Your commute is crowded. The train was late. Your boss sent a passive-aggressive email. While none of these quite count as the life-threatening situations for which our fight-or-flight response evolved, our bodies still go through the same physiological reactions to the stress: Adrenaline is pumped through the body. Your heart beats faster. Your blood pressure rises.
Over time, as we exist in this chronic low-level state of stress, we see long term negative effects on the body.
“Stress affects our body literally from the tops of our heads down to the tips of our toes,” explains Stephanie Kersta, MSc, RP, and co-founder of Toronto’s newest destination to de-stress, Hoame. “We see physical, cognitive, emotional and even behavioural effects of stress. Science shows that stress causes inflammation in the body which over time can promote the development of diseases.”
The good news? Simply stopping to pause, breathe, and de-stress for a few minutes a day can go a long way in rolling back the negative effects of chronic stress.
“Literally anytime (even just a couple minutes!) that you take for yourself can help to settle your mind and induce a pleasant state of calm,” says Carolyn Plater-Zyberk MSW, RSW, and co-founder of Hoame. “If you are looking for maximum stress busting benefits, aim for 25 minutes – although emerging research says even 10 minutes can positive psychological and physical impacts.”
Rewire Your Brain
Research has shown that mediation can actually help rewire the brain.
In one study, researchers found that in as little as 11 hours (not all at once – participants meditated in 30-minute sessions), participants displayed positive changes in “the integrity and efficiency of the connections with the ACC [anterior cingulate cortex], a major player in our ability to regulate our thoughts, behaviors,and emotions,” according to an article in Psychology Today.
What’s more, “meditation has been shown to increase grey matter in our brain, essentially responsible for everything from motor control to our emotions and everything in between,” Kersta explained. “We lose grey matter when we age, so by maintaining and even building grey matter, we slow the aging process (think the elusive fountain of youth for our brain!).”
Hoame is Where the Zen Is
Kersta and Plater-Zyberk had been using meditation and breath work with their clients for the last decade before they decided to take the benefits outside of their offices and bring them to the urban-dwelling public with Hoame.
“It has been exceptionally helpful to augment our traditional psychotherapy with breathing and meditation to combat anxiety, panic, insomnia, and even mood disorders,” said Plater-Zyberk of their practice. “We use an eclectic approach, as we find not one type of meditation works for all – we tailor each meditation to meet the needs of each client.”
At Hoame, while you won’t get a solo sesh with the co-founders, you’ll find a thoughtfully tailored experience.
There’s the Light Room with its living wall, greenery cascading from the ceiling, and a lighting concept designed to mimic natural light to boost energy. There’s the Dark Room which offers the eyes a rest from constant screen time and allows the body to slip into a rested state more quickly.
“We also designed the rooms to make meditation as accessible as possible,” said Kersta. “As clinicians we understand that a trauma background makes it difficult for someone to close their eyes, so our ceilings are designed to be interesting so even if you can’t close your eyes, you can still get into a meditative state. Both of us have used meditation in practice for over a decade so we incorporated feedback from clients in regards to what works and used that in our design of the classes and spaces.”
The studio also features a salt cave, packed with more than five tons of Himalayan pink crystal salt, which, has been known to improve respiratory ailments, lung function, certain skin conditions, blood circulation, and more. There’s also an infrared sauna with mood lighting, soothing music, and benefits including the release of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins.
Want to shop the practice? There’s a fully curated merch area at the front of the studio, with a signature scent designed alongside a pharmacist with an extensive education in aromatherapy, a signature tea blended with herbs shown to reduce blood pressure and increase a sense of calm, meditation cushions (the same ones you’ll sit on during a session), and more.
“When creating hoame, we designed it to be as stress-reducing as possible by adapting current peer-reviewed literature into a space that envelops you as soon as you walk in the door,” explained Player-Zyberk.
Classes are held throughout the day (including prime pre- and post-commute times) and there are “open gym” style blocks of time for free mediation in either the light or dark room.
Hoame is now open to the public at 430 Adelaide Street. Head to their website here to book a cushion or a salt room or sauna sit, and to find out about upcoming workshops.
Lead photo by Asdrubal Luna via Unsplash. All article photos by Brandon Allen