Keeping up with Sugar Ridge Events on Facebook

Sugar Ridge Facebook Events PageYou can always come to our website to see our Upcoming Retreats and Events, as well as our Events Calendar, but you can also keep up with the latest Sugar Ridge news by following our Facebook Events Page.  Just select Subscribe and you will have all the info on our upcoming retreats as soon as they are posted on Facebook.



Meditation Will Change Your Brain… For the Better!

When most people think about meditation, they think about learning to relax or lower their stress.  It certainly will do that, but it does so much more!  Feeling relaxed and stress free are beneficial states that will come and go.  While it is important to be able to induce positive states to centre ourselves, research has shown that these states can be converted into traits, leading to the increase of grey matter in the brain.  Specifically, grey matter associated with attention and emotional regulation.

This neurological change from state to trait, is important because increased attention and emotional regulation are the opposite of what ails us.  If you can have more attention (or are more mindful) you can keep yourself on track better towards what you want to or should be doing rather than letting life pull you around and being reactive to life situations.  Having greater emotional regulation means that a negative thought or feeling is just a noticed negative thought or feeling and not the first step in a downward-spiraling negative reaction that is at the core of anger issues, anxiety and depression.  Learn to strengthen these two traits and you will feel less stress more often, you will feel more in control, you will feel happier.  Not just after you meditate, but you will have an increased tendency for it the rest of your day or week.

In this great (16 min) TED Talk, Mathieu Ricard talks about this research and speaks of the importance of using meditation to increase altruism.  He makes a great case for it, but I think the real interesting gem are his slides on the grey matter changes in the brain.


This slide shows how when long-term, experienced meditators – with over 50,000 hours of practice! – are put in an MRI, their brains light up in significantly increased ways as compared to people with little to no experience with meditation.  (They are really using their brains!)  As impressive as this is, though, it can also be discouraging for new meditators as 50,000 hours is a high bar to reach… roughly 30 years of practice if you meditate for ~4 hours per day!  But, stay with us, because the benefits of meditation do not take that long to start taking hold!

Increased activity in meditater's brains.

(slide from Mathieiu Ricard’s TED Talk.)


After a mere 4 weeks of doing mindfulness meditation an average of 27 minutes per day, participants in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program showed a massive increase in grey matter density.  There is hope!

Increase in grey matter after only 4 weeks of meditation.

(slide from Mathieiu Ricard’s TED Talk.)


To actually change your brain for the better meditating for 4 weeks, for 27 min per day!  Wow!  That works out to roughly only 14 hours of practice for lasting neurological changes.  Many people spend much more time than that on Facebook or watching TV!  Think of the benefits.

So, is meditation a cure all?  No.  It isn’t even a guaranteed permanent change.  There is an expression that you get more of whatever you pay attention to.  Just as learning to watch your thoughts and emotions will make you more mindful, attentive, and have greater emotional regulation, if you slip back into paying attention to anger, you will get more angry, pay attention to worry and life seems scarier.  However, with less than 30 minutes per day of mindfulness meditation to bolster you against these slides to the negative, it is a very small payout for the tremendous payoff it gives.

Compare these results with the money spent on psychiatric medication, on the rampant lost hours from sick leaves from work, even from the subjective lost hours, days and years of your life spent being unhappy and less productive.  Meditation seems pretty darn cost effective.  It’s a gift to give yourself and improves your relationships with others in your life.  Imagine if mindfulness were part of the regular school curriculum?  What a world we’d have then!

So, learn to develop a meditation practice and if someone implies that you are dense, you can respond with pride that yes, your grey matter is very dense, thank you very much!


Learn mindfulness meditation in one of Sugar Ridge’s upcoming Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs:

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction 5-Day Retreat




Add Some Healthy Awesomeness by Vegan-ifying Your Baking

Brown FlaxseedsThis is Kurt, Sugar Ridge’s resident baker (dishwasher and snow removal service). One of the first things I learned when I started to make my baking more vegan for guests was how to replace eggs in a recipe.  There are actually many ways to do it, but a really easy one is to use ground up flax seeds and water:

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds     +     1/4 cup water     =     1 egg

You can buy ground flaxseeds, but I prefer to buy the seeds whole and then grind them as I need in them in a coffee grinder.  (The flax oil from ground seeds can apparently get rancid if left for very long un-refridgerated.)  Once the seeds are ground, mix them with the water and let stand for about 5 minutes until it becomes gelatinous.  You can then add this mixture to your recipe.  More water can be added if the recipe seems too dry.  (For those who can’t eat flax, chia seeds can be used in the same way.)

Flax and water seems the most all-purpose egg replacement that I have found, but another one that is great sometimes is:

1 medium banana (mashed)     =     1 egg

Because banana has a very distinct flavour, it may not be the best choice for many recipes.  However, it is because of its flavour that I have used it in my chocolate chip brownies on occasion.  Like with the flax and water, you may have to add (or leave out) some liquid from the recipe to get the right consistency.

I am not against eggs and do often eat them.  My philosophy is that if I can make food healthier and not lose the flavour or the joy of eating it, why not do it?  With that in mind, flax is an extremely healthy food.  Doctors and nutritional experts are always telling us to get more of it, so  why not find ways to add it in more often to the food we eat?

The same goes for bananas.  If I can add a fruit (or vegetable) to some food and the end result is that it will turn out as good or even better as if I didn’t, then I am definitely making the substitution.  It is the little things that we do that make the difference in our health.

We’ll be going over this and a whole lot more at our upcoming workshop next Saturday (December 13th): Holiday Vegan Cooking & Baking Classes Weekend.

Photo Credit: HealthAliciousNessLicense

Meditation is a good winter “medicine”

Meditation has been well researched and shown to be good for us in all sorts of ways. A recent Globe and Mail article talks of a study which showed that mindfulness meditation had a strong effect on the immune system.

Morning Meditation at Sugar Ridge Retreat CentreUsing a meditation group, an exercise group and a control group (that did nothing different), the researchers wanted to see which group would fare better during a month in the middle of flu season.  Both exercise and meditation lowered the number of people getting sick by 25%, but meditation had a few extra benefits.  Those that meditated and got the flu had the least symptoms and those in the meditation group missed the least work days.  That is pretty convincing for the power of meditation!

Meditation is one of the simplest things you will ever learn, but it will challenge you for the rest of your life.  If you are interested in learning to meditate (and get a pumped up immune system!) Sugar Ridge has several great programs for over this winter for you to try:

Yoga & Meditation Weekend Retreat
December 26 – 28

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Retreat
January 4 – 9, 2015

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction 8-Week Program
January 20 – March 10, 2015



Mindfulness Everywhere!

Mindfulness is popping up everywhere nowadays.  Google and General Mills (the Cheerios people) both have corporate Mindfulness programs, McGill University trains all of its medical students in it, even the U.S. Marines apparently have a program for their soldiers.  So, it should be no surprise that schools are adding mindfulness more and more into their school day. CBC Radio’s The Current had a great segment yesterday that discussed how B.C. schools are using mindfulness, to great success, in the classroom.

The benefits of mindfulness are no secret to us here at Sugar Ridge.  In fact, Sugar Ridge was born out of a desire to help others cultivate a greater sense of mindfulness in their lives.  Mindfulness shows up in every yoga class we run and there are very specific programs for individuals, like the upcoming Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Retreat, that allow you to take more time to understand and cultivate mindfulness into your daily life.  MBSR has many benefits (which is also discussed in the CBC podcast, above), but, beyond learning to slow down and lower stress in your life, it has been researched to effectively address issues surrounding anxiety, depression, chronic pain, ADD, and many other specific physical and mental health issues.  It is quite amazing that such a straightforward and simple process can have so much benefit to our lives!

As demonstrated by the corporate forerunners of Google and General Mills, companies are seeing how mindfulness not only helps employee wellness and productivity, but the bottom line: when people are less stressed and more focused, they miss less work and can work more effectively.  Sugar Ridge also has mindfulness-based programs to bring into the workplace.  From ongoing mindfulness training for your staff and half day workshops right in your workplace, to offsites at Sugar Ridge and corporately sponsored retreats.  There are many possibilities and the right program can be tailored for your company`s specific needs.

We are excited to keep mindfully bringing about greater awareness in individuals and organizations.  It ultimately makes for a happier world.  And, we`d all love that!


Become an Acupressure Instructor – For Yoga Instructors

A one day course for Yoga Instructors teaching basic Eastern Philosophy and training you to teach your students the Master Acupressure Points for common conditions such as Neck Pain, Back Pain, Headaches, Stress/Anxiety, Fatigue/Depression, Sinus Congestion.

From the ancient philosophies of Taoism and  Zen-Buddhism the art of Acupressure has been practiced for thousands of years. The points which have evolved are the ones used today in modern day Acupuncture and Physical Therapy. How to use these points to help treat everyday ailments and conditions is knowledge that everyone should have. 

As a Yoga Teacher you will learn to teach your students simple points for common conditions such as; Headaches, Neck Pain, Back Pain, Stress/Anxiety, Depression, and Sinus Congestion. 

  • Empower your students with knowledge they’ll use  for a lifetime!
  • Set yourself apart in the market!
  • Increase your referrals!
  • Organize seminars/classes for increased revenue!

A completely safe, easy and effective way to help your students help themselves!

Click here to learn more about this special one-day course.


Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre, located in Wyebridge Ontario Canada, near Barrie, Midland, Penetanguishene and the beautiful shores of Georgian Bay, is the perfect place for a weekend away for self-discovery, relaxation and rejuvenation. Whether your from the local area, Toronto Area or further, Sugar Ridge Retreat Centre provides a natural setting to reconnect spiritually and take a much overdue break.