I was inspired by a colleague named Nathan Jackson. He decided to forgo the weights for a month and switched to yoga everyday (with a few Zen Stretches thrown in for flavor). Although I teach four Zen Stretch classes per week, I only get to do the full program, myself, once or twice a week. So, I’m embarking on a 30 day exploration of Zen Stretch Moving Meditation. I’ll be chronicling my experiences, both mentally and physically over the next month. 

My usual weekly training regime is composed of 

Monday - 1 hour of heavy bag work 
Tuesday - 3 hours of Kung fu training
Wednesday - 1 hour of body weight exercise ( chin ups, dips, inverted rows, incline push up, push ups, squats, lunges, bicycles.) plus 1 hour of kung fu
Thursday - 3 1 /2 hours of kung fu training
Friday - 1 hour of  body weight exercise ( chin ups, dips, inverted rows, incline push up, push ups, squats, lunges, bicycles.) 
Saturday - off
Sunday - 1 hour Zen Stretch Moving Meditation

Although I cannot neglect my kung fu training, I will be removing my body weight and heavy bag workouts in favor of daily 1 hour Zen Stretch sessions. This should be an interesting adventure!
30 Day Challenge
Day 1 - May 3rd, 2010- I did my stretch out on the balcony. It was a beautiful day. Posterior flexion stretch of the shoulder was difficult to hold. Left shoulder slight pain during crab pose. Forward shoulder press was difficult as well. Injury to left knee still limits child’s pose. Internal hip rotation stretch has limited range. Left hamstring slightly tighter than right. Finger tips reach the floor on star pose and hamstring stretch. Breathing focus lost during yoga section. Felt stimulated and loose afterward. Mind did wander here and there. Overall pretty good focus. Eyes closed for first half of meditation. Noticed afterward that the program only took me 45 minutes, breathing was a bit rapid.
Day 2 - May 4th 2010 - I did my stretch out on the balcony again. Another beautiful day in the sun. Less pain in shoulder joint today. My left knee is still a bit unhappy with acute flexion. My breathing focus was quite good today. I still lost focus during yoga section but regained it again during the final shoulder and neck section. Eyes closed for first half of meditation. Meditation took 50 minutes today. Breathing was a bit slower and controlled.
Day 3 - May 5th 2010 - I did my stretch out on the balcony once again. I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. Today was a very different experience. My connection to my breath was very strong today. I breathed deeply and slowly from start to finish. I had no pain in any joints, including my left knee, which was injured two months ago, and sometimes give me trouble. I was able to connect with the contraction of my muscles and feel the deepening contraction with each exhale. Today I didn’t loose my connection to my breath during the yoga section and was able to keep my eyes closed for the entire meditation. I feel incredible! For the full 55 minutes it took to complete the meditation I was lost inside a world where there was only muscular contraction and extended diaphragmatic breath.  I feel reborn!
30 Days of Zen Stretch Moving Meditation
Day 4 - May 6th 2010 - I did my stretch inside today. I turned the lights down and put some meditation music on. Another day of great connection to my breath and body. It seems that each day I’m able to focus deeper and deeper into each muscle, while still being mindful of my diaphragmatic breath. My body felt great today. I had absolutely no pain. I’ve seen a  noticeable change in my hamstrings over the last four days. On Monday only my fingers touched the floor during my hamstring stretch, today I could touch the balls of my palms. My breathing is deep and slow. Today I was very aware of the expansion of my stomach as I breathed in, as well as the contraction of my abs as I breathed out. I still like being outside much better though. There is nothing like the fresh air of the outdoors, even if it is only out on my balcony. I’ve noticed that every muscle of my body feels stimulated. No sore, and tight, but taught and energized. My body also has a feeling of stability and increased structural alignment. I can’t imagine how I’m going to feel a month from now. I might be able to fly!
Day 5 - May 7th 2010 - Today I traveled to Montreal to emcee a bodybuilding show for UFE (Ultimate Fitness Events). I didn’t get to my hotel until around 10pm. I unpacked my things, rolled out my mat and did my stretch from 10:30pm to 11:30pm. I’ve never done a Zen Stretch so late, and right before bed. But you know, I felt so relaxed after my stretch I fell right to sleep and was out before 12am. After sitting on the train for almost 5 hours my body was feeling very tense. I slept like a log! It was actually kind of neat to have my workout with me. When all you need to do is roll out your mat and you’re ready to go, it makes things quite easy. I woke up feeling rested and refreshed, ready to put on a great show.
Day 6 - May 8th 2010 - After emceeing the prejudging portion of the bodybuilding show, I had a few hours off, so I went back to my hotel to eat, rest and do my stretch. Today for the first time, my toes touched the ground during internal hip rotation. Let me tell you, I was very excited. I rushed my stretch a bit today. I think I was so “UP” from performing that my breathing was a bit fast. My stretch only took 47 minutes to finish. I must say, after sitting in a cramped chair for three hours in the morning,  my mid day stretch left me reenergized and ready to take on the evening show. What a great mental and physical recharge for a long work day. The evening show was a big success! On a interesting side note, this was the first show that my voice was not tired and sore after the show. I barely needed to drink any water during the evening show. I usually drink 4 - 6 500 ml bottles of water. This time i didn’t finish 2. Is there a correlation? I’m not sure. All I know is my throat feels fine.
Day 7 - May 9th 2010 - I woke up this morning at 7:30am, so I could do my stretch before we headed out to breakfast and then off on the long drive back to Toronto. I love to do Zen Stretch first thing in the morning. It is such and incredible way to start the day. Your mind is focused and peaceful and your body is flexible and stimulated. How can you have a bad day when it starts like that? It was snowing in Montreal and my room had a huge bay window, so I left the lights off, opened the blinds and positioned my mat in front of the window. I did my stretch with my eyes open today. It was very peaceful to look out at the snow falling as i did my stretch. It gave my workout a different flavor. 
    It’s been a full week of Zen Stretch Moving Meditation, and I must say, I feel fantastic!!!! Usually, if I don’t get to do a few hundred push ups in a week, I just don’t feel myself. My body feels stimulated in a very different way then it ever has before. I have to admit, I always feel pretty damn good. Being healthy, always makes you feel great. But this week was different. I’m more at peace, more balanced. Every muscle is stimulated ....and I mean every muscle. I’ve noticed small changes in range of motion around my joints almost every day. In addition, the little pains that I tend to have from time to time in certain joints, like my shoulder and knee, are totally gone. My body actually feels like it’s been to the gym several times this week. I am so happy I decided to take this journey. Thanks Nate!
Day 8 - May 11th 2010 - I decided to give my body a day off yesterday and then started back today. I did my stretch at 9am and it took 50 minutes. My first week of Zen Stretch was great, I felt better every day. Today I did my stretch in front of the mirror with my eyes open to watch the contraction of my muscles and the expansion of my stomach as I breathed. It’s really quite amazing to watch your stomach expand to it’s fullest and then contract back down. What an amazing design! No pain anywhere in my body today. It was also interesting to notice the difference in the pump my muscles had after my stretch was done. I looked like I’d been doing chin ups, push ups, squats and crunches. Who needs the gym, when all you need is your own body. Week two begins.
Day 9 - May 12th 2010 - I had a quiet work day today which gave me some time in the afternoon to do my stretch. My lunch time class was busier than usual today. I don’t think we could have fit one more mat in the room. I left class feeling very motivated to do my stretch. I get very happy to see new faces joining the Zen Stretch Movement. I did my stretch in the living room today. I played some wonderful Tai Qi music that I use in my class sometimes. Today I felt my stretch was more about the mental than the physical conditioning. For anyone who does seated meditation, I don’t have to tell you the power of a calm abiding meditation. Today my Zen Stretch was exactly that. For the entire hour (yes it took an hour today) I had not one thought in my head. There was only the sound of my breath, the movement of my stomach and the sensation of the muscular contraction. I feel so rejuvenated. I really must teach this program at a meditation retreat some time! I find when I am able to disconnect from the monkey jumping around in my head, if only for an hour, I feel like I’ve slept for hours.
Day 10 -May 14th 2010 - Unfortunately, yesterday I had a very full work day which did not allow me time to do my stretch before I had to go to Kung Fu. Sometimes life just gets in the way. But today however, I was back out on the balcony in the beautiful sun enjoying my Zen Stretch. I could feel the heat of the sun on my body as I moved through the meditation. I almost felt like I was a big solar cell getting charged. I felt  a connection to the earth and sun in a way I never have before. I could feel the wind on my face connecting me to the planet as I breathed in, while the heat on my skin connected me to the sun. Meditation can take you on a journey sometimes, often when you least expect it. I felt the tightness of my left hamstring from my kung fu training last night. There is a stagnation of Qi that needs to start moving. A few more stretches should do the trick. This weekend I’m off to Niagara Falls. Maybe I’ll get a chance to do my stretch near the water. It would be something to tap into the fluid power of that much water. I’ll fill you in when I get back.
Day 11 - May 15th 2010 - Today I’m in Niagara Falls visiting my in-laws. It’s not a very nice day outside. It’s been quite cool and overcast, so I decided to do my stretch indoors today. I love when I have the day to just chill and do what a want. My wife went shopping with her mom, so I had the house to myself.  I had a great stretch today. Good connection to my muscles and good focus of my mind. I find myself looking forward to my stretch session all day. It has become an amazing recharge both mentally and physically to my day. I forget to bring my mat, so I did my stretch on a beautiful South African woven rug in my in-laws bedroom. It gave my stretch a more cosy feel. My body continues to feel different each day.  A new me is definitely emerging.
Day 12 - May 16th 2010 - Today my wife and I went for a two and a half hour hike at a magical spot in Niagara Falls next to Totem Pole Park. What a hidden gem, I highly recommend it. But after a few hours hiking and then the long drive home sitting in traffic because of a closure of the Q.E.W., I really needed a stretch. I did my stretch in the evening today. I love the fact that Zen Stretch can be used at any point in the day. In the morning it sets you up for a fantastic day. In the afternoon, it’s a great recharge for the mind and body. In the evening it rebalances your stiff body and alleviates the stresses of the day, allowing you to fall right to sleep. What a great way to end a wonderful weekend!
Day 13 - May 17th 2010 - Today I was back out on my balcony in the afternoon. The shape of my body is beginning to change. I’m noticing more balance to the musculature of my legs and shoulders. I’ve also noticed the added stabilization to my entire shoulder girdle is adjusting my posture. My muscles feel toned and stimulated without being overly sore. I feel like I have been lifting weights, even though I haven’t even done one squat or push-up in almost two weeks. On a physical level, I see and feel quite a difference in the short period of time I’ve been doing this. But more importantly, on the mental side of things, having an hour every day to quiet my mind has been INCREDIBLE! I feel more at peace and centered then I ever have in my life. For anyone reading this journal, please, do your mind and body a huge favor and become a part of the Zen Stretch Movement. If you want to turn back the clock “THIS IS THE ANSWER”
Day 14 - May 18th 2010 - Today was i bit of an uncomfortable Zen Stretch session. This morning two clients at the gym were wearing ridiculous amounts of cologne, and as a result, my allergies are killing me.    It was hard to focus on my breath when I spent most of the time sniffling my brains out. My stretch ended up being a little on the short side today, only 45 minutes. 

    Well, its been two weeks of daily Zen Stretch Moving Meditations and I have to say I feel fantastic in so many ways. My range of motion around my joints has increased substantially. My muscular flexibility has increased quite a bit. My muscles are more toned and defined. My posture is much more balanced, and it was pretty damn good to begin with. My mind is quieter, happier, more at peace and full of creativity. Life just seems better.  The changes I’ve seen have come even faster than I expected. I really don’t miss the gym at all!!! My mat and my stretch have become the center piece of my peaceful & tranquil day. I feel more rested and refreshed when I wake and I’m falling asleep easier when I go to bed. Digestively, there have been some interesting changes. I seem to use the bathroom only once a day, but when I do, everything comes out. Sorry to be graphic, but healthy bowels are one of the most important parts of a health lifestyle. Two more week to go. Each day is better than the last!
Day 15 - May 19th 2010 - What a gorgeous day it was to do my stretch out on my balcony sanctuary. Today for the first time, the heel of my palm touched the ground on both my hamstring stretch and star pose. That is one area I really wanted to improve upon. My internal and external hip rotation has achieved full range of motion, and my left knee no longer gives me trouble. “Thank you Zen Stretch!” There is quite a difference in my shoulder development. I’m really starting to notice a change in the shape and size of my delts. Not only am I feeling more balanced, but my musculature is definitely reflecting that.

     I had a few new faces in my class today and everyone worked very hard. It always motivates me to do my stretch when I see people working so hard in my class. Great job everyone!
Day 16 - May 20th 2010 - 28 degrees, beautiful sunny sky, who could ask for a better day for a moving meditation outside. Today I had a sun tanning Zen Stretch. Shirt off, sun block on, mind and body connected. My body felt wonderful again today. Once again my flat palm reached the floor on my hamstring stretch and star pose on my right side. My left side is just a bit tighter though. In star pose, the heal of my palm doesn’t quite touch the ground yet, but almost!. A 50 minute stretch today felt just about right. My breathing does tend to quicken just a bit during my leg stretches. I’ll have to keep working on that. Not to put to fine a point on it, but, my posture is SICK!!! My awareness of my body in space, otherwise known as kinesthetic awareness has become ultra sensitive. I can feel if my lower traps are not engaged when I stand, or if my internal hip rotators are not doing their job when I’m walking. It’s as if my mind and my muscles now have high speed internet vs their old dial-up connection. I am also aware and in control of many muscles I couldn’t even feel before. Talk about a full body anatomical re-education.
Day 17 - May 21st 2010 -  Friday is upon us again, and another lovely stretch out on the balcony. Today there was some construction going on in the neighborhood, so let me tell you, it wasn’t to peaceful out on the balcony. My stretch was definitely rushed today it only took me 40 minutes, but I still felt great. I love that my hands can reach the floor on my hamstring stretch. I’ve always wanted to be able to do that. I’m  going up to my buddy’s farm this weekend for some R& R. A little country Zen Stretch if you please. I’ll let you know what the cows think of my workout.
Day 18 - May 22nd 2010 - Today I’m in Uxbridge at my buddy’s 100 acre farm, enjoying the quite of the country. I decided to do my Zen Stretch out in the grass of one of his fields. Wow, what an experience. Not a sound, except for the breeze and the songs of the birds in the trees. This was one of my most tranquil Zen Stretches I’ve ever done. I pushed my contractions quite hard today. I’m sure I’m going to be feeling my hamstrings tomorrow. No pain anywhere in my body. My left hamstring still has about an inch and a half to go before it’s equal to my right, but it’s coming. You know, getting out of the city is such a healing thing to do. Whether you’re doing a Zen Stretch, some yoga, Qi gong, or just taking a walk, it completely changes the energy of your mind and body. I highly recommend it.
Day 19 - May 23rd 2010 - Today I’m still at the farm in Uxbridge. I decided to do my stretch out on the deck overlooking the rolling fields of my buddy’s farm. Today was an “eyes open” Zen Stretch. I couldn’t miss a chance to take in the beauty of the scenery.  As I suspected I was kind of sore today, especially in my lower body. My hamstrings were quite tight after yesterday’s sessions. I’ve come to enjoy the two different ways of performing my stretch. Sometimes eye’s open, sometimes closed. When my eyes are closed I feel a deeper connection to my breath and body. When my eyes are open I feel the connection to the world around me. Either way, my mind is quite and free to remain in the moment. My body continues to change in look and feel. Some muscles have gotten bigger, some smaller, but my sense of muscular balance and stability has definitely taken a turn in the right direction. Any digestive bloating that I occasionally experienced is long gone, and my mental and physical energy is better than its ever been.
Day 20 - May 24th 2010 - Today I’m back in Toronto and what an amazing day its been. I think the high was 30 degrees today, and it’s going to stay that way for the next four days. I took my stretch out to the large park behind my apartment. Lots of people were enjoying the weather and all the park has to offer. I found a quiet little space in the shade of some trees (I didn’t want to burn my shaved head). My connection to my body has reached a point where I can control every muscle individually. I’m able to adjust the posture and position of my pelvis and shoulder girdle with precision. My mind is quiet and still. The stillness has stimulated creativity and an overwhelming sense of happiness. There are ten more days to go in my experiment, but I can already tell you, if you want to change the way your body moves, feels, and reacts to stress, try the 30 day challenge. If you want to remove stress from your mind, and quiet your thoughts, try the 30 day challenge. If you want to stop the ravages of time and turn back the clock, TRY THE 30 DAY CHALLENGE!!
Day 21 - May 25th 2010 - Today I was back out on the balcony enjoying what felt like a “Bikram” Zen Stretch. Considering it’s 28 degrees before you factor in the humidex, I’m sure it’s well into the 30’s.  My hamstrings seem to be going back and forth between this new range where I can put my hand flat on the floor, and then slightly less, where only the ball of the palm touches. Either way, it’s far beyond where I could reach before I started this experiment. Nothing really exciting to report today, other than the fact that my wife’s cat curled up on the end of my mat and slept there during my whole stretch. She’s soooo cute!. Today’s stretch was what I call a “filler episode”. It’s where the show you love to watch is on, but nothing really advances in the story line. But you’re still happy you watched because of how much you love the show. Then again, I shouldn’t diminish the mental training I get each and every day. Spending an hour with a quiet and peaceful mind connected to the present moment is never a bad thing.
Day 22 - May 26th 2010 - Today I was out on my balcony soaking in the sun. My wife’s kitty joined me once again. She did more sleeping than stretching, but I enjoyed the company. Today’s workout was a trial of concentration. The construction workers were back at it again, making a whole load of racket.  The distraction forced me to really concentrate hard on my breath and contractions. The Buddha was right when he said that “to train focus you need distraction”. Well I had lots of distraction today and you know, I had one of the most focused Zen Stretches I’ve had all month. My hamstring were having one of their “I feel like stretching a bit more” kind of days today, so my hands reached all the way to the floor in every position. I love when that happens.
Day 23 - May 27th 2010  - Today I went out to the park and did my Zen Stretch under the shade of a beautiful  oak tree. I was feeling very relaxed today and my breathing was very slow and deep. My stretch took just under an hour. My entire body was very relaxed, even my sometimes irritable hamstrings. There was a path through the park close to where I was doing my stretch. Needless to say, I got some interesting looks from people passing by. Next time I need to wear a T-shirt that says “Zen Stretch Moving Meditation”, I can be my own advertisement. Today was a “eyes open” stretch. The trees were just to beautiful to close my eyes. I had two little starlings who decided to come over and check out what I was doing, or maybe they were just looking for food. Either way, it was a treat to watch them scurry around my mat as I did my stretch. I find that when I’m out in nature it instantly clears my mind. I have no trouble staying in the moment when I’m surrounded by the serene stillness of the grass, trees, and beautiful blue sky. We were really never meant to live in these concrete and steel cities we’ve created. I truly believe that it’s our disconnection to the planet that creates our sense of loneliness and constant stress. Maybe it’s time for a move to the country.
Day 24 - June 2nd 2010 - After a four day hiatus I’m back to finish my 30 days of Zen Stretch. I tweaked my ankle last week during kung fu training, so I’ve given myself a few days of rest to allow it to heal. This morning I was back out on my balcony. I had missed my daily meditation session during the last few days. I’ve noticed such a difference in the stillness and quiet of my mind. As I’ve said before, my connection to my body is unlike it’s ever been in my entire life. My neural pathways must look like the Fraser river during spring melt. As this weekend I’m emceeing another bodybuilding show for UFE, I’ve been thinking a lot about the competitors in the show. As far a posing is concerned, I could not think of a better way to learn specific muscular control than doing this program. For any competitors reading this journal, do yourself a favor and learn the program while you train for your next show. Your posing will change by leaps and bounds.