I started yoga by happenstance. I was taking a management communications course and everyone had to take on a project to apply the things we were learning in a meaningful, real-life situation. One of the people in the course was a yoga teacher who had never taught in public. Her project was to organize, promote, and teach a class and I went to the first one. I can remember doing triangle pose and tree pose. Here, in 1990, the seed of yoga was planted.
After about a year of studying Hatha and Tai Chi I tried Kundalini Yoga – and the seed that was planted in that first hatha class really sprouted! I knew this was something that could transform people’s lives. I went to Winter Solstice in 1992 and studied with Yogi Bhajan; the flower bud began to form! It was a deep spiritual awakening in the most lovely sense. By December 1993 I started to have the idea of creating Rama Lotus. I was doing my Masters degree at Carleton University and had shifted from more psychological studies to looking at strategies for large scale social change and I could see the potential of affecting such change through yoga – and Rama Lotus came to be.
At this point I had been teaching in my home, and in rented rooms in community centres and athletic clubs. These spaces, while nice, were missing something. I envisioned a space that would have a far-reaching ripple effect on the community at large. In December 1994 I opened Rama Lotus in our first location on Elgin and Somerset.
Starting with three Kundalini Yoga classes a week we were the first space outside of a teachers home dedicated exclusively to yoga. Two years after opening I was approached by a friend, Pierre Belisle, who was looking for a space to teach power yoga. After Power yoga we added Bikram with Luc Sauve. The Bikram classes were funny because we had to run extension cords out into the hallway to get on different electrical circuits so we’d stop popping the breakers with all the mini 1500 watt electric heaters we were using. To keep the air conditioning from turning on we even put an ice bag on the thermostat in the studio! The students loved the benefits of offering multiple styles of yoga and we continued adding other styles over the years. This also made us the first studio in Ottawa to offer multiple styles of yoga under one roof.
As we grew I realized we needed a much bigger space. With plenty of searching we found our permanent building at 342 Gladstone Ave. We took one month to renovate the space from the factory it had been into the yoga studio it is today! The very first class on Gladstone was taught on May 1, 2000 – the same day my son Taliesin (Taz) was born. What an auspicious day!
For me this has been a community service and social change project. What started with Rama Lotus developed in four stages. Stage 1 was teaching in various spaces; Stage 2: a small, semi-permanent space (Somerset and Elgin-6 years); Stage 3: a large permanent space (our current location on Gladstone 14 years); Stage 4 was to be a retreat centre. To move to this 4th stage I passed on the reigns of Rama Lotus and began The Yoga Garden Retreat near Wakefield, QC. What an honour it has been! The flower has blossomed.
There were many people who helped make Rama Lotus what it is today, between teachers, staff, and complimentary practices such as massage, reiki, belly dancing, and more… I’d love to have a write-up of just all the people who helped create Rama Lotus, it would be a long list! Thank you all! Teaching, the creation of Rama Lotus, and now the Yoga Garden Retreat is all for you – and through you, for our community and the world.
I wish you a thousand blessings,
Sat Nam. Namaste. Robert Hay, Founder.