A few weeks ago, I was invited to the Koena Wellness Retreat in Toronto. The experience was nothing short of amazing! The entire event centered around healthy living and self-care, so the atmosphere was warm, inviting and really inspiring! My sister Erika and I were surrounded by likeminded people with a great interest in living their best, most healthy life.
We were treated to delicious food with plenty of vegan options, cold-pressed juices and tasty, healthy desserts. There were also several amazing guest speakers who gave us tips on how to live our lives to the fullest and start chasing our dreams (guest speaker Erica Diamond was FANTASTIC).
For me though, the highlight of the day was meeting the founder of MISFITSTUDIO, Amber Joliat. She greeted us with a big, bright smile and the warmth she exuded was palpable. My sister was particularly excited to meet her as Erika and her friends have been dying to try out the MISFITSTUDIO classes.
I was excited to learn that we would all be treated to one of Amber’s movement classes which sounded like a dream, especially after being stuck on a train for 4.5 hours. Man…I did not know what I was in for.
I was expecting a yoga class. I WAS WRONG – dead wrong! Amber’s movement class was a dream. The deep stretching and meditation melted my stress away. The dull ache in my back caused by the train ride disappeared. When we were through, I felt like a new person – completely relaxed, like a bowl of mush. My sister turned to me and said: “See? Good, right?” Good, indeed.
When I was offered the opportunity to interview Amber, I jumped at the chance. She is such a radiant personality who is running the very popular MISFITSTUDIO and has just launched a lingerie line in collaboration with Fortnight. So, grab a cup of green tea, get cozy, and let’s get to know, Ms. Amber Joliat.
Tell us a little about your background, Amber.
Born and raised in Toronto, I’ve always divided my time between Art and Dance.
Teaching both, expressing both, being influenced and inspired by both forms.
MISFITSTUDIO was born from a desire to create a home for bodies to become comfortable in their own skin, dance with freedom, explore how movement is medicine.
You have described yourself in the past as a bit of an “outcast”. Doing things differently seems to be your bread and butter. How did you apply this thinking/way of life to MISFITSTUDIO?
Every single part…
From radical acceptance of everyBODY, to how we operate as a FAMILY, the philosophy is to honour every person and their uniqueness.
In that, we can land at the same starting point.
Practising the art of presence in each moment, each conversation, each class.
Living with awareness to recognize language, tone and sensation in every moment.
Amber, your website states that MISFITSTUDIO “is not a fitness studio.” You “don’t offer workouts. You aren’t a yoga studio, nor a pilates studio.” Can you explain to a newbie like me what “movement” actually means? What kind of experience can a new Misfit expect?
Yes, the question most asked!!
The movement is Dance, Pilates, Yoga, and mindfully curated playlists add a sensory connection.
The work is what you need it to be, calm and aligning, or ballistic and cardio release.
A blend of movement modalities creates a challenge when describing just WHAT occurs in class!
EXPERIENCE is what we aim for.
Arriving, honouring your choice to connect back to self, source and community.
Strengthen your physical body while observing your emotional responses allows for a spiritual connection.
The experience will leave you with a lingering sensation of work, high vibration and deeper self-awareness
(and yes, you will sweat).
Why did you decide to go the “movement” route as opposed to traditional yoga or pilates?
The confinement of following “traditional” ways limited my creativity. After practising Ashtanga for eight years, I saw the rectangle as restrictive and wanted to venture off and make circular and spiraling movements. Pilates in a traditional setting is rehabilitation, a way to work on what’s “wrong” with the body. The MISFITMETHOD is a celebration of what the body CAN do. A way to learn to work WITH yourself, not against it.
The two MISFITSTUDIO locations, one at Ossington and the other at Queen Street, are beautiful. What was your design philosophy when creating these spaces?
My intuition always guides.
Each space has a vibration that is unique, all I do is tap in and listen.
Light! Greenery and a welcoming spirit flow at both studios. Our Queen Street space is on the third floor of a converted church and the stained glass windows are very Yin – like a wise old woman.
The Ossington studio is two floors, flooding light and full of Yang – like a charged up teenage boy.
That’s how we describe them!
I seriously love that description! I cannot wait to visit both studios! So, why did you decide to not have mirrors within the MISFITSTUDIO space?
Learn how to dance from your soul.
Mirrors can act as a distraction, we all spend far too much time with the inner critic. I say at the beginning of each class, choose to move out of your mind, back into yourself, close your eyes and remember how to FEEL.
Who is the Misfit person in your words?
Choosing the light.
On the healing path.
“Choosing the light. On the healing path.” I love that. I had the pleasure of experiencing one of your classes recently and you created a really welcoming and nurturing environment – a huge difference from a lot of gyms and yoga studios. You are a very positive and patient person. Why is this so important for your movement classes?
Thank you for your kind words!
Positivity is a state of mind.
I practice that, I preach that.
Patience is the ONLY way to achieve anything golden in life, to be welcoming and nurturing.
I first had to learn to be these things to myself, with myself…
so I could then come from a place of authenticity with others.
I can’t know WHY each person chooses to walk into a MISFITSTUDIO class,
to hold space,
to be a leader,
to be a guide…
The only way to do that is to be
Live with truth,
seek out the lesson in each moment.
That is where we all meet as equals.
This is the most important part, no bullshit, there’s no room for it, not anymore.
Amber, you are a poet. Truly.
MISFITSTUDIO has collaborated with Fortnight to create a beautiful collection of sexy yet classy movement wear. Tell us about it!
Having been a dancer almost all my life, wearing tight, stretchy clothes to sweat in,
my dream has been to make pieces I WANT!! Pieces that accentuate form, hold in and don’t need constant adjusting in class. Every “sports bra” I’ve ever worn, I always adjust to make sure I don’t fall out.
So, the spark of inspiration lit while I was wearing Fortnight Lingerie in class!
Christina, the founder/designer of Fortnight, was open to the idea of collaboration and BOOM! After trial and error and choosing the shape and dreamy velvety fabric, we launched pieces we are both so excited about!
I feel this is just the beginning.
Amber – this truly was a pleasure. Your complete openness and free-spiritedness are so inspiring. It was a real pleasure interviewing you and I cannot wait to take more of your classes!
*Photography courtesy of MISFITSTUDIO and Jessica Blaine Smith.