finishing touches to my living space, lighting candles and dimming the lights. Unrolling my mat now comes with a new feeling. I'm home, at last.

Day 37

Style: Yin
Teacher: Ichih Wang
Studio: Santosha Elgin

I think I know why I can't do yoga at home. One thing I love most about going to a good studio is the atmosphere. The setting can be so conducive to practice, designed specifically for centering and grounding yourself. At home, I have nowhere set aside, nowhere free from distraction, nowhere inviting a meditative experience. My intention for tomorrow is to thoroughly clean and organize everything, to help my surroundings work with me instead of against me. I've heard authors say that the first step in developing good writing habits is making yourself an enjoyable space to sit down and summon inspiration. I think the same rule applies.

Tonight was my first time in Ichih's Yin class. Where has this been all my life? Ichih is an amazing teacher as it is, and has a very unique style of Yin. Tonight began with a lengthy meditation. That was a first for me in a yoga class, and I found it to be an amazing, surreal experience. It takes some time, but the more I try to be still and let my thoughts dissipate, the more I sense a hint of something endless and all-inclusive. It really gets me wondering - what is the nature of reality? What's it all made of and what's it all for?

Day 36

Style: Ashtanga
Teacher: Daniel Mendoza
Studio: Santosha Elgin

Ashtanga is a conversation with the solar system. After my last two struggles with Yin at home, I'm feeling safe and sound tonight in a familiar Ashtanga sequence. I'm finding refuge in it's physical nature. I'm zoned out, working up a sweat and breathing deeply. My mind is on hiatus, focused only on the choreography, the procession of the poses. Daniel Mendoza is a very technical instructor, making subtle adjustments to posture and providing fuel to keep my mind lightly engaged. Building a strong internal heat and fencing with an invisible opponent, before I know it the hour and a half is over. I'm thankful for the day off my monkey-mind seems have taken. The magic of practicing yoga in a class setting is the truly palpable exchange of energy. As everyone moves synchronistically in a shared ritual, the energy in the room seems to build and take on a life of it's own. At the risk of trailing off into a lengthy metaphysical tangent, I'm going to opt to shut down the laptop for the night. I'm under my covers with one foot already in the dreamworld, another early morning just around the bend. Namaste.

Day 35

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

Okay, let's try this again. After being utterly defeated practicing yoga at home last night, I've decided to pass on all my favorite Sunday classes and dedicate another day. I can't use distraction as my excuse, blaming my difficulties on a DVD. Mark is one of my favourite teachers. There has to be more to the story. Finding myself a series of uninterrupted quiet moments, I prepare for my next inward journey. Tonight, something is different. The myriad of distraction is gone and I'm able to stay present as I move through the same postures as the night before. Instead of an impersonal digital dialogue, tonight I'm hearing the words fresh, as if for the first time. The world around me slows it's orbit and things are simplified. Not to say that tonight was without it's own struggle, but it was in sharp contrast with my previous lack of concentration. I'm still not sure what is holding me back personally from really cultivating a home practice, but I intend to get beyond it and start to unravel its mysteries.

Day 34

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

No. Really. I can't do yoga at home. Over the last two weeks, there have been a few moments where I've considered just staying in the comfort of my house, avoiding the intimidating task of dragging my ass out into the night and into the last available class. Seeing as my home practice is my worst enemy, I've decided that I can't do it in a last-ditch effort to fit one in before the dawn of the next day. When I practice at home I have to consciously make that decision. I have to want it. If my intention is to practice at home, only then can I unroll my mat at home.

Waking up on a pristine Saturday morning, I decide that today is the day. Maneuvering my way through an afternoon full of tasks around the house, I finally carve myself a niche of daylight and unfold my mat. It's only then I realize I am far from alone. The world around me is alive with opportunity. Noise creeps in through the floorboards, the door frames, the air vents, devouring any and all sense of privacy. Footsteps stomp across my attention span, voices interrupt all concentration. The glow of my laptop provides the only light-source in the room, and I find the digital instructor to be a completely inorganic guru. The teacher himself isn't the problem: it's the electronic filter between us. Or maybe it's just me creating my own excuse for a distraction. I find myself engaged in a ferocious internal struggle the likes of which I've never seen.

Earlier in the day I painted my second floor. Applying a careful brushstroke across the walls, my mind quieted down and my focus found a common ground. My breathing fell into place and before I knew it I was tethered to the moment, locked in time and space. Anything is yoga. Yoga is a state of mind. Yoga is only a word. Behind the word is an introduction to self, a reintroduction to the current moment. You are given the opportunity to meet yourself in a real, tangible, one-on-one interaction. Standing back, looking at my craftsmanship of colour on the walls, I am hit with a new insight. All afternoon I've focused my intention and in effect I've lived in the here and now, channeling my creative forces. As soon as I flipped open my laptop preparing to manufacture an experience and listen to a recording, I lost all grip on the moment. I'm still not quite sure what or why that it is, but something is holding me back from an intimate home yoga trip. What I understand completely is the magnitude of it's importance. I need to cultivate my own space, my own personal portal to the inner dimensions. The question is, how?

Day 33

Style: Yin/Yang
Teacher: Abe Cartland
Studio: Rama Lotus

My sister is a genius. Today Maria added the finishing touches to her application for Ryerson's fashion program, and her portfolio is absolutely incredible. After sending a few champagne corks flying in the spirit of celebration, I remember that it's Friday night. Every yoga studio will be closing early. Scanning the evening schedule, my eyes omit the word Yang from the class description. Thinking I would be making my way through submissive Yin poses for an hour and a half, tonight's session begins with an intensive Ashtanga-influenced Yang sequence. As we move into the balancing postures I'm greeted by a host of champagne bubbles, tilting the room from left to right. Focusing my Drishti for dear life, I somehow manage to keep myself from toppling over onto the hardwood floors. As I enter the Yin portion I find myself in sheer bliss.

Leaving class and making my way back home, I manage to find myself a quiet corner and a laptop as the ceiling above nearly caves in under stomping feet, clinking bottles and pounding music. It's Friday night and quiet corners are hard to come by. Seizing the moment I throw fingertips to laptop keys, digesting tonight's transition. This challenge has taught me to genuinely enjoy my own company. I want to be present as time unfolds around me. I want to be awake in the face of life itself. I want to understand.

Day 32

Style: Hot
Teacher: Amanda
Studio: Santosha Elgin

Tepid Yoga? Having never been to a Hot class at Santosha, I figured this cold bleak night would be a great time to start. Unrolling my mat and sitting down, I start to realize it might be a little more lukewarm then hot. It was then I remembered Ichih explaining to me that their heating panels had been stopped at the border for weeks, but were going to be set up as soon as possible. For the time being heat-fans would be in use. Looking around the room, it looks like only one is working.

I'm feeling naked and exposed standing in the cold darkness, wearing tighter-then-saran-wrap hot room shorts. For a split second I am reminded of those dreams where suddenly you realize you're in public and you're not wearing any pants. Completely exhaling my lungs, then drawing in a deep, full breath, I try to let go of my self-consciousness and insecurity. Every now and again I find myself caught up analyzing and critiquing my body, noticing with disdain various details that don't seem to look exactly like the promoted Hollywood prototype of sexy. Overall I love my body, don't get me wrong. Nevertheless I find myself wrapped up from time to time. If I don't look in the mirror and see a photoshopped Calvin Klein underwear model standing on my mat, something is not right. It's hard to love bodies of all shapes and sizes when only one make and model seems to be of any value. I just want to be wanted like everybody else, to be appreciated and admired. Moving through the practice I slowly let up and let go of the America's Next Top Model casting call mentality. By the end of the class, again I feel a deep gratitude, thankful for a flawlessly functioning physical shell. I'm a perfect version of myself, and I don't need an illusory stereotype to dictate what my configuration should look like.

Day 31

Style: Somayog
Teacher: Richard Hudspith
Studio: Rama Lotus

The art of posture. Tonight was my first time trying Somayog. I've always avoided this style. In all honesty, it struck me as yoga for really old people. As far as I understood, there were a few soft twists and bends that you could sleepwalk through. Favoring Ashtanga and Power sequencing, Somayog seemed like a waste of time. Today however, feeling beaten up by the workweek, a third Ashtanga class is out of the question. Based on my current physical state, this would be a perfect opportunity to take a day off and let my body recuperate. Instead, I'll finally see what Somayog has to offer.

So I'll admit it. I've changed my mind about "retirement-home-yoga". Somayog is so much more then that. It's designed around the concept of posture and alignment. It shares Yin's philosophy of letting go and letting gravity take over, but Somayog is very much its own unique creature. This is my first time in a truly restorative style of yoga. It focuses on sensory awareness, learning how to feel and control certain muscles or muscle groups. Somayog is a gentle and therapeutic yoga that particularly benefits the spine, pelvis and hips. Unwinding into the gentle movements, I'm loving the new sensations in this distinctly different type of yoga. It has such a slow, elegant precision, working with your skeletal structure and muscle composition. I take back every bad thought I've ever had about the style.

As class ended, the teacher boasted that after a hot shower I would probably have the best sleep of my life. I'm willing to find out. With another early morning on the books, steam is starting to billow out into the hallway, letting me know the water is at the perfect temperature. Somayog. I'm sold.

Day 30

Style: Ashtanga
Teacher: Daniel Mendoza
Studio: Santosha Elgin

It's day 30 and I'm still alive. This week has been the hardest yet. I've had no energy, collapsing soon after most yoga classes. I've had to work harder then ever to get myself to the studio again and again. At the second Ashtanga in a row with Dan, I'm growing to enjoy his style of teaching even more. His delivery is very calm. Tonight he spoke of three important elements of Ashtanga. The first and most important is the breath. This is a recurring theme in every style of yoga I've tried. In Ashtanga, the technique is called the Ujjayi breath, and basically sounds like the Ocean or Darth Vader. Many teachers describe it as the way you breathe if you were fogging a piece of glass, only your mouth is closed. The air released through your constricted throat is a powerful, directed breath that you can send into different areas of your body that need it during a sequence. The second element is known as the Bandhas. Bandha is the term used to describe a muscular contraction or lock, and in Ashtanga yoga it causes a feeling of root strength, a physical and mental lightness. The root bandha is said to cut through brahma granthi, the energetic knot of our resistance to change. The third and final element he focused on is known as the Drishti, or gaze. When you place and hold your gaze on a fixed point, it purifies and stabilizes the functioning of the mind. Like most things, this is much easier in theory then in practice, and my mind has been known to disobey direct orders. The more I study yoga, the more I understand just how sophisticated it is. The more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn. It's a journey with no final destination.

Day 29

Style: Ashtanga
Teacher: Daniel Mendoza
Studio: Santosha Elgin

My eyelids weigh a thousand pounds each. I squeeze them shut tightly, then open them again. With blurred vision I'm looking at four out-of-focus laptops slowly circling in front of me. Digital black and white writing is warping and bending on the electronic screen. My head is heavy, hanging at an awkward, twisted angle, trying to stare at a hazy keyboard. After 8 hours of school, a midterm and an Ashtanga class, I'm struggling to maintain consciousness. A 6 am start time looms over my head like a guillotine, only a few short hours from now. While it's true that ninety consecutive yoga classes are exhausting at times, the writing, documenting and digesting of each day, trying to understand my condition and studying it as it comes... that is taking its toll on me.

Tonight was my first time meeting Daniel Mendoza. Having trained in martial arts from an early age, he discovered Ashtanga while studying Muay Thai and kickboxing. The set up for the class felt like a martial arts studio, with two rows of mats facing each other and space in the middle where he walked up and down. He led the class through an intermediate series, keeping the instruction flowing at a fast pace with a heavy use of Sanskrit.

The act of practicing yoga when I truly don't feel like it, then writing about the experience and examining its effect, is intense. It feels like it's accelerating the process in comparison with last years ninety days. I can see now that the true challenge for the next 61 days will be the daily focusing of thought and converting it into language. The writing and understanding, the honest reflection on self. One third of the way in and the seas can really get rough. I feel like I'm on a rickety boat with a tattered sail out in the middle of dark vast infinity. To engage my mind and synthesize my experience when it desperately wants to shut off, power down and recharge is the real struggle. I know it's an absolute necessity that I continue to input every single day without fail. One false step will destroy the whole project. There can be no turning back. I can't afford to jeopardize the entire mission for a few extra hours of sleep.

Day 28

Style: Hatha
Teacher: Tania Fr├ęchette
Studio: Santosha Elgin

I can finally stand on my head. Rushing to a Sunday morning Yin, I arrived fifteen minutes too late. Wandering a few doors down, I began my day in a cafe, killing some time. The next class is Hatha. Whether I'm biased or misguided, Hatha is usually synonymous with boring. Thinking about it now, I'm not sure what has given me that impression. Maybe it's because every style seems to come from some form of Hatha, and I guess it strikes me as "plain" yoga.

I enjoyed Tania's style of teaching at her Power class earlier in the week, so I figured it couldn't be too bad. Compared to yesterdays full-house, today the room is essentially empty; just me, the teacher and two other students. She informed us that week-by-week she has been structuring her classes around the different Chakras. Today would focus on the third Chakra, located at the solar plexus. This Chakra is associated with power, self-esteem and vitality. It's known as our personal power centre, the magnetic core of the personality and ego. The class was engaging, focusing heavily on inversions. Apparently the third Chakra is basically a fireball, a furnace burning inside you. The problem is, negative energy gets trapped in the lower Chakras. Doing different inversions flips that heat upside-down and burns it all away. Today I managed to permanently hold myself in the headstand position.

Walking home in the beautiful early afternoon with that unmistakable after-yoga serenity, I could never have predicted what was about to happen next. Not long after settling in back at home, a storm begins to build. With the skies outside still blue, dark clouds roll over the hillsides of my mind, thunder-claps growling in the distance. Pacing back and forth, a boiling geyser erupts inside me and I'm overcome with rage and anger. Adrenaline pumping through my system, a current of frustration swallows me into my thoughts. I'm furious with the entire human race. Why is history nothing but a long treacherous tyrannical genocide? A string of murderers, enslaving and oppressing. An endless story of betrayal and tragedy. It's been a god-damned massacre of freedom and creativity. No one pays attention. The youth watch "reality" television then reenact that same hate in their own daily lives. People are blind sheep staring at their feet and walking over the edge. A human lifetime is eighty-five years, give or take? That's only a heartbeat, a blink of an eye. Can I blame anyone for their ignorance, closing their eyes and trading their lives for the illusion of security, building houses around their families, standing in line, doing what they're told, then dying. No one has time to pay attention.

Molten lava continues to well up from within. Now, everyone I've ever known in my life is in my mind, along with everything I've ever hated about every one of them. I feel nothing but fire and brimstone. I want to fix people. I want to destroy people. I want to fight, disobey, break things, to cause panic and disorder. I want to leave a trail of corpses and caskets in my wake. I want to be a Tyrant myself. I feel raw hate for the cowardice of mankind. I'm disgusted by the human race, and embarrassed to be a part of it. I see Armageddon coming and I know we deserve it.

As the storm passes I'm left numb and silent. I'm shocked at my own intensity, taken aback by my own aggression and violence. It only clicks now - I really did stoke the fire in my Solar Chakra. I laugh to myself, wondering if this is even healthy. Judging by the release and relaxation that is descending on me, the quietude of mind and the absence of tension, this must be part of the process. I'm in the inferno still unscathed. It isn't easy but it's necessary, and I really wonder who I'll be when the dust finally settles.

... does the dust ever settle?

Day 27

Style: Yin
Teacher: Louise Sattler
Studio: Rama Lotus

I know, I should be at Santosha. I'm still on my two week unlimited run right now. The thing is, it's Saturday morning and about six of my friends are heading to a Yin class at Rama Lotus. I think I'll splurge a bit today and join in the fun. After some fresh fruit and green tea I'm in the Crystal room, and it's more filled with yogis then I've ever experienced. I kid you not there were mats no further then an inch away on all sides from wall to wall. Talk about cozy. Somehow it actually worked, everyone finding a patch of hardwood and cultivating their practice. Outside after class, again I find myself on cloud nine, breathing deeply and trying to suppress a bubbling excitement from bursting out, leaving me laughing like a maniac in a public place. The weather is beautiful today; the skies are an endless blue expanse, the air is filled with maple syrup on snow, burning cedar and a thousand voices as they slide their blades across the frozen canal. After yoga, I've donned my skates for the first time this season. Living a stones throw from the canal, I feel like I take it for granted. Today out on the ice I'm filled with a realization. Our country is beautiful.

As the sharpened blades under my feet cut through the ice and carry me across the city, I notice that I'm skating effortlessly, with much better form then the last few years. I feel like I can power myself towards the horizon, lungs expanding and contacting with ease, sending life-force through my veins and unearthing a strength I never thought I had. The ninety day experiment continues to fascinate. It seems to be unavoidable and imperative that the changes occur on both the outside and the inside, and it's almost as if you can't have one without the other. A transformation of this nature has to be whole and all-consuming, changing both that which is biological and that which is ineffable.

Day 26

Style: Power
Teacher: Tania Fr├ęchette
Studio: Santosha Elgin

Freedom is delicious. Waking up with no digital assistance, I rise with a yawn in the late morning sunshine. Fragrances of brewing coffee and sizzling bacon draw me out of bed and downstairs, ready to enjoy a long day off. Today, all time will be spent mastering the art of doing nothing.

Later in the crisp afternoon I'm feeling elated and free. My body is continuing to change its form. Soft curves have been tailored and tapered, set to a custom fit. I'm more flexible now then I've ever been, or then I ever thought I could be for that matter. I just feel so good in my own skin. The freedom of movement and the fullness of breath are luxurious. I feel firmly planted on the earth these days, with a balance I never knew. I stand taller now.

In my second Power class in two days, I'm taking the postures to new limits. My body is in a great mood, abiding all requests I make of it, inviting me into new territory. I sink and settle with new-found depth. My hips have always been the most painful and uncooperative, but today even they are letting go and melting like hot candle wax. Having been submerged in the practice of yoga for a while now, I'm finding it hard to imagine not taking some time every day to get centered and balanced in my own machine . My body is essentially my home, and as long as I am able to inhabit it I plan on catering to its design, keeping all systems functioning at their optimum levels.

Day 25

Style: Power
Teacher: Mark Laham
Studio: Santosha Elgin

It's not about the positions. Last night Mark reiterated the same point many great yogis throughout history constantly stress. The actual physical asanas are less then 5% of what's transpiring in a yoga sequence. The most important is that which is invisible. Outside the spectral range of the human eye is where the real change is happening. This is a very foreign concept to the modern mind. In an action-oriented society the unseen is ignored.

The fact is no blinding light from God will shine down upon you from parted clouds once you master a posture. The asana is a tool, a technique which allows for the inner transformation. Even in all their complexity and diversity, the physical side of the practice is less important. Yoga is the science of the unseen. Every series of positions is like conducting an experiment in a lab using the scientific method. You follow a set procedure in order to hopefully arrive at a new understanding. It's a foray into the wilderness with a compass, plotting a course to new uncharted shores.

Blasted by my alarm clock early this morning, I caught myself imagining a day of teaching yoga instead of a day of work ahead of me. I have to admit, the idea of teaching has been in the back of my mind for a while, germinating and sprouting roots unnoticed. The nutrients of personal experience will no doubt tend to the seed of thought, and only time will tell when it will blossom and what fruit will end up on its vine. Back home in comfortable clothes with a cup of coffee, the idea of teaching is still hanging around me. Momentarily I'll be shutting my laptop and throwing my yoga bag over my shoulder yet again, setting off to the newly-discovered Santosha studio.

Day 24

Style: Yin
Teacher: Mark Laham
Studio: Santosha Elgin

On my feet for the ninth consecutive hour, I'm finally free to go home. Having been engaged in simple arithmetic since 6 am, my mind is still moving a mile a minute. It was just one of those days at work that lingered on long after it was scheduled, a steady flow of mundane tasks flicking numbers off the clock. Still feeling yesterday's lingering weariness, I unlock my front door and find myself lying on my back across my living room floor, looking up at the ceiling. I should go to an earlier yoga class today so I can get some sleep and avoid being up late into the night writing a blog post before an early morning again. That was the last thought I can remember before drifting into a deep sleep.

Rising from an extended accidental savasana, I wake up to realize I have no time to waste if I want to get to the last available class. I pick myself up off the floor and convince my exhausted legs to carry me out into the night. Outside, the winter air is so still that the world seems to be submerged in a vast ocean of moonlit snowflakes, held overhead in suspended animation. Walking along the frozen canal I breathe in the fresh air, excited to try another new studio tonight. I've heard good things about Santosha, and the change of scene feels nice after a long day at work. Off the ice, a red, green and briefly yellow kaleidoscope of light stretches down Elgin street.

There's one thing you may have noticed about yoga - it ain't cheap. Arriving at Santosha for the first time, I was offered a two week unlimited pass for $25. You can imagine where I'll be for the next fourteen days. Stepping into the studio, I find a long room with dark, rich wood floors. At the front end are wall-to-wall windows, and outside a trillion snowflakes dance and swirl under the streetlights. Although the studio is new, I'm familiar with tonight's teacher. I took dozens of Mark's classes throughout the first challenge, and this time around isn't any different. One great thing about his style of teaching is that he is very well spoken, explaining technical details and new subtleties in the postures. This Yin sequence is putting me back together, piece by piece. After a sublime walk back home I take sanctuary in a hot shower, cleansing myself of all left over tension. I finally crawl into bed, thoroughly reconstructed.

Day 23

Style: Hot
Teacher: Louise Sattler
Studio: Rama Lotus

The laziest robot in zone 1. Today, everthing is neutral. I feel like I'm litterally walking Buddha's middle path. I've been floating scene-by-scene through the motion picture of my life completely removed. Sound seems to be coming from far away, lost in the distance. I'm watching the world from underwater, unaffectedly content with the unfolding of time. One page to the next, reactionless...

Another Hot class late in the evening just goes to show how much freedom the instructors have with the style. Two nights,
same-time-same-style-same-teacher, each class completely unique unto itself. Tonight Louise switched up the sequence, orchestrating a rigorous choreography, and that cybernetic indifference never left me. I flexed and folded in and out of the postures, experiencing the physical sensations like they were happening to someone else. Like my own ghost, hovering slightly above myself, aware and watching.

Staring into the soft glow of my laptop screen, it stares back at me with the same blank expression. Am I relaxed, or am I just drained? I have no words at my command, no vocabulary at my disposal. All grasp on language and ability to form sentences seeped out my pores and into my towel in the hot room. I'm stiff, worn out. Words will come. The craving for pure, comforting, refreshing silence is my only focus. I surrender.

Day 22

Style: Hot
Teacher: Louise Sattler
Studio: Rama Lotus

Hot yoga: another anomaly? The terms Hot yoga and Bikram yoga are often confused and used interchangeably. In actuality, they are two completely different styles. Hot yoga is yet another form of Hatha preformed in a heated room. Much like Power yoga, one instructors version might vary widely from another. From what I understand it came about largely due to Bikram's widespread copyright lawsuit crusade. If you ask me, Hot yoga is comparable to Moksha yoga in that it feels like a blend of Hatha and Power with the influence of Bikram. The further I delve into the yoga universe the more the lines dividing different individual "styles" begin to blur.

After a never-ending day of dutiful tasks for the system I'm back at Rama Lotus. Today is the first of classes in their newly constructed Sun room. Dimly lit in glowing candlelight, I twist and sweat my way away from the last 11 hours. The reset button effect of daily yoga is priceless, making this 90 day journey more then bearable. When it really comes down to it, through the toughest moments I find real comfort in the thought that even on the 22nd day I'm less than a quarter way in. The unrolling of my mat is a crossing of a threshold, a gateway from the everyday world into an inner space. Every time you cross this threshold of self you never return exactly as you went in. You are altered, ever so slightly modified. You experience a mutation of consciousness, blooming and evolving into pure potential.