Stop & Smell the Flowers

This long weekend I had the pleasure to spend some quality time with a few good friends whom I don’t see enough, due to our busy lives and schedules. Since Spring is upon us, we wanted to take advantage of the weather to go for a walk, searching for Cherry Blossoms at High Park.

Despite the fluctuation between sun and rain while we were at the park, I’m glad we were able to catch a glimpse of the remaining Cherry Blossoms and saw other beautiful flowers and plants too.

I had an opportunity to try some of my amateur photography skills. I’m excited to share with you the beauty of Spring at High Park because I think my photos did justice to what we witnessed at the park. Enjoy! 🙂

 

The famous Japanese Cherry Blossoms that return every Spring at High Park

The famous Japanese Cherry Blossoms that return every Spring at High Park

 

Gorgeous magnolias, that we mistaken for Cherry Blossoms at first when we couldn't find any. hehe

Gorgeous magnolias, that we mistaken for Cherry Blossoms at first when we couldn’t find any. hehe

 

Bright, colourful and cheerful tulips, another sign of Spring

Bright, colourful and cheerful tulips, another sign of Spring

 

I am not sure what type of flower this is, but I love the vividness of the purple, and since it's my favourite colour, I took a close up of it. ^^

I am not sure what type of flower this is, but I love the vividness of the purple, and since it’s my favourite colour, I took a close up of it. ^^

This weekend’s nature walk with my friends through the sun and rain helped me to remember that no matter how crazy busy life gets, we still need to take time to stop and smell the flowers along the way, on our own and/or with people we treasure. This thought reminded me of this beautiful quote/poem by Bruce Williamson, which I would like to leave with you as food for thought:

“Walk in the rain,
smell flowers,
stop along the way,
build sandcastles,
go on field trips,
find out how things work,
tell stories,
say the magic words,
trust the universe.”

 

Happy Spring to all of you out there! 🙂

XO,

Violet

 

Finding Joy in Unexpected Places!

There really is joy and pleasure in discovering new places or things in our everyday life, unexpectedly.  Such is the case when I discovered two neat places that specialize in delicious, healthy & gluten-free food. 🙂

I would like to briefly share with you these two places I found in my own city with some friends.  If you’re a resident of or a visitor to Toronto or the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and have time to spare, check out the following places!

1. The Victorian Tea Room in Thornhill

It was easy to see the difference between the "regular" and gluten-free treats, and to take it as well because it was divided (gluten-free treats are on the right side).

It was easy to see the difference between the “regular” and gluten-free treats, and to take it as well because it was divided (gluten-free treats are on the right side); and the gluten-free pastries were on a separate plate.

If I had to choose to eat only one meal in a day, it would have to be English High Tea or Afternoon Tea.  High Tea originated from England and refers to the mini meal accompanied by tea, served between lunch and dinner. This is my favourite meal of the day because I love its combination of sweet and savoury, ranging from scones with sinfully thick and smooth Devonshire cream and sweet jam, to delightful finger sandwiches and scrumptious tiny pastries.  Aside from the obvious enjoyment of munching on these afternoon treats, the best part is drinking the aromatic tea, presented in the prettiest teapots and cups and saucers, in a cozy and relaxing environment with close friends and/or family members! 🙂

Anyways, now that I’m gluten-free, I thought I had to forego this little indulgence, unless I work hard in learning how to make gluten-free scones and the rest.  To my absolute delight I heard about this new tea place that opened about 6 months ago, and I learned it offered a gluten-free menu!!  It was also perfect timing to check it out as I had a friend who recently came back from England so we thought it would be lovely and very “English” to go for high tea there, and reminisced about good times we both experienced in England. 🙂  I really liked how the gluten-free treats were divided from the regular treats clearly.  Also, I thought the gluten-free treats still tasted delicious, and after eating them, I did not feel as full as I used to after eating my high tea bite sized food.  This tea place also had over 40 different types of tea from around the world to choose from and we had fun deciding on which one to drink! When I’m in the mood, now I know where to go to for my high tea craving!

To learn more about the Victorian Tea Room, see: http://www.victoriantearoom.ca

 

2. Goodbye Gluten  in Toronto

Despite its small space, it is very well stocked with all kinds of gluten-free products from fresh baked goods to prepared foods.

Despite its small space, it is very well stocked with all kinds of gluten-free products from fresh baked goods to prepared foods.

This place was definitely an unexpected surprise.  We were going to try out one of the best Indian restaurants in the city, and got lucky and found a parking spot right in front of the restaurant.  As we got out of the car, we saw this store, which was right beside the restaurant, and of course we went in!  Despite its small space, it was very well stocked with all kinds of gluten-free products that you can think of, from noodles to desserts to health food and freshly made food.  It’s really a gluten-free foodie’s paradise and an one stop gluten-free grocery shopping experience!!  They also have a mini gluten-free bakery section, producing freshly baked goods daily as they have a kitchen downstairs.  The desserts looked really yummy, but we couldn’t buy any since we had a big dinner ahead of us.  I will most definitely keep this shop in mind if I ever need a gluten-free cake for any special occasion or need to buy some gluten-free essentials. 🙂

Here’s this store’s website if you’re interested in getting more details: http://www.goodbyegluten.com

Aside having 100% gluten-free food items, this store also has food products that are nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, egg-free and carry vegan products!  What's not to love about this store?? :)

Aside having 100% gluten-free food items, this store also has food products that are nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, egg-free and carries vegan products! What’s not to love about this store?? 🙂

Surya Kriya: Discovering the Classical Roots of Yoga

At the Surya Kriya Program,  Toronto, July 2013

At the Surya Kriya Program, Toronto, July 6-7 2013

Over the first weekend of July, I attended a two-day yoga program/workshop organized by Isha Foundation.  I learned about this non-profit and non-religious yoga organization when I attended the Yoga Show in Toronto with 2 of my yoga friends a few months ago, and was attracted by the intensive teacher training program it offered to aspiring yogis/yoginis like me. 🙂  Therefore, I kept in touch with this foundation and learned that it was offering a program in Toronto, so of course I signed up for it!

Although I had no idea what kind of program I signed up for, I found the title “Surya Kriya” very mysterious and its name promising me further enlightenment of yoga.  I was super excited and thrilled to attend the workshop and didn’t mind the fact that I had to practise yoga on an empty stomach for both days.  Each day was 4 hours long of yoga practise.  As it turned out, I was in for a pleasant and new yoga experience!

Firstly, my perception of yoga has changed as a result of this unique learning experience.  I didn’t realize that the yoga I have been practising is actually a fusion of or modified versions of classical yoga poses.  For example, I’ve always done the Cat Stretch in 3 steps in my yoga studio.  Boy, was I in for a surprise, when I learned that the Cat Stretch can be stretched into 9 steps at this workshop!  It’s truly yoga in its purest classical form.  Lastly, I have learned that yoga should be part of my daily life and can be practised at home.  Prior to this workshop, I would schedule to go to my yoga classes 2-3 times a week, and practise yoga only at the studio.  From this workshop, I discovered that the most powerful yoga practise is when you can do it every day, which becomes daily routine like brushing teeth in the morning.

Now, I will share with you a few things that really stood out for me in the Surya Kriya Program, which has helped to deepen my understanding of yoga & practising it:

1. Yoga is not exercise.  It’s a body, mind and spirit experience, where we become whole with the universe.

~On our second day of the workshop, I felt this body/mind/spirit connection when we were asked as we practised our Surya Kriya routine, to visualize (mind) our better self (spirit) performing the poses perfectly, as we are doing it (body) simultaneously.  All 3 should always be active during yoga.

 

2. Yoga practise is internal cleansing.

 

3. Yoga is an enhancement of perceptiveness.

 

4. Practise yoga with devotion and reverence.

 

5. Wearing loose and comfortable cotton clothing is best.

 

6. There is no ego in yoga.

~Unlike the studio I go to for my yoga classes, this workshop is held in a huge room with no mirrors.  Sadhguru, the founder of Isha Foundation, explains that we need to be simple, back to the origins, when practising yoga.  We don’t need mirrors to watch ourselves to be the best or even use any props to help us achieve certain poses.  We simply let go of our ego, and listen to our inner self/voice, and try our best and do poses at our own pace or level.  We do not need to perfect a difficult pose right away.  It is ok to work towards it slowly.  It is only when we let go of our ego, we can find true inner peace or well-being, which is what yoga is all about in the first place.

 

Ultimately, I learned that I need to make Surya Kriya as part of my everyday life.  Surya Kriya is a 21 steps yoga routine that is required to be practised with devotion and reverence.  The definition of Surya Kriya is activating the energy of the sun within ourselves. (see here for more details: http://www.ishayoga.org/hata/teachertraining/surya-kriya/)  It needs to be practised twice a day for 40 days, and then once a day daily.  The idea is that after 40 days, it becomes a habit, which makes yoga practise so much more powerful and profound.  I am now in the process of making Surya Kriya become my daily routine, and will keep you posted on the impact it will have on me, when I’m ready. 🙂  Namaste!

Here are 3 quotes I love from Sadhguru: 1. "With proper practice of yoga , you create the right kind of chemistry where you are naturally peaceful, naturally joyous, naturally loving within you." 2. "You know everything about the world, but you do not know anything about yourself. This is a ridiculous way to live." 3. “How deeply you touch another life is how rich your life is.”

Here are 3 quotes I love from Sadhguru:
1. “With proper practice of yoga , you create the right kind of chemistry where you are naturally peaceful, naturally joyous, naturally loving within you.”
2. “You know everything about the world, but you do not know anything about yourself.
This is a ridiculous way to live.”
3. “How deeply you touch another life is how rich your life is.”