◊ THE CLASSES: Reformer and Strength & Stretch ◊
WHAT YOU NEED
Form fitting clothes so the instructor can keep an eye on your technique
Water bottle, but glasses and water are avails
Guys, this is our 50th FREAKING REVIEW!!! WHAT WHAT!? Brb we’re grabbing our champs to “sip on” while we write the rest…which will probs make this funnier…which is probs something I should do every time…
Anyway, here we are. Our 50th review is of one of Toronto’s most beautiful, quirky and eclectic boutique Pilates studio in Little Portugal: Muse Movement. They specialise in Pilates but also offer yoga and “movement therapy” (more on that later). They’ve been bringing us their famous playlists and refreshing educational approach to Pilates since 2015 and they have a very loyal community that fills up these small, private-feeling classes every week. We had an amazing interview with the owner Keri O’Meara that got us thinking about something major. Pilates has been around since forever, well not actually. Its been around since the 1920’s when Joseph Pilates created it, but the point is – we think it’s about to get big, again. With the recent rise of boutique fitness studios, a shift in fitness culture (for fun, with friends at cool ass places vs for work, by yourself at a gym), and with the increase of things like Class Pass, people are working out differently. People are bumping around to four different studios every week and trying spin, yoga, HIIT, and boxing and (especially in North America) it’s super common for people to lean towards the intense and hardcore AF workouts that will kick your ass for 60 minutes and leave you drenched with sweat. But the things is, studios like Muse Movement are seeing an increase in interested students because they’re getting injured or realising that if they want to work out like THAT (high intensity and often) they need to have a strong foundation. Muse is a HUGE proponent for focusing on form and correct alignment, and educating about the human body is a cornerstone to everything that they do. This is a studio worth a visit and their classes will get you to slow down, concentrate and focus on your smaller, often forgotten about, supportive muscles.
Muse Movement is a westside Little Portugal dweller, located in the Artscape Youngplace building on Shaw Street just north of Queen Street. It’s a cool building and used to be a school back in the day before being transformed into the artist hub that it is now. Keri feels the teacher that used to occupy the classroom must have had some mighty fine juju. We agree. It’s a little tricky to find with not a ton of signage but it’s located on the second floor and is the last room on the left. Given that it’s close to West Queen West and Ossington, it’s super convenient if taking public transportation (501 Queen Street car to Shaw Street or the 505 Dundas Streetcar to Ossington, or 63 Ossington bus). There are a handful of bike racks in front of the Artscape building and, if driving, there is parking available on Shaw Street or a “GreenP” lots on 18 Ossington Avenue or 1117 Dundas Street West.
CLASS SCHEDULE + PRICE
Muse Movement offers all kinds of Pilates goodies. They have drop-in classes, workshops, pre-registered classes and teacher training and their approach to Pilates is refreshing but rooted in technique, form, and proper alignment. They have an impressively broad class schedule considering they specialise in Pilates only, with three styles of Mat Pilates and a Reformer and Reformer Basics class. There are a handful of classes that are better described as “movement therapy” classes that are grounded in the Pilates technique but have a bit more flare, props and danceyness to them, i.e. Strength and Stretch, and Harmony. They also offer Essentrics which, if you haven’t heard us talk about it, you should brush up, and Muse is only one of a handful of studios in Toronto that teach this power-toner method. No class is ever the same but their goal is to have you feeling strong, flexible and balanced after each class and every class is open to all levels. There are typically four-six classes held daily, with Tuesdays having a before work option at 7:30am, and weekend classes running until 4:30pm – which we’re happy to see since most of Toronto’s fitness studios apparently don’t care about hangovers or sleeping in bc it’s hard to find classes after 12:00pm.
As for pricing, there are three categories; Mat, Reformer and One-on-One. Mat drop-in rates are pretty standard at $20 per class, but the Reformer drop-in is preeetty spicy and the highest we’ve seen in Toronto at $34 a pop. A big reason for the steeper price is because the class sizes are supa small so your getting a semi-private class. Also all equipment is included which is super nice, especially for mat classes. On that – it’s pretty essential to book online ahead of time, especially for Reformer, considering there are only four beds. As per usual, memberships and bulk class passes drive down the price and make things a little more digestable. Memberships are for Mat classes OR Reformer though, which we’re not super into because we would want the flexibility if we were going to be a membs. All memberships auto-renew, there is one option for Mat classes and three for Reformer; Light, Moderate, and Heavy (like a maxi-pad combo box, now you’ll never forget). Unless you plan on going to class more than three times a week, the 12 class packs are working the hardest for you. Muse also offers community Pilates classes once a week for $8 if you’re penny pinching or just saving for your annual trip to…anywhere else. They also have teacher training coming up for Mat Pilates in September and Reformer in October.
- Drop-in: $20
- 6 Class Pack: $105 ($17.50 pc)
- 12 Class Pack: $195 ($16.25 pc)
- Auto Renew Membership: $155
- Drop-in: $34
- 6 Class Pack: $175 ($29 pc)
- 12 Class Pack: $330 ($27.50 pc)
- Light Membership (4 classes per month): $110 ($27.50 pc)
- Moderate Membership (8 classes per month): $195 ($24.40 pc)
- Heavy Membership (12 classes per month): $275 ($23 pc)
One on One Classes
- Initial Assessment: $75
- Regular Private: $109, w/ Apprentice Teacher: $30
- 6 Class Pack: $594 ($99 pc)
- 12 Class Pack: $1,170 ($97.50 pc)
So, as you already know, Muse Movement is located in the Artscape building so they’re part of a multi-business situation. Located at the end of the hall, Muse is one open-concept room that they’ve cleverly converted into two seperate-ish studios (one Reformer studio with the four beds, and a second larger, open space for the mat classes). The vibe is eclectic, upscale, and a tiny bit girly, but it only makes it’s way into the decor in subtle pops of pink, velvet, and cute-ass sayings like “you look so pretty today” – awwwww. Thanks, we know. The entire space is littered with candles, skeletons (not in a Halloween-y way, in an educational way), and a shit ton of science art on the walls that celebrates the human body. It’s like a beautiful and tastefully done shrine of our insides. Lolz. The flow is interesting because you walk directly into the open studio and leave your shoes near the door but the change room and sign in desk are at the back of the studio. BUT it’s very likely that you’ll be coming in when the class before you is still wrapping up. So as they say on the door about this, “don’t be shy” and be quiet like a little mouse, go on in and turn off your phone. The change rooms at the back consist of hooks, a water station and one curtain that people can draw to change behind – although it’s not super obvious and a lot of people in our class didn’t know that’s what it was for or if they were in the staff area. And finally, the washrooms are a shared space with the building (and nothing flash) but there aren’t any showers so
bring wipes plan ahead.
- Shared washrooms (no showers)
- Filtered water and glasses
- All equipment, including yoga mats, are included
- Ultra-mini retail boutique that carries little energy hits like Nomz Energy Bites (so good, Palo Santo and some Muse branded room spray and workout tops
Keri O’Meara – Strength & Stretch
Keri was not only our instructor for the mat Pilates Strength & Stretch class, but she is Muse’s fierce and formidable leader, owner and visionary. Her story is so inspiring and one that many can relate to because her approach is v different. Unlike most Pilates instructors who have a background in dance, Keri came about Pilates as a way to help ease her Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is a condition she’s had since the age of four. During her childhood and teenage years she tried everything to help increase the mobility in her body and it wasn’t until her early 20’s that she begrudgingly tagged along to a Pilates class with her mom. Despite the multitude of eye rolls and the misconception that Pilates was for old ladies, she surprised herself with how much she actually liked it because it started to help her. She’s now happy to tell you that her relationship to her body has completely changed and she’s “found inner strength and confidence in both body and brain and found that the two could be great pals.” She now lives without pain and has the freedom of dynamic movement. Take that Forrest Gump’s leg brace doctor.
Because she discovered Pilates and fitness for that matter, relatively late in life, her approach and method of teaching is a little bit different. She’s a very perceptive and empathetic teacher and she uses a lot of visualisations to describe the movements. Every exercise is guided with constant verbal and physical queues so you’ll never hold one position still or do one motion without thinking about the five areas of your body she’s talking about. She is particularly tuned in to her students who have injuries and it’s almost as if she puts on their body, their injury, and their feels like a sweater so she can best guide movement in a way that will resonate with them. In my interview with Keri, she professed how much of an anatomy nerd she is (hense the science art) and she’s passionate about educating people about the beauty and functionality of their bodies. All in all, if you’re taking Keri’s class, expect to learn a bit on top of getting summer worthy arm tonage.
Danielle Dodhamwright – Reformer
Danielle was our instructor for the Reformer Pilates class and she was incredibly attentive and personalised our class even though the four of us all had very different issues and needs. We probably couldn’t have planned it better actually because some of her expertise is in pre and post natal and pelvic floor (which was what I needed) and scoliosis (what my friend needed). Her relationship with movement started when she was a little kiddo, growing up in the dance studio for 16 years and she now holds a special degree in anatomy and biomechanics from Body Harmonics, and is a fully certified Pilates instructor on all equipment since 2009. Given the small class size it was very manageable for her to watch all four of us super closely and ensure we were doing each movement with the correct alignment, the correct modification for our bodies, and would make gentle hands on adjustments whenever needed. She’s quirky and funny and adorable and listened to us intently like an old friend which was just damn lovely.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
Strength & Stretch
We’re rating the Strength & Stretch, mat Pilates class a full pineapple and giving it a Chill for ‘Level of Difficulty’. It’s the type of class where you don’t necessarily work up a sweat (like most Pilates classes, actually) but it still manages to challenge you and work your small, but equally important, muscles. This is a point that’s worth a pause. Our teeny tiny supportive muscles are often underused so it’s really important to incorporate classes like this into your workout routine so you’re not a jerk and forget about them, or worse yet, injure yourself because you’re only focusing on the big guys. Anywayz, the Strength & Stretch is designed to focus on form, increase your connection to your core and work on stability. Expect to do movements like going on all fours and reaching out your left leg and right arm to balance, but before moving on you need to ensure your left hip is parallel to the ground and your pelvis is level enough to balance a wine glass on your mid-back. Everyone’s tried that, so you get it, even if you know nothing. If you’re good to go in that position, then you use a weighted small ball in your right arm and extend it beside you, parallel to the ground and hold. And then re-arrange your face because it’s way harder than it sounds. Even after years of dancing, Pilates, and knowing how to isolate different parts of my body, exercises like this are still challenging, and I think they always will be, no matter how many times I do them. You’ll do movements like this for the full 60 minute class that will work your full body and make you feel a slow burn, but throughout the class there are juicy muscular and fascial stretches that provide sweet sweet relief and leave you feeling longer, taller and more subtle. Yes, subtle. You’ll utilize props like a resistant band, small weighted balls and a bigger squishy ball – which you use to lean on in an ab series, or squeeze between your legs for stability and inner thigh work. Side note – it’s so amazing the amount of force those squishy balls can take and they almost never pop – but if they do, people loose their minds because that means you have Thor inner thighs and everyone wants Thor’s inner thighs. On them. I mean. Anyway….
If, you’ve never tried a Reformer class before you should, because they’re fun. You use a giant “bed” and each exercise is about setting up the bed’s various props to twist and turn your body into different positions that will lengthen and tone your beautiful bod but somehow leaving you feeling energized and relaxed as hell. Maybe because it’s a “bed” and you get to lay down most of the time?! Probs. We’re considering this class Chill as well, mostly because the nature of a reformer class and constantly changing the beds set-up, means there are a lot of breaks. Muse’s classic Reformer class is a full body workout that focuses on form, first and foremost. Obvi not a high cardio class, it’s more about isolating and figuring out how to work your small muscles groups like we talked about above, but with straps and springs and a slidey bed. The nice thing about reformer beds is they’re super safe for your joints, so if you’re working with any kind of injury this could be a great way to get back into fitness, and the exercises on the beds make you stronger, lean out your muscles like a ballerina and help make them more defined. This 55 minute class was a perfect blend of pulsing movements and stretching and although we also didn’t work up a sweat it required our full focus and it went by in a flash. Full fruits guys, full fruits.
That about wraps up all our feels about Muse Movement, plus the bubbly is all gone now, so a store run is needed. We’ll see you next week for our review of Stax Cycle Club in Calgs!
If you’re into these classes and want to give them a try, see Muse’s full schedule here.