To Be or Not To Be Organic

More and more Consumers want certified organic foods because they know these foods are grown without genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and that they are grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, antibiotics or hormones.

Organic food is highly regulated in Canada. Every farm, producer, processor and distributor is inspected at least once a year by the Canada Food Inspection Agency to ensure the food is truly organic.

Organic agriculture is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

* Soil is enriched with compost, green manure and organic amendments.

* Weeds, pests and disease are controlled through crop rotation and selective use of natural non-chemical pesticides.

* Livestock are provided quality living environments and are raised without hormones or antibiotics and are not fed animal by-products. 

Natural and organic are not interchangeable terms. You may see “natural” and other terms as “all natural”, “free-range” or “hormone free” on food labels. These descriptions must be truthful, but don’t confuse them with the term ‘organic”.

Price comparisons are often made between organic and convention food items. Organic food is much more labour intensive because farmers do not rely on the same mechanical and chemical levels as conventional production. Organic certification and maintaing that status is expensive. Organic feed for animals can cost twice as much and of course there is no room for Government Subsidy as the organic farms tend to be smaller then convention farms and produce under the range for subsidy aid. But the Organic food industry is more efficient and direct with fewer steps in the supply chain from farm to table. When you buy organic food, your money goes to the actual growers of that food, and less to the shareholders and bankers behind the large grocery stores. This means you have a significant impact on farming families with your food dollars.

Did you know that conventional produce from the farm to your dinner table travels an average of 1,500 miles. This uses a lot of fossil fuel and emits carbon dioxide into the air. In addition produce must be picked while still unripe and then needs to be gassed to “ripen” after transport or the food is highly processed in factories using preservatives irradiation and other means to keep it stable for transport. Local food is the freshest food you can buy,  fruits and vegetables are harvested when they are ripe and thus full of flavour.

Many factors influence the decision to choose organic foods:

* Pesticides – Conventional growers use synthetic pesticides to protect their crops. When farmers spray pesticides it can leave a residue on the produce. People buy organic to reduce their exposure to this residues.

* Food Additives – Organic regulations ban or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing aids and fortifying agents commonly used in non-organic foods, including preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colourings and flavourings and monosodium glutamate.

* Environment – Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality.

Wether you go totally organic or opt to mix conventional and organic foods, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

Wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water to remove dirt, bacteria and chemical traces. You should even wash items with inedible skins like melons, citrus fruits, because cutting the rinds with a knife brings contaminants to the inside.

Select a variety of food from a variety of sources to reduce your likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.

Read food labels carefully, even if it says organic it can still be high in sugar, salt and fat ingredients, so opt for healthier alternatives.

Fruits and vegetables where organic labels matter the most because they have the highest pesticide levels when conventionally grown are:

Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Cucumbers, Potatoes, Grapes, Cherry Tomatoes, Kale, Summer Squash, Imported Nectarines, Peaches, Spinach, Strawberries and Hot Peppers.

In the Summer try growing your own produce in your garden, community plot, or windowsill container, you’ll know they don’t have pesticide residue and tending the garden is a healthy activity.

Through environmentally sound practices, organic producers and processors strive to sustain the health of the earth while providing food for those who inhabit it.



Meditation & Relaxation

Meditation

Meditation has great restorative powers and helps you to work at your most efficient level by keeping your mind clear throughout the day, meditation can also help you sleep better at night.

Sit in a comfortable position, scan your body and let go of any tension you may be holding in your face, neck, shoulders, upper body, hips, legs and feet. Close your eyes and breathe in an easy simple rhythm. Do not try to shut out sounds and other sensations happening around you, just let them be there and focus on your breathe drawing your attention away from the distractions. Be aware of the coolness of the air at the tip of your nose as you breathe in and the warmth of the air as you breathe out. Thoughts will inevitably arise to distract you, you can not force the mind to be empty, but do not let yourself react to these disturbances. Continue to focus on your breathe just observe and release the distractions as they happen. If you find it hard to focus on your breathe you can use a simple mantra “So Ham” it means I am that in the universal life force. Silently say “So” as you breathe in and “Ham” as you breathe out. Or you can try another simple mantra like “Om”

Eventually as you practise meditation more frequently you will learn to sit quietly but alert, observing the stillness and feeling of space. You will let yourself be in the present moment, with no thought of future or past. Becoming good at meditation takes practice, but the benefits are definitely worth your efforts.

Relaxation

Lying down is the best position for relaxation. Make sure you wear comfortable clothing and that you are warm, use a blanket if necessary. Start with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart, arms away from your body and backs of hands on the floor. The centre of your head should be on the floor if this is not comfortable then use a pillow under your head.

Stretch out through your arms to your fingertips, then relax the arms and shoulders, unless you have a back problem stretch out your legs. Flex your toes towards you and then let go. Close your eyes, relax your jaw so the teeth part slightly. Smile a little to relax your face, swallow and let your neck relax.

Become aware of your breathe entering and leaving your body with the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen. Enjoy the quiet and calm. When you are ready become aware of your surroundings, slowly wiggle your fingers and toes and take one or two deep breaths. Turn on to your right side in fetal position for a few more breaths with your eyes closed before you slowly make your way to a seated position. Open your eyes.



Health Benefits of Yoga

 Developed in India, yoga is a spiritual practice that has been evolving for over 5000 years.  Practicing yoga postures is a great way to get yourself in shape both for your body, mind and spirit. Did you know that your yoga practice can also help you manage many health conditions and diseases such as anxiety, arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes and headaches. Yoga creates a sense of well being and calm, and stimulates your immune system which reduces stress and tension.

Not only are you improving muscle tone, flexibility, strength and stamina, but you are also boosting your self esteem and improving your concentration and creativity. You may find yourself happier, less stressed and feeling a greater sense of balance.

There are many different styles of yoga and even though they are based on the same fundamental poses, each style of yoga has a different focus.

Hatha – Slow paced, gentle and focuses on breathing and meditation. Great for beginners who want to learn the basics of yoga.

Ashtanga – Considered a power yoga, with fast paced and intense lunges and push-ups. Great for fit people looking to maintain strength and stamina and improve ones spiritual self.

Vinyasa – Similar to Hatha with basic poses and synchronized breath movements. Emphasizing the 12 poses of the Sun Salutations with each pose being matched to breathe. Good for both new and advanced yogis seeking to strengthen their bodies.

Iyengar – Focuses on body alignment using different props like straps, blocks, blankets to strengthen the body. Standing poses are often held for longer periods of time. Great for those that want to learn  the proper alignment in each pose and those with balance issues.

Hot Yoga – Practised in a room heated between 95 – 100 degrees. Great for loosening tight muscles and sweating out toxins. Helps speed up recovery from injuries and enhances your flexibility. Great for beginners and advanced yogis and those with physical injuries.

Of course there are many other types of yoga from Kundalini to restorative yoga, but it’s important for you to connect with which type of yoga is right for you. Understanding the different teaching methods and practices will help you choose the right yoga experience for you and will make your practice more rewarding and fulfilling

Beyond the health and fitness benefits, yoga improves your mental health. Reducing stress, improving relaxation, and leaving you with a sense of peace. Yoga is designed to strengthen your body, but it is a meditative exersise that creates a healthy balanced body and peaceful state of mind.

The holistic effects of yoga is attained when you become not only physically stronger and more flexible but also mentally stronger and more flexible. If the practice of yoga helps you to find peace, heal your body and create a better sense of wellbeing, it’s only logical that you will become more accepting of your spiritual nature. It is this realization that will give your practice more meaning, but also embodies your thoughts, actions and purpose, leading to a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

There is no age discrimination in yoga. Yoga has been proven to reduce pain levels among seniors with arthritis and teaches kids to be active, relive stress and to think positively. The benefits of yoga are endless.

The Girls Great Escape at the Old Mill Toronto is coming back, mark your calendars for November 8th, 2014.   See the itinerary from our last Girls Great Escape here, the Yoga dance class was a treat!