By Megan Harman
A new type of gym has opened its doors in Toronto – one that exercises your brain rather than your body. The new concept, called MINDSET Brain Gym, provides meditation classes for busy urban dwellers. And with meditation rapidly growing in popularity, MINDSET is poised to expand quickly to other cities.
MINDSET offers a variety of drop-in meditation classes in an environment that’s designed to serve as a relaxing oasis in the city. MINDSET also offers a carefully curated selection of meditation-related items available for purchase.
Sean Finnell, co-founder of MINDSET Brain Gym, says he came up with the idea for the concept a couple of years ago, when he personally discovered meditation.
“I felt like my attention was constantly being pulled in a thousand different directions, and when searching for a way to strengthen my own concentration and focus, I discovered the power of a regular mindfulness meditation practice,” Finnell says. “Meditation is the single best exercise you can use to improve your mental performance and overall well-being, and I wanted to create a space that made the practice accessible, attractive, and convenient for everyone – particularly those that don't already regularly meditate.”
MINDSET offers numerous types of classes, including ones focused on fostering performance, resilience, recharging and sleep, as well as a beginner class called Meditation 101. Each class includes 30 minutes of teaching and guided meditation, followed by an optional 15 minutes of discussion and reflection. The classes have capacity for up to 21 students per class.
For individuals who prefer private meditation, MINDSET also provides a zero-gravity “Stillness Pod,” featuring guided meditation through audio recordings.
The studio also offers brainwave-sensing technology, so that students can see how much their minds have wandered during sessions and track their progress over time. “That will appeal to the skeptical and highly-rational individuals that I believe have the most to gain from a regular meditation practice,” Finnell says.
The inaugural studio, located at 62 Cumberland Street in Toronto’s upscale Yorkville neighbourhood, is 2,600 square feet in size. Yorkville was an ideal location, Finnell says, given its proximity to both residential dwellings and office towers. A key target market for MINDSET is the corporate "Bay Street" crowd who, Finnell admits, have thus far been largely resistant to mindfulness and meditation. He says that segment of the population – along with athletes and individuals in other types of high-pressure roles – could benefit considerably from improvements in concentration, decision-making, stress levels and the ability to perform under pressure, which can result from practicing meditation.
The studio features cozy living spaces where customers can spend time before and after classes, as well as a “Brain Bar” with complimentary kombucha and green tea.
“Of our 2,600-square-foot studio, about 60% is dedicated to these living and lounge areas that really make our clients feel right at home the moment they walk in and help foster a community of like-minded individuals,” Finnell says.
The classroom, meanwhile, aims to immerse students in an even higher level of relaxation. It features custom ergonomic seating designed to enable optimal meditation positions.
“Every element has been curated for an optimal, multi-sensory meditation experience – from our light wall that bathes you in calming waves of blue to the surround sound rainfall soundscape and our custom blend of diffused essential oils,” Finnell says. “It's a truly one-of-a-kind space.”
MINDSET’s retail offerings include a meditation journal, a carefully curated book selection and meditation accessories. In the coming months, the company will also be rolling out its own collection of apparel, essential oils and tea blends.
Finnell anticipates very strong demand for the meditation classes and services offered by MINDSET.
“We're living in this increasingly stressed out and over-stimulated society where everything is competing for a piece of your attention, and people are more conscious than ever about their own mental well-being and health,” he says. “We're at a point where I think everyone is at least peripherally aware of the scientific benefits of meditation, so we're planning to ride this wave of curiosity and provide a space that will get a lot of skeptical individuals taking a second look at the practice and start to see some serious benefits from it.”
MINDSET’s second Toronto location is already in the works, with plans to open in late 2018 or early 2019, and more studios in major U.S. cities are likely to follow. Regions under consideration include Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, the Bay Area and New York, according to Finnell.
“Many of these markets already have seen dedicated meditation studios pop up over the past couple of years,” he says, “but we're bringing our unique performance-oriented spin with us and really aiming to grow the overall market of individuals making meditation and mental fitness a part of their overall healthy lifestyles.”
Finnell hopes to have 10 locations up and running in 2020. “We've built this business from the ground up to be highly scalable – from our curriculum and training to our technological integration – and I believe we can realistically achieve that target,” he says.