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Toronto Yoga Conference 2018 (Day 3)

I wake up on time and, as per routine, I put on the kettle, hop into the shower and begin to get ready. Andrea rises shortly thereafter and we chat about the experience of yesterday’s sessions. She’s excited about the moon phases she learned about yesterday and that makes me smile. We have our breakfasts and enjoy our morning tea. Andrea is incredibly easy to room with; she even put away the dishes last night and found a new roll of paper towel. We walk over to the Conference and part ways, agreeing to meet up later. She’s told me there’s a good chance she’s going to skip her middle session for a nap which, given my state, sounds like a great option to me. I head toward the lower level where my first session is located, riding the escalator with a sense of great indifference on the way down.

Travis Eliot’s “Holistic Flow: Vitality” is first up on my docket. The room is already packed when I get there so I just throw my mat down pretty much right in front of the door. The room is hot and I immediately regret wearing fleece lined, high waisted tights and a cotton t-shirt. That’s when I realize I definitely have a bit of a wine flu. Eliot introduces himself and his wife to the class and begins outlining the intention of the practice to come: “Vitality is something innate, something we’re all born with,” he says. “Although we are born with it, things usually obstruct that vitality from being as full and radiant as possible, preventing us from reaching our full potentiality.” Today’s practice will be all about circulation which he describes as facilitating the elimination of toxins, the reduction of stress and tension as well flushing fresh new nutrients through the body’s organs; improved circulation allows our vitality to expand. Oh gosh, I am so glad I had that wine last night, I think to myself with great sarcasm. “We’re more than the physical body, we’re the energetic body — the mind, the heart, the wisdom self and the spirt and the soul,” he exudes enthusiasm. “After this two hour holistic yoga flow, you should feel like you’re firing on all cylinders.” OH. Wonderful.

We start in Child’s Pose and my hips feel incredibly stiff. I rest my brow on a block and adjust my position several times. Starting in Child’s Pose is challenging for me first thing in the morning, but I do welcome the position of rest. We transition to Downwards Facing Dog and my hands immediately begin to slip on my brand new Manduka mat. I try to keep flowing through a few vinyasa but the slippage proves impossibly irritating. In sweaty frustration, I get up, grab my shoes and wallet and leave the room to head upstairs and buy my old reliable, the B-Mat. I’m back in my spot within 7 minutes. I move through about 75% of the practice and spend the rest next to death on my back in Savasana. {Haha, Corpse pose…) The genuinely concerned blue haired volunteer asks me if I’m alright and if I require “assistance.” I informed her rather dryly that I am simply experiencing the joys of a hang over. Despite my admission, there’s not an ounce of shame in my voice. Whatever — I am yogi, not perfect. But, seriously, I really should have planned this out better… Tail between my legs, I crawl out the door about 30 minutes before the practice ends and decide to work on this entry instead.

Coby Kozlowski will lead the next session I’m scheduled to attend: “Wave Rider: Flowing through the Six Qualities of Consciousness.” I wait outside the room briefly and the same volunteer who was just at Eliot’s class is here; she asks me if I feel better yet and I reply that I do not but that I absolutely did this to myself. When we enter the room, Kozlowski is breast feeding a new born. I place my belongings at the back corner of the room and take a seat near the exist, close to my escape route. She makes a joke about paying $5 to hold the baby and I cringe inside. I expect the baby to start crying, but it doesn’t and soon its father takes it out of the room. I am relieved as a crying baby and the wine flu are simply incompatible.

I ignore Kozlowski’s encouragements to snuggle up closer into the group circle. I admit, I like to keep my distance initially in group settings. She clarifies that despite the title of the session including the word “flow,” this will not be an asana practice but a lecture and discussion. However, Kozlowski explicitly gives people permission to move and stretch if they feel the need to which I think is a really nice offer. She describes herself as a Contemporary Yoga Educator and Philosophical Entertainer: “I don’t think that any body can teach yoga,” she says, “all I do is facilitate an experience for people to figure out what yoga means for themselves.”

I’m grateful when she shifts from her introduction towards the lecture. Kozlowski begins by stating her belief talking about Consciousness is impossible — but she’s going to anyway; she also believes defining Consciousness is impossible — but, because we require a working definition to facilitate discussion, she’s going to anyway:

Consciousness: everything that was and was not, everything that is and is not,

everything that will be and will never be; potential is everything that is not; not

nothingness, the potential for something to become something.

We will approach Consciousness from within this framework with a contemporary perspective informed by Tantric yoga philosophy. “Yoga is a path that provides zero answers,” she explains to roomful of yogis, “but what it does do is provides infinite inquiries and experiments.” Tantric philosophy provides the tools and techniques for us to extend and stretch ourselves into our greatest possibilities, to interpret those inquiries and experiments.

We will explore how Consciousness itself behaves by outlining its six qualities:

  1. CHIT

  • translated (roughly) as “the fluctuations of the thinking mind”

  • Kozlowski argues for trusting the intelligence of consciousness itself

  • The Leaf on the Tree analogy: the leaf does not fear or resist falling from the tree in autumn, but rather lets go freely and without fear

  • Learning how to ride the waves of life (the highs and lows) — when we numb ourselves to the lows (negative emotions we don’t want to feel), we’re unable to fully enjoy the highs (the joys of life), resulting in a “flat line” existence

  • How do I skillfully participate and engage with the movements of life?

  • “I am something like you, I am nothing like you, I am nothing but you” — the conversation is more complex than simplistic and generic notions of unity that so often dominate yogic discourses


  • translated (roughly) as “secreting”

  • Part of life will always remain a secret/hidden to you; there’s something you don’t know, something you’re unaware of — as things are revealed, understand that there’s always more to come — the infinite

  • There’s beauty in things being concealed from you, that’s the very design of nature

  • The Goldfish & The Castle: the goldfish constantly forgets the castle is there but has the pleasure of remembering, every time — much the same way we forget everything will be okay, until we practice our yoga and experience of momentary “remembering”

  • Kozlowski echoes the same Tantric philosophical perspective as Norian — the pleasure of remembrance: “We forget for the sweetness and joy of remembering”

  • In the season of winter, we often forget that the season of spring is coming — there’s always more & sometimes we just forget


  • translated (roughly) as “wholeness, completeness, fullness”