Movement Therapy- How Moving Can Have a Powerful Impact on Your Mood

Movement Therapy- How Moving Can Have a Powerful Impact on Your Mood

We’ve all been there. It’s 3pm and you’re drained. The mood is low. The energy is low.  The thoughts running through your mind are getting dark, toxic, heavy. You are in need of intervention before things get really sticky. What do you do? Most of us are already desperate for more time so we turn to something fast to pick us up. We hit up social media for a distraction, eat sugar, drink a coffee but rarely do we turn toone of the most proven ways of boosting our mood – moving. 

 Society has tried to make moving regularly a thing of the past. We work at a computer, check the weather on our phone, ride transit or anUber so we can get those last emails in and sit for hours in the same position. Yet moving your body can help move you out of a bad mood. Here are 5 proven ways moving can improve your mood.

5 Ways that Movement Can Improve Your Mood

 1.   Moving Shifts Energy 

Let’s consider for a moment what a mood is. It’s a feeling that isn’t passing and contains trapped energy. When energy is stuck it creates a block and the toxic thoughts that created it can’t pass through freely. You may feel inseparable from them.

As someone who suffers from depression I know it’s no simple solution to change your thoughts. Some thoughts are your program (your beliefs) and a program is designed to keep going no matter what other alternative thoughts are introduced. Simply trying to change the thought alone once its turned into mood, isn’t going to work. You need more. You need to shift the energy. 

 To make this shift, you have to remember that energy performs work. How does the human body do work? It does it when it performamental or physical tasks. If the mental task is the one that’s creating the energy then performing a physical task could help move the energy and remove the blockage that’s partly creating the mood. Going for a walk , a run, dancing for ten minutes or working out all use energy and may leave you clearer, calmer and more receptive to new thoughts, ideas and solutions that couldn’t get in before. 

2.   Movement Increases Breathing 

 We breathe to take in fresh oxygen and fuel the muscles but focused and deep breathing can also have a tremendous impact on mood.  Taking deep breaths sends signals to your brain to calm down and messages to your muscles to relax. All of this is telling your parasympathetic system that you are in control, you are safe, you can relax.  

 Deep breathing is how we get oxygen to our muscles and organs. The brain is the most powerful and influential organ you have, it regulates everything in your body. Oxygen to the brain improves blood flow and promotes better brain function,which could help with clarity and cognitive thinking. Optimizing the brain is critical to reframing our thoughts and finding solutions. In addition, providing the brain with more power through breathing may strengthen the connection with the rest of the body, helping to give you a sense of overall well-being. 

3.   Relaxes Muscle Tension

 There is a direct link between tension in our body and tension in our brain. Excessive tension in our muscles can often show up as tension in the brain in the way of a heavy mood like anxiety or depression. To demonstrate this, I instruct students to notice what happens to their body when they are scared by something like a loud siren or the sound of a car screeching to a halt. Almost everyone reports tightening in places like shoulders, chest, back and stomach. Then I ask them to recall what their muscles feel like after sitting at work or in a car for a long time. It’s often the same tension in shoulders, chest, stomach and back.

 It’s important to notice here that the physical result of fear and physical immobility creates the same sensation. But the deepest part of your brain doesn’t know where the tension is coming from. It has no way of determining if the tightness in your shoulders is from sitting at your desk or from lifting your shoulders to protect you from being grabbed by a predator. The mind is simply trained to be on guard when it senses muscular tension in case it is in danger and it sends messages to you to watch out, be careful. To most of us we simply feel this as anxiety. There is no easy way to untangle this reflex between the body and mind but there are ways to use movement to release physical stress to promote a sense of well-being and safety.

 Peforming movement that helps balance the muscles and promote better biomechanics as well as an overall strong, flexible body can have an impact on how you distribute your tension and reduce the effect that individually tight muscle groups or areas have on the mind. Full body workouts and movement where every muscle has the opportunity to work can help ensureyour brain doesn’t get misguided signals from your muscles that an impending danger is near.

4.   Provides A Positive View of the Body

 At times mood can be wrapped up in our negative view of ourselves in comparison to others. Part of the greatest comparisons to others is in our physical appearance. In Canada alone a reported and treated, 2% to 3 % of women suffer from eating disorders and 1 in 5 women admit to being dissatisfied with their body. This kind of judgement against our own bodies can make us prisoners in our own self waged war. Using movement that proves what our body is capable of doing and shows us our strength, not our weakness, can spark a deep respect for our bodies. 

Another fascinating way to use movement to improve mood is to pay attention to the physical sensations that come up when we move – sweat dripping, blood pumping, heart racing, muscles twitching. Experiencing what it is to be alive can break up the feelings that accompany dark moods. 

 Dropping into our body may also call attention to something we are actively ignoring. When I ignore issues in my life,physical pain presents itself. Moving can guide us to pain and force us to hear what’s happening. Actively listening to our body can provide an opportunity to sit with it, acknowledge and deal with real issues in our lives that we might be trying to avoid and lead us to feel down. 

 5.   Movement Can be Joyful

At times we lose the joy in our lives. Joy comes from doing things that are fun, free and feel good. Remember being a kid and riding your bike at full speed down a hill, diving into a pool, dancing to music at full blast? You can capture that feeling again and feel the freedom and energy that comes from movement you love and inspire joy in your life. 

 As adults we are focused on outcomes. What will this work do for my career? What will this workout do for my body? What will this sacrifice do for my relationship? What if we just focused on what the act feels like instead of thinking about what it will do for us? Just for a moment, imagine doing something just because you love it. If we find movement that sparks joy in us and we want to do (even if it has no benefit apart from the act itself) we can find joy. True joy can lift sadness and bring balance back to our lives if we’ve been disconnected, overworked and frustrated for a long period of time. 


 Movement can be therapy and an inexpensive solution accessible to most. The biggest benefit to using movement to lift a mood is that it has so many other health benefits. The next time you feel like a difficult mood isn’t changing try fun and challenging bursts of cardio that use large amounts of energy, increase breathing and work through tension. If you have the time and means, try feel good movements with a flow like dance, Pilates, Yoga, Essentrics or Tai Chi to focus on balancing the body, getting intouch with the sensations of movement and deepen breathing and building a respect for what your body can do. Even using tools like foam rollers or fitness balls on very tight areas can encourage release, promote blood flow and have a profound effect on the mind as the block releases, tension drains and we relax. 

 Using your body to help your mind and mood can have a profound effect on your overall sense of wellness. Remember that you are not your mind or your body, you’re a combination of both with a spark of energy that fuels them. Learning how the mind and body can work with or against each other is the first step in improving the function of both and living your best life possible.


The Y Women, Y the Grandmother

The Y Women, Y the Grandmother

This blog was commissioned by Soldiers of Creation, an organization brining awareness to sexual assault survivors and their allies.

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Grandmother. Just the very word paints a picture of an incredible woman. The mother of all mothers, the seed in the garden from which our families have sprung. It is her that sets the tone for our experience in life, it is her legacy we live from and carry on and she can inspire and influence us to become who we are today. 

 I remember my own grandmother, her tight bun and warm smile. Only once did I see her hair out of its bun. It was wild and long, beautiful, dark and full of youth. But I think she may have worn her hair the way she kept her feelings - neat, tidy, unseen and predicable. Beneath the surface there may have been so much more. 

 My grandmother raised four boys on her own after her husband died shortly after World War II. In the 1950s she chose to run the fabric shop her and her husband started and support her young family on her own. Everyone around her encouraged to give the business up to her eldest child my father, then 12, simply because he was a man. Despite public shaming and pressure to remarry and take her place as a woman in the small Maltese village she grew up in, instead she became the first women in her community to own and run a business. 

 It must have been a struggle to live by her values, ignore what the world had to say about her place as a woman in society and decide on her own path. But my grandmother was a strong, practical, smart, fair, funny, kind, warm woman who smelled like perfume and wore black to honor her husband, the love of her life, until the day she died. She knew how to run a business, raise a family and find time for her faith every day. 

 This was a woman who stood up against the patriarchy and refused to take a back seat simply because she was female.  Eventually she was beloved and respected by her community, especially the younger generations of women, as they realized what she had done and the difficulties that must have come with it.

 I learned from her that if you care enough about something, you will find a way to make that thing important in your life. 

 I learned the challenges and pressures of the world may have the ability to crush you but if you don’t crumble you emerge a diamond that shines for others to see. 

 I learned that just because the world hands you a difficult situation you don’t need to carry it for the rest of your life. You can deal with it and then let it go.  

 I learned you can be a joyful person and love others even if you have sorrow or grief and  that tragedies or struggles don’t need to define how you treat others. 

 Grandmother. Mother of our own parent. Hard lessons to be learned and shared when the time is right with the daughters and sons and generations who follow.  Grand women forging new paths to make more choice available for the people who come after us. 

Image by : Leigh La

Making New Year Resolutions Stick (or any other time of the year resolutions for that matter)

If you’re anything like the rest of us the New Year brought with it a sense of refresh, renew and an opportunity to start things off right. The most common resolution? To get in better shape and health, primarily through diet and fitness. We go into it as a collective, an entire society ready to turn over a new leaf and be better for ourselves, our loved ones, our communities. The first few days are filled with power, release and a willingness to let go. For some of us this hope and commitment lasts for months, but for most of us by the middle of January we are back to square one, if not a few steps behind. Why does this happen when we go into our renewal with such assurance that this year is to be ‘the year’ and what can we do to change that? 


A few things have struck me over the years about how I work with these types of physical goals as an individual, and with the opportunity to work with people on their own wellness goals it seems like there are commonalties in all of all of our efforts and hence, our failings. It has become clear that as a species, when it comes to our physical bodies we gravitate towards resistance. Quite honestly, how else do you become the top of the food chain on a planet so diverse with such little physically dominant traits without something special in your thought patterns, your instincts, your community structure or your defiance? The first way we survived as a species? We adapt to our environment, usually by changing it – not ourselves. But what works for us can also work against us in the subtlest of ways. 


The human body is designed to survive by staying as close to our original selves as possible while the world around us changes. Our brain’s structure hasn’t changed much since we were foraging for food and fighting for survival. Food was not always readily available, and we learned to gorge when we needed to, eating as often as possible storing reserves of fat to live off when food became scarce again. We had to do this before the advent of fire which allowed us to change our environment and have more choices and resources for food. 


This instinct to eat to excess when scarcity is imminent is hard wired into our brains. When we get into a state of deprivation (which is the basis for most diets undertaken not only in the New Year but in all months before and after) our brain begins to obsess about food. If you are on a calorie restrictive based diet your body is hungry because it’s getting less calories than it did before. As your body fat goes down your hunger responses increase to resist the change. Here to save the day (and the species from extinction) is our instinct and primal response which says ‘There’s a problem. You are in danger of extinction. Eat and eat as much as you can of high calorie foods.’ And there you have it. You have entered the cycle of trying to work against what your brain is telling you to do by trying to use willpower, control, shame, guilt instead and your brain will use every trick in the book to make sure you survive. This is the restrictive diet trap.


In addition to having your brain encourage you to eat when you reduce your calories, there are also certain nutrients the body needs to survive. If you aren’t getting them in your diet your brain will continue to tell you to be hungry until you get them. The simply calorie restrictive diet sets up a horrible and emotionally overwhelming cycle of guilt, control shame of failure and all it really is, is your amazing body trying to get what it needs to be functioning at its best. Eating half a cupcake instead of whole one will leave your body starving for nutrients and starving for nutrients will always make your brain tell you to eat. 


Another way we survived? The incredible human body learned how to do the most amount of work for the least amount of effort, so we could do morewith less energy. Every machine that’s been created on the planet was created to reduce your work and get you more efficiency from it. Our body is no different, it is a machine, one you live in where your soul, personality, energy or whatever you want to call it can get work done. Once the body has figured out a movement, a routine or a weight load it looks for ways to make it easier. This is why we plateau in our fitness. The human body masters a physical task and makes it easier. What burns 150 calories in 30 minutes in week one will likely burn less by week four unless you are learning how to challenge your body in new ways. 


Couple these two basic human body facts together and you get a body that thinks it’s at the brink of starvation working with a brain that says, ‘hey I’m starving I have to learn how to burn LESS calories in this movement’ and there is very little hope for you as an individual to overrule hundreds of thousands of years of design. 


How then do we make a commitment to excess weight loss or getting physically stronger if theses hard wired human responses are coded into our DNA? You change what you are putting into your body instead of restricting what you eat, and you constantly change your movement patterns to ensure you never get very efficient at anything. This way your body doesn’t think it’s starving and your body never masters a movement. This will allow your brain to relax as you dive into a new way of eating. Replace instead of restrict. Move differently instead of more of the same thing.


Here are a few examples of how this can work: 


If you are used to eating sugar or drinking alcohol (and who isn’t over the Christmas holidays) replace the poor quality, zero nutritional value processed sugar with fruits, particularly fruits like apples or citruses which also come with a huge array of vitamins or fibers which your body needs. I am one hundred per cent against the idea that you should cut out fruit in any diet. Fruit is literally the easiest food for the human body and in a large part it’s how we survived over the years. Fruit fell off the trees, so it was easy to find since we are quite small compared to other species, it suits the human palette and it is the most accessible for us to eat without any tools since we can use our hands or teeth to get to the most nutritional part. And no heat is required to make it edible making this one of the first foods the human body got sustenance from.


When I hear of a diet that excludes fruit I run the other way. I don’t believe there is any way that consuming more animal products in place of fruits is a wise wellness choice for the balance of the population. If you are competing in a fitness contest or looking for the ultimate and extreme low body fat physique, then I understand why you would eliminate fruit, but I don’t recommend it and I would never remove fruit from my own diet. Fruit will fill you up, add fibre to your body and your hunger response won’t kick in as quickly. It will provide nutrients you need so you won’t get the lack of nutrition cue from your body that you would get from low quality, zero nutritional value processed sugar plus you’ll avoid the insulin surge that sends most of us into a binge, which is an entire subject on its own. Replacing sugar with natural high-quality natural sugar instead of reducing the amount low quality sugar in a calorie reduction diet will help you stick to your goals by avoiding having your brain telling you to eat more as it sends you into a tailspin in search of nutrients. 

Another example of how to replace instead of restrict in a diet is to replace highly processed foods (yes that includes a lot of protein bars and powders) with whole foods. Eat more vegetables instead of less of the boxed pasta. Look for foods that are as close to their natural state as possible and consume those in higher quantities. Eating more vegetables, clean diary, nuts, legumes and lean meats (although I’m a vegetarian and have been for years) is a much better option than selecting a lower calorie version of a poor choice like the lower calorie meals that you can get in the frozen section. Avoid that aisle and shop in the fresh section instead.


One more note on diet. Counting calories can be a very dangerous game. If you’re anything like I am there is an all or nothing mentality that I live with and I need to learn to use that to my advantage, not my disadvantage. If I focus on counting calories I will never be happy. There is always a lower number, there is always something I forgot, and this is a sure-fire way to become obsessive about what you eat which is sure to set you up for much bigger problems with disordered eating than any minor weight gain could ever give you. 


Of course you need to have a good idea of how many calories you need a day and understand where the bulk of the calories are coming from to ensure that you balance things out to meet your goals and stay healthy in general but once you understand that nuts or grains and certain fruits like avocados are high calorie foods you will know that you can’t eat them at every meal or as every snack and you can balance them with lower calorie nutritional whole food snacks and bases for your meals. If you don’t know how many calories you need see a nutritionist or do some research on this and listen to your body. If you are hungry all of the time maybe you actually need more, if you are doing a lot of activity you definitely need more. Yes, it is true that in order to lose fat you need to stay in a certain calorie range but where the calories come from is critical and high nutrition choices will provide you with what you need to be at your best health and help avoid the restrictive diet trap.


When it comes to movement ensure that you find ways to challenge your body safely or create a new type of routine. You can do Yoga every day for the mental or spiritual benefits you get but without something else to challenge your body in a new way you will not get physically stronger. You may in fact run the risk of getting injured as the body learns to adapt and goes to the larger or more used muscle groups for movements that once used entire muscle chains. Remember your body adapts fast to routine and it needs to be confused about how to do a movement for it to continue to progress. And this doesn’t just apply to the Yogi or the Pilates buff you cannot weight train over and over with the same moves or resistance and expect the body to continue to be challenged in new ways either. You need to find different way to challenge the body by adding in varied kinds of dynamic bodyweight-based routines or more cardio always ensuring you are switching up movements and progressing with higher reps or higher weight when you do weight train. 


Movement and fitness also need to be mentally stimulating or you will get bored and stop. It must provide some kind of positive benefit to you past the physical and everyone is different. If you are going to a class that gets you results, but you dread getting there or you’re bored as you do it you won’t stick to it. The key is to find movement that is more than just a workout, it’s a work in to our mental and emotional capacity as well. And while I say that I realize that a Yogi might dread the idea of a conditioning class but perhaps there’s another benefit like the strength derived from the conditioning that will lead to a mental gain and that’s important to recognize. A fun, motivating trainer will help you realize those benefits and ensure that you are able to understand how this works for every part of your life. If you’re working out alone music can help keep you motivated and reduce the boredom.


If you are able to make these shifts in your diet and fitness regimes you may find that this year, by March you are still be eating and moving in this new way and reaching your goals. This way of working with the entire human body including the brain and instincts is one the ways I’ve met the wellness goals I’ve set. While there is no perfect fix to maintaining a personal goal, and we all have other complex factors that create success or failure, this is a way to use what the human brain and body are designed to do to. Working with thousands of years of hard wired instincts can support your commitment to greater wellness and physical strength and avoid the painful war between your willpower and your human body. I promise that your body will win every time, it’s just too smart and well designed and willpower alone is usually not as developed as your anatomy. Use what you’ve got – a brain that wants to be nourished and doesn’t want to be hungry and a body that craves different movement, new challenges and greater strength and let us know where you are at Easter. 


Early Morning Workouts - What's the real benefit?

Rise, shine and workout then reap the benefits!

You’ve already taken the leap to making fitness a priority in your life. So the question is, what is the best time to workout? If it works with your schedule research shows there are a number of striking benefits to an early morning workout regimen. The most significant benefit is you’re more likely to work out consistently – and with consistency comes a better mood, improved fitness andincreased immunity.

In addition to setting up your day, an early morning workout jump starts your metabolism so you’ll burn more calories during the day through a process known as EPOC – or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. And there are even more awesome benefits to an early morning workout.

Increases daily activity level– by starting out with a burst of morning activity, you’ll boost your overall activity level throughout the day.

More efficient muscle building– if you’re interested in strength training, morning workouts are excellent because of higher levels of testosterone present in the body after you wake up. 

Lower calorie consumption– it may seem counterintuitive but according the a study in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, brain scans of women who looked at images of food after a 45-minute workout were actually less enticed by yummy snacks.

Burn more fat– starting the morning with fitness before food means fat is the main fuel for your workout.

 Lower blood pressure + type-2 diabetesrisk– this is especially noticeable if you exercise without eating first versus people who consumed carbs before working out.

Better sleep– one of the main benefits of an early morning workout is you’ll sleep more soundly at night.  Working out later in the day, especially closer to bedtimes can increase stimulation and body temperature making it more challenging to fall asleep. 

According to Cedric Bryant PhD, chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise in San Diego, people who work out first thing in the morning are more likely to stick to their routine. "The thinking is that they get their exercise in before other time pressures interfere," Bryant told WebMD. "I usually exercise at 6am, because no matter how well-intentioned I am, if I don't exercise in the morning, other things will squeeze it out."  He also recommends that if you do choose to start your day with fitness activity, it’s good to include a longer warm up because your body temperature is lower in the morning. 

That said it’s important to also understand your own circadian rhythm and how a workout complements your lifestyle. If you’re a night owl who struggles with getting up in the morning, this might not suit you. Alternately maybe you like a lunchtime workout to break up your day. And anytimeyou can take time out to work on your flexibility, mobility, strength and overall fitness is a great time!




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A well-lived life is about balance. Balance can improve wellness, happiness and satisfaction.  And of course, being imbalanced can throw everything into a tailspin. The same principles apply to your fitness routine. If you’re only concentrating on either strength programs or flexibility programs, you need to introduce a workout to balance these fitness regimes.

This is where a program like Essentrics – with its mix of strengthening and flexibility – brings equilibrium to your routine and balances out your efforts at the gym helping to get you the best results from your workouts. In fact, Flare magazinerecently named Essentrics one of the best new fitness classes in Toronto.


Before dropping into what Essentrics actually is, let’s talk about how your muscles work:

To create movement, the muscle and connective tissue around your joints contract. Imagine you’re doing a bicep curl: To lift the weight, your bicep shortens in concentric motion but as the weight is lowered down, there’s an eccentric contraction, which is a lengthening in the bicep to control the weight and prevent a sudden drop, which could cause injury to your shoulder or elbow.

Isolating that eccentric contraction–the lengthening that takes place while lower the weight–is a powerful way to both strengthen and lengthen muscle. And that’s what we focus on in an Essentrics class.

Essentrics Class

Essentrics is a full body stretching and strengthening program focused on fluid and dynamic movement, aimed at working the body from top to bottom in a lengthened position. It can balance tight, shortened muscles as well as strengthen loose muscles, providing an ideal combination for all bodies and abilities.

Each class follows the same flow by first opening the body in standing dynamic and lengthening movements. While standing, we give extra toning and strengthening time to legs and arms by integrating our own body weight as resistance. Halfway through a routine, we use the floor or the barre to work the legs and abs. We end classes with deep and dynamic stretches which means we move while we stretch to unlock and release tension in muscle chains.

Be prepared – using body weight vs. hand weights doesn’t mean these movements are not challenging. The length on the muscle gives a good amount of resistance to work with.



The Essentrics technique is the brainchild of Miranda Esmonde White, a Montreal-based movement coach. Her inspiration for the Essentrics program came from ballet training, physiotherapy and Tai Chi. You can see and feel hints of dance and ballet, but will also recognize some fluid movements from Tai Chi and specific exercises that are physio-based in nature.

The combination is a unique movement that stretches individual muscles as well as the complete muscle chains and surrounding fascia.

What is Fascia?

Fascia is the connective tissue that binds the body together on the inside. It weaves through muscle and tissue and literally holds us together.

When fascia gets stuck from a consistently tight area or stiff joint, it can create problems with mobility and range of motion, which are major setbacks for anyone hoping that fitness and exercise will improve their overall health. Fascia is also a major reason why women suffer from cellulite. Cellulite is fat trapped under fascia webbing which creates a honeycomb look on the body.

In short, fascia is the body shaper so it needs to be strong, flexible and malleable.


  • Relieve joint stress in the shoulders, hips, and spine

In Essentrics, lengthening the muscle and the fascia around it unlocks the body by decompressing and relieving stress on the joints. It’s particularly helpful for the shoulders, hips and spine; all areas where major injuries can occur. Keeping the body loose and adding this type of technique into a high intensity workout routine can also help reduce injuries that come from repetitive use of a muscle.

  • Break up scar tissue

Essentrics and its movement can also help to break up scar tissue and restrictions that have formed from previous injury sites. Women can build up scar tissue and compression during or after pregnancy around the hips and abdomen from abdominal pressure and C-sections.

  • Lean out your waist, arms and thighs

The side effect–and a nice benefit–of this type of lengthening work is that the muscles may look leaner. When Essentrics is part of a regular fitness routine, these changes are noticeable in the waist, arms and thighs–areas that get special attention in this program. And when we focus on creating longer muscles in the body, the result is a noticeable difference in muscle tone and body shape.

  • Reduce signs of aging

Another benefit of a program like Essentrics, which is low-impact and mobility-based, is that it can help reduce the signs of aging. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Aging is actually the loss of muscles and cellular regeneration in the body. As we age, many of us start to slow down or find our movements become more limited, and we start to stiffen up in our joints. A program focused on reversing (rather than increasing) the tight and stiff areas in our body can dramatically slow down the aging process, keeping us moving, mobile and vibrant.

  • Improve posture

A major sign of aging and imbalances in the body (old and young) is in our posture. Over time, our spines begin to lose muscle structure and bone density–we slump our shoulders which puts a strain on the body and mind. Essentrics focuses a lot on the postural muscles–the big back and core muscles supporting the spine. This is a huge health benefit. You can exercise all you want but if your program isn’t considering what the inside of the body is doing, then it needs to be balanced out if your goal is overall long term greater health and wellness.


My experience with Essentrics

When I first started to do Essentrics in my early 30s, I had a severe yoga-related injury that was preventing me from working out. After a few weeks of doing the program 3 to 5 times each week, my injury subsided and I was able to add more rigorous workouts. And once I had seen the benefit for my overall health and fitness, I continued to make it a major part of my fitness routine. Over the years, it has helped keep me mobile, fit, lean and balanced. When I do get injured, I heal quickly and when I perform other workouts, it takes less time to recover from muscle overuse.

Who else can do Essentrics?

This is a program that can grow with you and your needs. I’ve seen young athletes add Essentrics into their training as an active recovery program to improve range of motion and flexibility, and I’ve seen elderly people with incredible stiffness begin this program to help them regain mobility. Often people suffering from injuries can do this program, and find it aids in recovery through improved blood flow. With modifications, it can be a safe program to perform during and after pregnancy.

Essentrics is also a program that can be done by the 60+ demographic. With the right modification and instruction, doing an Essentrics routine at a slower pace and keeping the movement loose and ‘smaller’ can help keep muscles active and mobile as we age without over-stressing our joints.


If you’re interested in Essentrics and willing to try something new, you can find Essentrics at studios including at  in Toronto. Framewrk hosts a class almost every day of the week. 

At Framewrk, we believe in balance for the body so you’ll find a good mix of high intensity and unique movement classes to choose from, with a lot of options for live Essentrics classes. We can be found at 9 Davies Avenue, Unit 206 in Toronto, online at or @framewrktoronto on Instagram or Facebook.

Active recovery balances the body and is becoming an undeniable necessity in fitness regimes. Mindful movement emphasizing body awareness is an amazing way to stay healthy and mobile. If you love to run, then run! But don’t forget that your body needs balance to compensate from the harsh impact of the ground under foot on the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders.

Josephine Cuthill | Owner & Fitness Instructor at Framewrk Studio

Josephine Cuthill is a Toronto-based fitness instructor who teaches Essentrics, Barre and Conditioning classes. After discovering the power of movement, she started Framewrk studio to help others explore new movement practices and feel the best in their own bodies, minds and lives. Josephine and Framewrk can be found at, or in person 9 Davies Avenue, Unit 206 Toronto ON. You can contact her by phone at 647-352-6683, by email at, or connect on Instagram or Facebook @framewrktoronto,


Meditation and Mindfulness Training for Newbies

Meditation is a word that gets bandied about a lot lately. To some people it’s inspiring and crucial. To others a little bit daunting conjuring images of cross-legged monks sitting in motionless silence for hours. But when you consider the synonyms for meditation, it brings the quiet spiritual practice down to earth. Quite simply it’s a deep state of quiet relaxation, reflection and contemplation

A friend likes to call her meditation CDs “The Medication” because of the near instant benefits she feels after listening to one. And with an array of mediation CDs and apps available it’s easier than ever to induce this blissful state of calm consideration by listening to soft tones, nature sounds or guided meditation tracks.

If you’d like to create a meditation routine, it’s very easily done. First consider the best time for you to slip away for some self-care each day. Then find a quiet, comfortable space where you’re unlikely to be interrupted. Ideally you should try to carve out about an hour, but if that’s unfeasible, five to 30 minutes is a great place to start. The key is to try and be as consistent with the practice as possible to reap maximum benefits, which include calm, clarity and creativity.

If you’re comfortable sitting for long periods cross-legged or kneeling, then positioning yourself on a folded blanket or pillow is great. You can also sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet on the floor or on a footrest. That said, lying on a soft surface or even a bed is a possibility. You do risk dozing off during your practice but if you’re using a time-based meditation program you will usually be roused by a chime or bell when it’s complete. And even if it’s more nap-itation than meditation, you’ll still benefit from a short restful interval.

Apps like Headspace, Insight, Calmness and Stop, Breath & Think offer a selection of talk and sound meditations of varying lengths. Programs like Holosync, set to the sound of rain and chimes, offer progressive levels to heighten your practice. Yoga Nidra also focuses on deep breathing and relaxation techniques and is facilitated by a yoga instructor. And if you’re interested in more in depth talk meditations, Jon Kabot Zinn, a PhD practitioner and expert in has a website where you can get his soothing body scans.

So however you choose to quiet and “lose” your mind for a short time, you’ll be amazed how beneficial it is to finding yourself. 



If you’re like most of us, you can’t start your day without a steaming, hot cup of brain-fog clearing coffee. In North America over 400 million cups of coffee are consumed each day with 65% of that taking place during breakfast. And according to the HuffPost, 31% of us consider brewing a cup the most important part of our morning and do it before anything else! Especially for those of us who like to get our workouts in earlier rather than later.

Aside from small dent it might make in your wallet if you indulge in a coffee shop espresso or designer latte each morning, the question is, does it do more harm than good? Fortunately the answer is basically yes! Though it’s been blamed for heart disease or stunting growth, research conducted by the Mayo Clinic suggests there is no connection between coffee and an increased risk of cancer or heart disease. 

As for benefits beyond making it possible to have a morning conversation, focus on tasks by improving cognitive function and reducing depression, it can also protect against Type 2 diabetes, liver disease and Parkinson’s. 

There’s also loads of research to suggest coffee is the ideal component for your fitness regimen. That means a cup before a workout in the studio can mean a better workout.

  • Boosts performance by as 12% by increasing adrenaline levels. 
  • Helps you burn fat adding efficiency to your workout.
  • Regulates blood sugar levels because it contains magnesium and potassium, which could help you lose weight.
  • It’s a stimulant so it makes you feel good by boosting neurotransmitters. 

Of course all this happy info comes with caveats. Excessive coffee consumption, especially amongst younger people who drink a lot of coffee, isn’t ideal. Additionally drinking large amounts of unfiltered coffee like espresso has been linked to high cholesterol. The other things to consider are the coffee add-ons. Sure you might manage to steer clear of a muffin or cookie, but adding milk, cream or sugar to your coffee adds calories and fat. There are 190 calories in an average Latte compared to zero in an Americano although those calories also provide 13 grams of protein. 

And because caffeine is a diuretic it’s important to keep track of your water consumption. Like booze and salt, dehydration makes your liver work harder than usual to flush toxins. Those toxins can cause skin blemishes like acne. The corollary is that the caffeine found in coffee as a well as black and green tea contains antioxidants that assist in protecting your skin from sun damage. 

So the takeaway from all this? Coffee, in moderation is actually beneficial to your overall fitness, cognitive intuitiveness and well being. Just be sure to balance it out with sufficient water intake and try to drink it earlier in the day. 

Our recommendation for great Toronto coffee? The Framewrk neighbourhood is full of amazing coffee shops. Where we sit in Riverside we are privileged to have many high quality coffee shops to choose from. Also, just down the road to the east in Leslieville or west in Corktown there’s no lack of great options to relax and enjoy.

Here are three of our favs right next to the studio:

Merchants of Green Coffee 2 Matilda Street. The warehouse setting is casual but cozy and their fair trade coffee selection is outstanding. You can relax or get some work in before Pilates, Essentrics or your fav Fitness class.

Dark Horse Espresso 630 Queen East. The atmosphere is quiet and comfortable with big bright windows .You can spend hours in there enjoying Toronto’s East side. Since it’s right next door to the studio you can grab a coffee on the way to your morning class to fuel your workout.

The Cannonball 508 Queen Street East. A funky hidden gem this Riverside coffee shop has delicious light lunch options and a patio in the back where you can enjoy Toronto’s warmer days.


Using Essential Oils to Open the Heart Chakra

Way of Will is a bespoke Toronto business creating Essential Oil body-care blends for people who workout regularly. At Framewrk we love Way of Will because of their local presence and commitment to natural products focusing on overall wellbeing and fitness! We recently hosted a Way of Will Aromatherapy and Yoga event at Framewrk and learned about their new Essential Oils. The event focused on how to use the oils to open the heart chakra with Aromatherapy, which is the practice of using scent to reduce physical and emotional imbalances.

Because scent is directly linked to memory it can trigger change in the somatic system by effecting the hypothalamus. This helps open emotional blockages. Aromatherapist Jean Liao helped us blend a customized scent with Essential Oils known to trigger the heart chakra, which is widely thought to be the physical place where we store emotions for love, connection and relationships. Our own Sara Moncrieff then helped us use our personalized blend in a restorative yoga and meditation class that focused on various poses centered around the heart chakra. The results were magical.

Before any blending was done, we also learned a few things about the use and care of essential oils that help both the efficacy and safety of the treatment.

·        Essential Oils in their concentrated form should not be directly applied to the skin; they need a carrier oil to dilute them. Two drops of an Essential Oil should be put in 1 tsp of carrier oil.

·         A good carrier oil is a Jojoba oil, which has a longer shelf life than other oils which can go rancid.

·         If possible, essential oils are best stored in the fridge. If not, store in dark glass containers in a cool, dark, dry place.

·         The oils should never be put into the dryer since they can be flammable.

·         Children should use much lower dosage than adults; no Essential Oils for children under 6 months old and no more than 0.5% for children under 2.  Just because it’s natural does not mean it’s safe. Parents need to look at the specific oil and the restrictions before using it on their children and refrain from applying it directly to the skin.

·         Be careful not to expose applied area to UV ray for at least 24-hours after using phototoxic oils.

·        Pregnant women and breastfeeding women need to consult with a healthcare professional before using Essential Oil. There are only a handful of Essential Oils that are suitable and they need to be extra careful of the dosage.

We then looked at six specific Way of Will Essential Oils which can have an impact on the heart chakra (emotions of love and relationships).Here’s a list of the oils we looked at and what they can do:

·         Lavender – Relieves cramps and pain, calms and helps reduce stress.

·         Grapefruit – Promotes a sense of happiness, energizes and uplifts.

·         Frankincense – Relieves chronic stress and anxiety.

·         Rosemary – Great for memory retention and  staying focused. Creates circulation and warmth, great muscle pain relief for sore muscles and aches after a workout.

·         Atlas Cedarwood – Relives tension and tight spots and can physically help with decongestion (particularly helpful if the chest/heart is tightened) Provides security, strength and calmness. Good for meditation and focus.

·         Tea Tree Oil –   Great antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal. Excellent for cold prevention, keeping body health. Also very good for acne or pimples, wounds and infections.

To create our personalized scents, each of us blended our favoured Essential Oils (40 drops in total) into 60 ml of the carrier oil. I chose Cedarwood, Grapefruit and Lavender and the smell is fresh and subtle and doesn’t have a harsh perfume scent that can be irritating for people. I rubbed it around my chest and on my arms and it feels amazing on my skin.

Sara’s 3o minutes of restorative yoga was a calm and quiet practice. We lined 14 mats near the windows and chose one of three poses she offered that resonated with what we most wanted to work on. As the sun shone in on us, we listened to her soothing voice and playlist and let ourselves release into the power of the therapy we were there to explore.  A calm feeling entered the studio as Sara walked around to each of us and using her powerful touch provided a little bit of energy healing. Many of us were able to let go of something standing in our way of feeling love for ourselves, for others or for life in general. When we were finished Sara encouraged the group to share their experience with each other with the trust that we would be respected. Real strength and vulnerability came through and many were confident enough to let tears fall. That was the most powerful moment of all. It was clear in the end that some healing had taken place.

Aromatherapy is one of many different practices that can help us achieve better well being. As always, we want to take care using this therapy and remember that everything can have a place. The more open we are to receiving ideas and considering different therapies, the more well rounded we are when it comes to our health. A special thanks to Olympia Lui from Way of Will, Jean Liao and Sara Moncrieff. It was an honour to have you.

If you want more information on any of the Way of Will products you can find them at

If you’re interested in more information on Aromatherapy you can find Jean Liao at Way of Will.

And if you’re interested in energy healing the amazing Sara Moncrieff can be found at Framewrk and at


H2Okay! A guide to staying hydrated.

H2Okay! A guide to staying hydrated

Water. It’s all around us, and quite literally is us. About 71% of the earth’s surface is covered in water and the average adult women is 55% water. Every cell in your body requires water to function properly. Your body uses it to maintain temperature, take nutrients to your cells and flush toxins. Too little water affects body function. If you’re even mildly dehydrated you’ll feel sluggish and less focused.

To properly maintain hydration, people often refer to the easily remembered 8 by 8 rule – which translates to eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. According to The Institute of Medicine, the adequate intake for women is actually about 9 cups of water each day, or about 2.2 litres. But keep in mind that all fluids count towards the total.

How much water you need depends on factors including your overall health, physical activity and where you live. When you exercise or are participating in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to compensate for fluid loss. The Mayo Clinic recommends an additional 1.5 to 2.5 cups. And if you’re doing intense exercises, sports drinks with sodium reduce the chance of hyponatremia – a dangerous loss of sodium in the blood. It’s also recommended to continue hydrating after your workout.

Your environment is another factor in staying hydrated. Humidity and heat lead to more sweating and consequently deplete you. And if you’re at higher altitudes, it’s also recommended to increase fluid intake. 

If you have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, you’ll need to replenish depleted fluids. But certain medical conditions may effect water excretion and require limiting your intake. In those cases it’s important to consult your doctor.

But you don’t need to drink water to get hydration. Food accounts for 20% of water intake. And for a quick hydration fix watermelon or spinach are both ideal since they’re 90% water.

A great way to enjoy water and ensure you’re drinking enough is to infuse it.  Try a slice some slices of lime or cucumber, a few raspberries or even some fresh peaches and basil to keep things fresh and fun. Salut! 


Get Outside in Ontario to Play


It’s June and the days are finally getting longer and warmer providing the ideal enticement to get outside and play. While the record high water levels on Lake Ontario have restricted many activities on the Toronto Islands, until at least the end of the month, there are a few local spots of note to soak up some sunshine and nature.

The Leslie Street Spit, officially known as Tommy Thompson Park is an extraordinary wildlife and bird-watching area jutting out into the lake. An active construction landfill site, it’s open to the public on weekdays from 4pm-9pm and all day on weekends. The bike ride to the lighthouse affords spectacular views of the skyline and you can forage for discarded bricks rounded into softness by the lake currents. They make great tea light and candle holders! Plus there are also guided nature walks.

Or if you’re on bikes and feeling ambitious, you can take the Martin Goodman Trail west past the Exhibition to Humber Bay Park for a different perspective of the city.

If you’re looking to get out of the city to explore, but don’t want to contend with traffic snarls or head too far afield for your adventures, there are some great family options within an hour. Pleasure Valley in Uxbridge offers group horseback riding on 225 acres of tranquil forest trails. Or if you want to mix up your quiet time with some more rambunctious fun, Cedar Park Resort in Bowmanville has waterslides, splash pads, mini-golf and 30 acres to explore.

Heading west out of the city there are two amazing options within two hours. Just north of Guelph on the Grand River is the stunning Elora Gorge. For an action-packed tour of the area, you can go tubing past the 22-metre high cliffs. There are also sport fields, a splash pad, fishing access and camping facilities. Afterwards you can explore Elora, an adorable community and mill town. And if it’s Sunday, the Aberfoyle Antique Market is a sprawling area filled with dealers of all shapes and sizes.

Another outdoor adventure spot nearby is the Kelso Conservation Area on the Niagara Escarpment. You’ve probably passed the little ski hill on the 401 about 45 minutes west of Toronto and may not know that it offers a range of summer activities including hiking with spectacular views, mountain biking, swimming, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding in the reservoir. There are also campsites available and a Friday night outdoor movie series in August featuring Trolls and Finding Dory.

Additionally, along the Halton Hills/Escarpment range Rattlesnake Point and Mount Nemo feature fantastic hikes with caving features and swooping turkey vultures. Rattlesnake Point also has campsites and a very active geocache, a GPS-guided treasure hunt.

Of course if you have a few days and feel like venturing further afield, legendary and treasured Algonquin Park offers spectacular car camping, backcountry canoeing and hiking possibilities along the old, decommissioned railway line. Plus for camping adventures without making the financial and space investment in gear, you can enlist outfitters at Canoe Lake or Lake Opeongo. Other options include renting from MEC and now you can even borrow tents and cooking equipment locally by joining the Toronto Sharing Depot.

And while it’s absolutely epic with azure waters and spectacular rock formations, Bruce Peninsula National Park and the grotto, at the northern end of the Niagara Escarpment get extremely busy, and with free National Park passes for Canada’s 150th, might be better saved for next year.

But even if you decide to forgo the car and kick back in your yard or one of the city parks, a little fresh air and playtime goes a long way.




The Story of the Squat Team, How Community Makes You Stronger

The Story of the Squat Team, How Community Makes You Stronger

When it comes to exercising, the best way to benefit and improve our progress is to make it interesting, challenging and fun. The amazing human machine we live in loves to look for shortcuts –  ways to reduce the amount of effort for the most results. If we get bored, we start to get lower results as our body gets used to performing a routine or movement. So how do you overcome that?

There are a few ways to increase results. We can look at the principle of overload, which can be longer workouts, more reps, better form, longer extension or heavier weights but there’s another option we have that will both challenge the body and mind and make the work of exercise that much more fun – working out with friends. This is one of the fastest ways to keep you committed and interested in working out.

Here’s a perfect example of some of our Framewrk members who made this happen. Could you ever get up at 5:45am to workout? And to do it three times a week? That sounds seriously early doesn’t it? How many times would you wake up and hit the snooze button if it was just you getting up to chug some coffee, slug it to the studio and get ready to work? But what if you had a crew, a team of others who would encourage and support you, would that make it easier? And what if these other people became your supporters, your motivators and ultimately your friends? Would this help you stay committed and loyal not only to yourself and your workout but to your community?

We interviewed a group of inspiring women at Framewrk who did just that. We call them the Squat Team and the results they’ve achieved together are astounding.

It all starting when the gym that they frequented closed.  They exchanged numbers, and bumped into each other in the neighbourhood where they lived. They formed a messaging group together kept their early morning workouts going in the park. They became more than just a workout group – they morphed into a source of motivation, accountability and fun. If someone was missed it was noticed and they would receive check-in messages. After a little while they hired a trainer to sequence and design the workouts and check their form. Insert Joe Tarulli, who worked with them in the park until we all came together to provide the class inside the Framewrk studio.  

This early morning class as been going strong since almost the beginning and the girls now attend all types of classes at Framewrk to balance out their intense morning routine.

When we asked them to share how they formed this group and stuck together every one said that they got together to keep their workouts going and feel more supported and motivated to be their best. The friendship and support that grew out of their group has been valuable for both their fitness and their social lives. They’ve become friends and this is a huge part of what keeps them accountable and encourages them to be their best for each other – and themselves.

Here's how they did it and how you can do it too:

-          Choose a team of people that like the same times and types of workouts that you do                   and has the same commitment to fitness that you do.

-          Share information or set up a messaging system to connect with each other (they used               What’s App and created a shared group).

-          Arrange for two to three workouts per week.

-          Check in when someone doesn’t respond.

-          Encourage, laugh, work, reset and relax in a positive way.

-          Arrange for social activities outside of working out together.

According to Gina Dimello Wagner in her article “Strength in Numbers – the Importance of Fitness Buddies” exercise partners provide a powerful combination of support, accountability, motivation and, in some cases, healthy competition. “They can play the role of teammate, co-coach and cheerleader — all while working out,” The need for interpersonal support is primal, says Andersen. “We are social animals. We seek the company and positive reinforcement of others, especially when we are doing work.”

Here’s the full article:

If you’re at a point where your workout is getting stale or you are looking for motivation and the next level in your fitness journey, consider finding a community that you resonate with. Look for like-minded people who you connect with and stay in touch to help you to be consistent and push you when you just feel like hitting the snooze button. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have a new set of friends that enjoy the same things you do.

Thank you to the Squat Team Jenn, Roxy, Laura, Laurie, Lizzy, Madison, Hannah, Shari, Gwen who look the time to answer our questions and are a great part of our awesome Framewrk community. Not only are they super fit ladies, they are all great people to have in all our classes to encourage everyone around them.

Why Stretch - 6 Short and Long Term Benefits to Make you Reach for your Stretch

We get it, there aren’t enough hours in the day and stretching can take a lot of time without offering immediate results. We live in an instant society and want to see cause and effect happen faster than it takes to click through a profile or a feed. But sadly that's not how your body works. And yet stretching is a part of the holy trinity of fitness – strength, endurance and flexibility. Movement like stretching has short- and long-term effects but it can take time to see the benefits. To get you motivated to get the most of your stretch routine here are six short-term and six long-term benefits of stretching and then maybe you will find the extra time in your week. 

Six Short-term Benefits of Stretching

Injury prevention - Injuries can come from muscle imbalances. A tight muscle pulls on another muscle and the compensation to achieve equal distribution of force on the joint stresses the joint and its structure. Stretching balances the muscles and fascia and releases the tight muscle causing the poor distribution of stress. This means better body mechanics and better distribution of forces on the joint. The result? Less injuries and more time to enjoy the fruits of your more rigourous training.

Stress release - The mind-body connection has proven that when we have tension in our body our mind feels stress and our brainwaves change from calm and relaxed to anxious - think primal response and the fight or flight reflex. The body feels stress and the mind prepares for danger. If you're walking around tight, your mind is going to be more anxious and on alert than it would be if you have less body tension. Plus you’ll think clearer and feel a greater sense of well being.

Faster recovery - Stretching pumps blood into the muscles and allows for the release of wastes and tension so your recovery is quicker and more effective. Recovery isn't just about recovering from an exercise, it's also about getting the benefit of doing the exercise. Recovery is where the muscles actually change, it’s not in the moment of performing the exercise. Sleep is also part of this and stretching can help improve the quality of your sleep.

Mindfulness - Stretching allows you to sink into your body and feel. This is a major part of living in the moment. It’s also an amazing way to connect to what's happen in your body and mind plus when we get into the habit of noticing the small detail and the response in our body it translates to other parts of our lives.

Pain Relief - Feeling the burn of a workout is great but pain because a muscle pulling a joint out of alignment is not. Releasing a tight muscle releases compression in our bodies and allows us to live a pain-free life while performing everyday tasks like walking, driving or even relaxing. No one wants to live in pain. While the ouch in the muscle burn may still be present, stretching helps make the body feel good and takes pain out of the body .

The Next Day’s Workout - Stretching after a workout you will decrease the possibility of compression which takes away from range of motion and impacts your next workout. Picture a machine in motion. If the gears and buckles grind and seize, the machine can't move as fast. You are a machine and part of maintaining your moving parts is in the stretch. Moving faster and more efficiently is the goal and stretching is one way to ensure that we get better day after day.

6 Long-term Effects

Posture - Remember when parents insisted on good posture? Were they just trying to impose an old-fashioned idea on their kids or is posture important? –Logistically, the spine lifts you up and all your neurological responses take place in the spinal cord – it literally connects your body and your mind. Your immune system and nervous system is cased in that spinal cord and you want it to function properly. Most of your major organs are also encased in your rib cage, which is attached to your spine. Bad posture can impact your body's ability to react to internal and external factors. Stretching improves long-term posture by keeping balance in the back and abdominal muscles. Good posture makes breathing, digesting and even heartbeats operate properly. Long-term posture is about so much more than holding your head up straight, it’s about functioning and overall health down to the very essence of what keeps us alive. Posture is one of the most efficient anti-aging tonics.

Balance - If you build a house without balance and symmetry it will crumble. You are no different. If you have a tight muscle on one side of your body it will ultimately effect that side of your body and lead to an asymmetrical frame. Stretching can help to rebalance the body from the activities that stress one side more that the other, like carrying objects or walking unevenly.

Flexibility and Range of Motion- Flexibility is about range of motion. And that's all about how much you can use your body. What's the point of a body that can't move? Stiff, tight bodies are rigid and don't operate as well as they can. Life is about movement in all of the waking hours - not just the one or two at the gym. Plus lack of mobility leads to premature aging. It makes us feel and look different and determines our biological (rather than our chronological) age.
Body Awareness - Knowing how your body feels is a skill that takes learning and time. When we stretch, we feel things and learn things about ourselves and our movement. We become in tune with what our body likes, needs and wants. Body awareness is pretty awesome. Walking around unaware of what's happening on the inside is a half-lived life. If we’re able to connect with our bodies, we can detect and correct problems without long-term damage.

Longer Fitness Capability - As we age we lose our ability to move because we lose muscle mass which effects our mechanics. Think of your muscles of use it or lose it. Especially after the age of 40. If we stretch and move our muscles they continue to operate. Stretching will get the small muscles that don't always fire in day-to-day activities and the larger ones will operate better. By stretching the whole joint effectively you’ll get even your smallest muscles activating. This means you can exercise well into your older years without limitations or pain.

Weight Loss and Control -  We don't usually think of stretching as part of weight loss but it’s all tied in. The relationship between muscle mass and weight control is integral. You stretch, you open, you release muscles that can't fire when they are tight. More muscles that fire, more muscles that burn and use fuel in the mitochondria (the weight-loss cell), which is found only in your muscle. If you want to keep your metabolism high by burning unnecessary calories you need as much mitochondria as possible. If all of those mitochondria live in your muscles you have to take care of them, use them, unlock and lengthen and be able to access as many of these as possible

So take a moment, take a breath and enjoy your stretch. 

February Blah's? We've Got Some Help for You.

If you’re feeling a little draggy and laggy these days you probably aren’t alone. The start of 2017 has been heavy – emotionally, socially and politically. And it’s also been grey and dreary. In January there were only 50 hours of sunlight in Toronto. Environment Canada says the annual average is usually around 85 hours.

That might have made an unfortunate dent on your resolutions and plans to be the “best possible you” this year. But don’t be too hard on yourself.  The key to a well-balanced life is just that, balance. There are going to be days when you find it easier to eat well, workout hard, stay focused and get everything done. And there will also be days when, well, you don’t. And that’s okay too.

A good way to help you feel less guilty about the occasional cookie or carb spree is the 80-20 rule. For every 80 percent of things you do to benefit your health and well being, use the remaining 20 percent to indulge or treat yourself. And if you feel like taking things a bit slower, don’t beat yourself up. Go with it. Enjoy a long bubble bath, a leisurely walk or just lazing on the couch.

If you need to relax and restore, Framewrk has the remedy – Shehla Kahn‘s Yin Restorative on Sunday afternoon or Tara Good's new Candlelit Yin on Wednesday night with hands-on energy work and Reiki. For a more active recharge and rebalance by getting you moving try Sara' Moncreiff’s Vinyasa Flow or Soulfull Flow. To step up in the strengthening, toning and mobility there are Alwynn Taylor and Jessica Yan's Pilates Flow or Josephine Cuthill’s Essentrics classes – and the Barre versions are an extra kick in the pants. For an all-out workout that will pump your blood and make you sweat Alana Bentham's Core Express or Bottom to the Top and Joe Tarulli’s Morning Fling and A Game (now on Wednesday AND Fridays at noon) are intense, rewarding and a challenging way to beat the blahs away.

However you’re feeling, at Framewrk there’s a range of movement classes to keep you active in 2017. And just a little bit of movement can go a long way to helping you feel like yourself again despite the grey days.  According to the American Psychological Association, given the power of exercise as a mood elevator, there’s a movement to integrate exercise into counseling practices. Michael Otto, a professor of psychology at Boston University says that even five minutes of moderate exercise is enough to feel the effects.

And if you follow the seasonal predictions of rodents, you’ll be pleased to know that Wiarton Willie, our regional groundhog, has predicted an early spring. So hang in there - the sun will be shining again soon.

New Years Resolutions - Better, Stronger and More Flexible in 2017

As the year draws to a close, it’s generally a time for reflection. We like to look back over the good and the bad then plan for the year ahead. For many of us, this takes the form of resolutions – promises we make to ourselves to banish bad habits, create good ones, and to hopefully be better versions of ourselves.

The practice is pretty popular. One out of two of us make New Year’s resolutions. It’s also has a long history dating back to ancient religious and spiritual practices. The Babylonians and Romans made deals with their gods when they needed things or assistance. Medieval knights took a vow of chivalry each year during the Christmas season. Christians make sacrifices during Lent and during the Jewish New Year, people seek absolution for any wrongs they may have done to others and to start the year with a clean slate.

No matter how hard we work, how kind we are, how well we care for ourselves or others, there’s always room for improvement in some area of our lives. It probably won’t come as a surprise to most people that the number one resolution people make is to improve physical health through exercise and a healthier eating. The second most popular resolution is to improve our mental wellbeing with more kindness, patience, less anxiety and more planning and organization. That these two ideas are so popular speaks volumes about what we value and desire in our personal lives.

If most of us are resolving to treat our bodies better then we either have unrealistic expectations or we are living far below the physical standards that we should be living up to. 

There’s a long-held idea that when trying to adopt new habits, the magic number is 21. According to decades old research done by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, it took a minimum of 21 days to adjust to new ways of thinking and being. In a wonderful blog by James Clear who writes about behavioural psychology, this idea has recently been debunked. It actually takes three times the amount of time for a habit to be entrenched into our routines – or as proven in study by Phillipa Lally published in the European Journal of Psychology it takes 66 days for a habit to become automatic.

Two months may seem like a long time to make something stick. It may seem like it takes tons of determination and stamina, but look at the result. If you can manage to stick with your new habit for two months, it is more likely to become a definitive part of your daily routine. That’s a small commitment for a lifetime of improved physical and mental health. 

As for our resolutions, we resolve to continue building a space where people can improve their physical balance, strength and flexibility through a range of movement practices. And if we can play a small part in helping you keep your resolutions, that will help us keep our resolutions to be a meaningful part of your life and this community.

Happy New Year from the team at

Sourcing Sustainably For Our Studio

Fitness studios need an array of equipment for clients to use during workouts. Before Framewrk opened, we thought we had it all sorted out. Mats, weights, yoga blocks, bolsters and therabands and cleaning products were the basics. We had a little spreadsheet with research quantifying costs sitting next to each item and a total at the bottom to keep track of every penny spent. We were prepared. But then as the final decisions on products and manufacturers was near, we realized we had a bigger choice than simply considering brands and colours. Our choice was to decide how far we were willing to go to live our values and to stay true to what we said mattered to us.

Sustainability is a tough word. It basically means upholding a certain level or standard. And it should be relatively straightforward. But with a start-up business the idea of sustainable product choices means considering social, environmental and economic factors. What may be environmentally sustainable may not be socially or economically sustainable. Something economically sustainable may be detrimental to both society and the environment. And items with a social conscience may lack environmental sustainability or may be so specialized they’re not economically manageable.

Every purchase we made considered these factors. Ultimately, we chose the best product in each category. We wanted to write this blog because the hardest part of the process was finding the information to inform our choices. We’ve decided to share some of the manufacturers we opted to support and what motivated our decision so you, our clients know how seriously we take this ethos. Additionally, we want to help other businesses interested in making informed selections about their purchases.

The first question we asked was “is this good for your health?”  With all the toxins out there, this seemed like a good place to start. Because we’re a fitness studio, we considered where toxins hide and how we could minimize and avoid them given the way equipment is used.

  • YOGA MATS – You lie on them. Put your face on them. And while doing that you’re encouraged to breathe deeply. For that reason we chose Manduka Yoga Mats for their natural rubber and non-toxic rating.
  • CLEANING PRODUCTS – A clean environment is a healthy environment. Unfortunately many cleaners are toxic. For the mats and equipment are cleaned with a spray made from vinegar, tea tree oil and grapefruit oil. The floors are washed with good old soapy water. But our mirrors are cleaned with Windex.
  • CANDLES – We burn only soy candles made by Yummi Candles.
  • SCENT – Calming and invigorating essential oils add an ambience to the studio. But due to people’s sensitivities, we chose all natural Saje products, which come through a neubulizer that cleans the air while it scents it.
  • FABRICS – Our Halfmoon bolsters and blankets are organic cotton. We also have Dusky Leaf organic yoga straps.

The next question on our list was – how close to home/Canada was this made. We figured that if we bought Canadian products, we could be more certain about the conditions it was created under. Plus it didn’t have to travel as far reducing our environmental footprint.

  •  Cambridge Towels – our Cambridge towels are made in Cambridge,  Ontario
  •  Yummy Candles – made in Mississauga ON
  •  Manduka Mats – made in the USA
  •  Halfmoon Bolsters – made in Vancouver
  •  Halfmoon Blankets – made in India with a certificate of ethical standards that Halfmoonvendors sign
  •  Barn Board Shelves – made from Canadian old barn board mainly in Ontario
  •  Ballet Barres Location Luber in Quebec
  •  Succulent Plants – Eco Steams in Toronto where 90% of the plants are locally grown

Finally, when the other questions where answered, we asked, “is this product is environmentally sustainable?” We reverted back to the three Rs to determine if we were in line with this theory – reuse, reduce and recycle.  Kijiji was fabulous for some of the larger items andif this wasn’t possible, we looked at options for low impact materials.

  • Kijiji provided us with the reception desk
  • Our plants and chairs came from a friend’s business office that was moving and needed a new home for their old stuff
  • Natural Origins (fair trade) storage baskets and mat baskets were from Homesense
  • IKEA cork benches
  • Recycled glasses Homesense
  • Dusky Leaf cork yoga blocks

It may cost a little more in the upfront spend but will end up in a savings in the future and it’s a future we feel good about when we think about how we are making choices today.

List of Companies We Use in the Studio:



Saje Wellness

Yummi Candles

Dusky Leaf Yoga



Barn Board Store

Ballet Barres

Plants -

What is Essentrics?

What is Essentrics?
You may have noticed that on the schedule every day Framewrk offers a class called Essentrics. “What is that?” you might be asking yourself and you wouldn’t be alone. This program has only been offered in Toronto for a few years and is only offered by a few movement studios in the city. 

Essentrics is a fluid, dynamic technique that is challenging and healing at the same time. People of all ages can do the workout with some modification and it’s a favourite with the Pilates-loving crowd, athletes and people seeking to improve their mobility and range of motion especially after injuries. 

The unique program has been used by high-performance athletes for years and is getting more popular as instructors start to pop up in different parts of the world. 

The name “Essentrics” is based on a technique known as eccentric movement that will enhance your fitness routine. This is a unique, challenging program where the benefits extend out to other movement practices and sports and makes everyday living easier by improving range of motion, increasing flexibility and rebalancing the muscles in the body. And it’s the most popular class in our studio for many reasons. 

Essentrics is a full-body stretching and strengthening program designed to decompress joints and rebalance and lengthen your muscles. The workout combines ballet strengthening, tai chi fluidity and physiotherapy techniques. Each element provides your body with specific benefits.The ballet movements promote lean, strong muscles, the tai chi movement rebalances your energy and the physiotherapy promotes healing and prevents future injury. 

You can expect to be standing for the first half of the class and engage in some large, fluid movements using your full body. While in the standing portion of the workout, we also take time to isolate the arms and the legs to work the muscles eccentrically. Then when we hit the floor for mat work and do some controlled abdominal focus sets and a killer leg lift sequence. At the end of the class we do a dynamic stretch where the focus is on movement within our stretches to get the most for our joints and relieve pain. 

In an Essentrics Barre class we use the ballet barre for isolation in the standing series and to increase the range of motion and deepen in the stretch sequence.

Essentrics is taught by Framewrk Studio founder Josephine Cuthill, who is a Level 4 instructor of the unique body movement technique created by Montreal-based mother daughter team Miranda and Sahra Esmond White.  After an injury to the psoas muscle resulted in repetitive pain and back problems, Josephine had to stop working out. Seeking a new fitness routine that would not irritate her injury yet strengthen her body, she stumbled upon an article about the Essentrics creators. The technique sounded ideal but with no studio or gym in Toronto offering classes, Josephine had to order a DVD and try it at home. The workout helped to heal the injury and she returned to an even better level of fitness then she had been before the injury. This is when she decided to get certified to offer the program and has been teaching it in Toronto studios since 2013. 

So how does it work? Basically eccentric movement is one of four types of contractions a muscle can make.  An eccentric contraction is the motion an active muscle makes while it’s lengthening under load. In an Essentric classes, the load is your own body weight of your legs, arms and torso. The result is your body works hard to lengthen the muscles without bulking them up since they are stretching consistently and building longer, leaner fiber. You’ll notice immediate results in your arms, legs and abdominals and over the long-term you’ll see improvements in your posture, mobility, longevity, muscle retention while aging. 

Framewrk offer Essentrics at least once a day. On Monday and Saturday, it’s offered after a hard conditioning class to rebalance and recover from muscle overload. We believe that the body needs to move in many different ways, and we believe that the body needs to rebalance after challenging muscle groups. We love Essentrics for this. We cannot get enough of it.  And we hope you’ll love it too.

Our Roots

The growing popularity of living in downtown east Toronto neighbourhoods like Leslieville, Riverside, Corktown and the Distillery District has been an opportunity to new businesses and services from restaurants and boutiques to hair salons and fitness studios. At framewrk Studio we’re incredibly excited to be part of this transformation. And we’re also thrilled to be helping people transform their bodies and improve their overall wellbeing with our unique functional fitness workouts.

Because your body is the framework of your life, we’re focused on innovative, integrated movement to balance your day-to-day life and improve your athletic advantage.  Framewrk offers functional fitness classes like Essentrics, Pilates and Strength Training as well as mindful movement practices like Yoga,  Meditation and Restorative Yin Yoga in a bright, beautiful studio with expert instructors who will challenge, motivate, nurture and support your health and wellness.

We realize not everybody likes traditional gyms, crossfit and other more extreme fitness workouts. Clients who want to challenge some of the traditional ideas of fitness will find something to inspire them here. But even if maximum sweat and intensity are part of your main physical activity, you’ll still benefit from our innovative, strengthening, toning and restorative practices and you’ll see more gains from your high-intensity training. Because when your body is strong and flexible, you’re poised to live a more balanced life.

Framewrk was created when a Leslieville fitness studio closed its doors in June. Fitness instructors wanted to offer a new place for their clients to continue with them and the search for the right space began. Housed in a sun-drenched former photography space at 9 Davies Avenue, our boutique-style studio is just steps from Queen and Broadview. And with a maximum class size of 20, you’ll get focused attention to ensure you’re working out safely and efficiently.

We are committed to sourcing locally, purchasing sustainable products, using non-toxic fair trade and ethically produced products in our fitness studio. Additionally we’re planning to offer workshops on wellness, nutrition and practices to support a better, more balanced life.