Could I ever learn to meditate if I haven’t by now?

“Could I ever learn to meditate if I haven’t by now?”

I overheard a friend, recently, ask the question above.

At the age of 76, this woman has accomplished more than many could achieve in several incarnations. Through it all, she remains a very conscious, conscientious mind; an individual who considers her place in the world and how her role can impact and affect those around her. She also has an uncanny knack for articulating stunningly profound questions, like this one.

As a practicing Hindu and a classically trained yogi (20+ years), I frequently get asked, “How do I…?” questions when it comes to meditation and introspection.

Hinduism, among other things, focuses on one’s self-awareness and interconnectedness; it helps develop stillness of the mind. And it uses meditation as a tool to facilitate that stillness.

So often, when someone says the word, ‘meditate,’ people automatically conjure images of shaven-headed monks in saffron robes, chanting Om Shanti in resounding unison.

Aum or Om is considered the  sound of cosmic manifestation

The chant, Om Shanti, roughly translates into peace for all humankind, peace for all living and non-living beings, peace for the universe.

But what you may not realize is that meditation can take just about any form of activity – or inactivity – that helps calm the mind. Take walking meditation, for example. Zen Buddhist monks often practice walking meditation as a part of their daily practice. The slow, purposeful walking combines with a concentration on each muscle used to take a single step and the breath required to complete that simple movement.

It all comes down to your breath; breath is life

When you begin to look at meditation that way, you might find you already have something that fits the bill. Do you cross-stitch? Knit? That focused attention stills the mind. Do you run? The discipline of running possesses many of meditative characteristics shared with walking meditation. What about acting? An actress or actor preparing for their role will often go through a meditative process to create their character. Even washing dishes can help to focus the mind and calm the spirit. In fact, it’s often our simplest actions – those little everyday occurrences – that we can use to help calm our senses and still our mind.

The next time you’re in a lineup or find yourself stuck in a waiting room, try this on for size:

with practice, you can meditate anywhere

Start with your toes. Slowly, intentionally, tense, and release your toe and foot muscles one by one. (You might be surprised to find this more of a challenge than originally expected.) Do this gently, remember, this isn’t a workout. You want to use the slightest amount of tension, just enough to help become aware of each muscle group in your foot. And remember to breathe. Slow, steady inhalations and exhalations will help you concentrate.

Begin with the toes on your right foot, wiggle them a little; rotate your ankle. Next, tighten your calf. Then flex your thigh muscles. So far, so good? Great. Now give your right bum cheek a little squeeze and continue on working your way up through tummy, right shoulder, arm, and fingers on your right hand. Slowly stretch your neck to the right and begin the descent on the flip side. Stretch your neck to the left and work your way slowly down to the toes on your left foot. When you’ve gone full circle, take one final deep, cleansing breath.

Hindu deity Ganapati

Congratulations – you’ve just completed your first meditation practice – no chanting, incense, or mala beads required.

Try carrying the new calm feeling you’ve cultivated with you throughout the remainder of your day or evening.

Meditation is, in its purest form, is listening to your body, mind, and spirit. Some people say it’s listening to God.

Whatever you call it, meditation is the time you take with yourself to improve your self-awareness; about where you are right now on this magnificent journey.

When you start meditating, you may be surprised by what you hear; by what wise advice you have for yourself.

And what about the woman who wondered, “Could I ever learn to meditate, if I haven’t now?”

To her, I say, “You already are.”

Stay in Shape (& Save Money) With 5 Activities That Double as a Winter Workout

With all of those tasty cookies and treats that seem to be everywhere, almost everyone indulges more than they planned during the holiday season. But if you enjoy being outside, you can stay in shape this winter – without spending extra money – with these five activities that double as a workout. 

Snowmobiling

Enjoy winter sunsets after a day of snowmobiling

Sounds easy right? Well, going for a winter snowmobile ride is more of a winter workout that you may realize! To remain correctly positioned when travelling over rugged terrain, you use lower back muscles along with front and side abdominals. On average a person can burn up to 175 calories per hour just for sitting on a moving snowmobile. You really can’t get an easier workout!

Sledding

Pulling your kids can burn more than an extra hundred calories per hour!

Nothing conjures up Christmas memories more than trudging up and down a snow-covered hill with your sled flung over your shoulder. It’s fun and one heck of a workout! Did you know that you can burn up to 400 calories every hour you spend sledding? To get that type of calorie-burn in the gym you’d have to use the Stairmaster machine! Sledding has a strong cardio component. I guarantee you’ll feel the burn in your legs at the end of the day. And if you tug and.

Snowshoeing

Image by Gianni Crestani

If you’re a wildlife watcher, snowshoeing in the perfect winter workout for you. Slip on a pair of comfy vegan boots from your favorite retailer, and you’re on your way to burning up to one thousand calories per hour! That’s more than running or even cross-country skiing! Snowshoeing is also great cross-conditioning. So whether you’re a runner, a body-builder, climber, or avid yogi your training will get a boost from putting on snowshoes. And be sure to bring your camera and snap amazing winter pictures.

Snowboarding

Getting outside during the winter months can have a big impact on your overall health

Love to surf? You’ll love snowboarding. And slicing through the snow on your board will put your abdominal, thigh, and calf muscles to the test. You’ll flex and burn up to 500 calories per hour depending on your speed and how much effort you put into your ride.

Ice Skating

Have fun while keeping in shape this winter with outdoor ice-skating

You don’t need to be Tessa Virtue or Scott Moir to get a winter workout on the ice. Core muscles help with your stability, and leg muscles help you build momentum. You can burn between 350 and 550 calories per hour this winter activity that delivers an all-over full-body workout. And since you’ll burn more calories the faster your skate, consider challenging your friends to race. It’s great fun and an even greater workout.  Check local municipal websites to find out public skating times and fees.

Staying in shape during the winter doesn’t have to be a drag. With a few outdoor activities, you can get your winter workout while creating fun-filled memories that last a lifetime that don’t cost a fortune.

Failing Your Workout Resolution Already? Here’s How You Can Motivate Your Mojo

We have all said it at one time or another. 

I’m too lazy. 

I’m too tired. 

I don’t have time.

There are a hundred reasons to avoid working out. And, to a certain extent, they carry some truth. Today’s busy, fast-paced lifestyle leaves little time to invest in activities like these. If working out were easy, everyone would do it!

After working all day, too often you just don’t feel like you can workout.  Maybe you can find the time, but not the energy to engage in the physical exercise necessary to help loosen up that stiff body.  For most of us, after 8 hours of sitting in a chair at the office, you come home to sit in another chair:  this one in front of the TV.  It’s hard, almost impossible, to gather up the motivation to stretch out those tired, hard-working arms and legs.

Some lucky people can make the time, but find exercise itself too humdrum.  It’s natural to get bored doing the same workout routine every day.  But, there are ways to tackle the problem of exercise ennui:  get together with a friend or neighbour and workout together. Maybe even engage some friendly competition to see who can loose five pounds, or a dress size, first – whatever your personal goal is.  If that doesn’t work for you, try changing it up: if you traditionally work out in a gym, then why not go outside?  You might find an activity such as cycling or swimming to be just what was missing.  Our muscles also benefit from switching up the routine, so you’re not only bolstering your interest you’re increasing your overall health and fitness level!

Yoga With Adriene on Youtube

If you’re self-conscious or shy about joining an exercise class or group activity, or if there just aren’t enough leftover coins in the bottom of your purse to invest in a class you can always pop on a workout DVD (try borrowing from your local library for free).  Youtube.com is also a great resource.  Do a search for “yoga workout for beginners” and you’ll find plenty of variety to whet your appetite, and work out in the comfort of the living room.  

Image by rob9040

If you’re waiting for a perfect time to start, this is it!  That “perfect time” doesn’t exist the way we think it does.  There will always be some justification to postpone exercising, if you want to.  But the good thing is that same little voice telling you there’s a reason to delay, can also be your greatest motivator.  It can be the cheerleader that will always reassure you there’s time in a day to squeeze in even ten minutes of activity.  

If you’re carrying extra weight, and your goal is to shed a few inches, you may feel overwhelmed by the task.  But remember, you’re not loosing all that weight at once, because no one does.  And, while working out is good for shrinking the waistline, it  also has cardiovascular health benefits. It makes your body flexible and strong, and doesn’t that feel so much better than a dozen little aches after bending, even just a little?  And, not only is working out good for physical health, but studies have shown that exercise releases stress and is key in maintaining a positive, happy outlook. 

Whichever method you chose, you’ll be glad you did.  At the end of the day moving is always better than not moving.  

Toronto Top Five: Vegan Restaurants

Being vegan can mean challenges when it comes to finding really great frugal vegan places to eat. But thankfully, in Toronto, cruelty-free dining is becoming easier as more and more restaurants are upping their vegan game.

Image: https://twitter.com/BoltFreshBar

BOLT: Fresh Bar
1170 Queen Street West

Casual, friendly, and inviting, Bolt — Fresh Bar, offers some of the healthiest food choices in the city. Their cold-pressed fruit juice combos are as tasty as they are invigorating. Try a parfait, like Bolt’s Energy Parfait — made with raspberry, strawberry, banana, coconut milk, granola, and shredded coconut. It’s a definite treat for your taste-buds. And you won’t be hungry after eating one of their grain bowls or salads. Everything at BOLT is made-to-order fresh, with locally-sourced ingredients.

One Love Vegetarian
854 Bathurst Street

A tiny Caribbean take-out, with bright green walls, One Love offers vegan food with an island flair. What began as a soup kiosk in Harbourfront’s World Café, has grown into one of the quintessential dining establishments on the vegetarian landscape. Enjoy a Seasoned Jamaican Pumpkin Roti and a bowl of their famous corn soup, while sipping a traditionally brewed Jamaican Ginger Beer for a truly sinful experience that is 100% guilt-free.

https://twitter.com/liveorganicfood

Live
264 Dupont Street

Sustainable, vegan, and delicious. Live serves up cruelty-free dining at the peak of freshness. And the most popular dish on the menu? Their Pad Thai, made with sweet potato noodles, celery, red pepper, green onion, carrots, tofu, is a treat for the senses that can’t be beaten. Live menu is 100% plant-based, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, organic, and raw.

Urban Herbivore

The popular vegan restaurant is built around the philosophy that the best foods are made from scratch — whole food preparation that’s preservative and additive-free. Ingredients are local and organic. While not 100% gluten-free, Urban Herbivore boasts many tasty choices for gluten intolerant customers. Urban Herbivore is certified peanut-free. And with two locations to choose from —64 Oxford Street (Kensington Market), and 220 Yonge Street (Eaton Centre) — you have easy access to great vegan fare when you want it, no matter where you are.

https://twitter.com/Herbivore_TO

Hogtown Vegan
1056 Bloor Street West

Hogtown is one of Toronto’s most popular vegan restaurants, now with a second must-dine-at spot at 382 College Street. Go for lunch or dinner during the week, but on weekends try their brunch, that draws crowds from all ends of the city. This vegan dining spot it always packed! Their famous Pulled unPork sandwich — made from shredded soy and their house-made barbecue sauce — is a treat, but the Un-Chicken and Waffles at Hogtown Vegan is honest-to-goodness comfort food, done right.

https://twitter.com/hogtownvegan

Whether you’re a committed vegan, or simply interested in exploring healthier dining options, these five restaurants offer some of the tastiest food in the city, that just happens to be vegan.

Do you have a favourite vegan restaurant in Toronto? Tell me about in the comments below.