◊ THE CLASS: Focus Boost ◊
WHAT YOU NEED
- Wear whatever is comfortable
MINDSET Brain Gym is one of Toronto’s newest types of gym, one that focuses solely on the brain. Even though meditation and mindfulness studios are having a major moment, the concept they’ve brought to life is like nothing else in the city with state-of-the-art meditation rooms and the latest meditation technology set in a modern and futuristic environment. They’ve created a still space in a nonstop city and with Toronto as their pilot studio and meditation rapidly growing in popularity, MINDSET is poised to expand quickly to other cities. Even if meditation is intimidating or not of interest to you, it’s worth taking a beat and seeing what it’s about as every person on this planet can benefit from improvements in concentration, decision-making, stress levels and the ability to perform under pressure, which can result from practicing meditation. Not to mention the focus on mental fitness is becoming just as important as physical fitness which is a positive and important movement for us all.
And if you’re not sold on that, at least check out their zero-gravity stillness pod for a half hour Power Nap. Seriously. The year is basically 2019 and we live in busy urban dwellings, pay to nap in fancy studios, and sit in calmly lit rooms to meditate together while we’re hooked up to headbands that read our brain waves. The future is now.
62 Cumberland Street, Toronto
MINDSET’s first studio is located in the heart of Yorkville, north of Bay and Bloor on Cumberland Street and near some of the best in the biz for healthy food (Pusateri’s, Planta). Being so centrally located, it’s easy to get to on any mode of transportation. If driving, there’s a parking lot next to the building, and plenty of public transit options with the closest subway station (Bay) less than a block away and streetcars and buses along Bay and/or Bloor. Watch this space bc a little birdie told us another location is in the works.
CLASS SCHEDULE + PRICE
There are two types of classes offered at MINDSET; drop-in group meditation classes or a private Stillness Room Experience – we’ll explain. For the group meditation classes, there are nine styles in total, which is massive and includes things like Focus Boost, Stress Melt, Self-Love, and Find Clarity. They’re all 30 minutes and what differentiates them is the guided meditation, as the teacher will coach on different topics and teach different meditation techniques. For the super Type A types, the Focus Boost, Recharge, and Neuro Feedback classes are the cats pyjamas because they include the option to use Muse Headbands which are brain wave sensing meditation headbands that track your session and tell you how you did. Technology is crazy. A bit of a bummer though is the lean schedule. There are only 2-4 classes each day and most of them congregate in the evening (some days wrapping up by 6:15pm) with only one morning class on Fridays. We wish there were a few more options, but maybe they’ll get there as they’re open longer.
The Stillness Room Experience is a private room at the back of the studio with a single zero-gravity comfy-ass chair, mirrored walls and trippy lights. You can choose three different experiences here; Relax (a classic guided meditation), Power Nap (literally to NAP), and Recover (specifically designed for athletes). They’re all 25 minute pre-recorded guided meditation and binaural soundscapes, and you book a time through their website. You can also book private instruction, they have meditation teacher training, and they regularly run meditation programs like the 4 week Athletic Edge or Mental Edge program that also happens to be reimbursable by insurance (win!).
Here’s where we’re docking a few marks cuz they charge a pretty penny for a half hour brain workout. At $25 for a drop-in, it’s similar to what you’d pay for a spin or Pilates class in Toronto. That said, the studio includes a lot of extra amenities so it’s worth taking advantage of them and giving yourself a minimum of an hour to get the full experience.
- Drop-in: $25
- 5 Class Pack: $20 per class
- 10 Class Pack: $18 per class
- Unlimited Class: $150 per month
- First Time Trial (unlimited for 21 days): $50
Considering this is a space of ultimate zen, there is SO much to buzz about. First of all, it’s massive. 2,600 square feet massive. With a meditation nook tucked in by the entrance equipped with a continually changing kaleidoscope of color, multiple lounges, and a state of the art meditation room, they’ve made every corner of the “gym” a place to decompress. The front lobby has a Brain Bar complete with filtered water, tea and kombucha on tap, hair ties (we explain why this is important), and a giant library wall full of every meditation book you could Google. The lobby leads to two separate “re-charge” areas (one meant for no devices, another allowing them) and a bunch of programmable lockers as you’re encouraged to leave your belongings behind when entering the meditation room.
The meditation room is pretty epic. A calming (usually) blue wave continually floats across the hexagon shaped walls, and the room is filled with a maximum of 21 of the craziest and MOST comfiest ergonomical meditation chairs we’ve ever sat on. See ya med cushion. The room smells like heaven or more specifically, the Peace DoTerra blend they’ve fed into the diffuser, and the surround sound system plays a soundscape of rainfall, birds, and sound bowl songs to stimulate maximum chillness. Past the meditation room is the private Stillness Room with the aforementioned zero-gravity chair and more kaleidoscope lights. Finally, the washrooms are located in the basement along with a sizeable and stunning art gallery that will change exhibits from time to time. This place is nice. It’s modern, its luxe, and it’s what your brain deserves.
Not a huge surprise given the neighbourhood, a lot of the crowd is older (40+) or working professional “Bay Streeters” who are a key target demographic for them. There was an even split of men and women and plenty of meditation newbies which is refreshing to see and satisfying another goal of MINDSET’s as they’ve made every effort to make meditation approachable to skeptics and novices.
- Programmable lockers
- Hair ties
- Art gallery
- Complimentary Muse Headband rental
- Brain Bar (tea station, kombucha, filtered water)
- Library & book store
- Retail boutique that includes B. LXR Brain Fuel, DoTerra Essential Oils, and MINDSET Meditation Journals
As the co-founder of MINDSET, Sean came up with the concept a couple of years ago when he personally discovered meditation and mindfulness. He believes meditation is the single best exercise you can use to improve your mental performance and overall well-being, and he wanted to create a space that made the practice accessible, attractive, and convenient for everyone – particularly those that don’t already regularly meditate.
His guided meditation teaching style is quintessentially relaxing, soothing and thought provoking, with some of his expressions clinging in our minds like sticky tac. Reminding us that we were in a brain gym, he told us we were doing the equivalent of a mental push-up every time we labeled our thoughts and set them aside (more on that technique below). Our fav though; “you don’t meditate to get better at meditation, you meditate to get better at life.” Boom.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
We’re torn on how to rate this. Obviously, this is a Hella Chill class, physically, but mentally, this shit is Way Hard. So we’re netting out at Middle of The Roadsies.
Considering the Focus Boost class is one of the three that includes access to the Muse Headbands, we were given a headband and iPod Touch on a stand when we first signed in. Once we were settled into the fancy meditation chairs, we put on the headbands being mindful of not having any hair behind our ears where some of the headband sensors do their magic, hence the need for a hair elastic. The staff helped get everyone set up as the Muse app immediately got to work calibrating and getting ready to read our brain waves.
Sean started by explaining that there is no bad or wrong way to meditate and that he would guide us through some breathing techniques and inject mental queues throughout class, but overall not to stress if we weren’t “getting it right”. He talked us through “labelling”, or “mental noting” which is a technique that directs thinking into a simple, rudimentary form, rather than letting it wander off into distraction. It does not involve analysis or judgment, rather, it simply means to give your current experience a one-word label. For example, your thought about your to-do list may be recognised as ‘planning’, or you might experience sensations, emotions, and mental activity. Once you recognise the experience, simply label it, file it away in your mental filing cabinet and return to the breath and your ideal meditative state. Simple, right?
This is one of the key mental activities the Muse headbands track, known as “recoveries”, and it’s super common for new meditators to have 100-150 recoveries in a half hour session (I had 100 the first class). It will also tell you how much of your meditation was spent in active (wandering attention), neutral (your mind in it’s natural resting state), or calm (deep restful focus on your breath) state. After many mental queues that were all targeted to keep us in the calm state, the half hour absolutely flew by. We felt re-energised, eager to ask questions about our results, and unquestionably relaxed. Sean wound down the class by asking everyone to smile a giant grin with our eyes still closed and actively FEEL the release of serotonin. It was such a beautiful moment to end an all together very beautiful experience. We’re so on board with this new type of gym, and we’re thrilled to give our abs and arms a break and exercise our brain instead.
To try this, see MINDSET’s full schedule here.