A workout for the mind, body and soul

·4 min read

With January usually comes the overheard motivational sentences such as new year, new me or no pain, no gain.

Kanehsata’kehró:non Kaniehtawaks Lauder wanted to go beyond that mentality. The Pilates instructor was longing for a sacred space where people could discuss mental, physical, spiritual and environmental wellness. Launched on January 17, the Embody Classroom, an eight-week online program, is dedicated to self-growth.

“We know that we all have our own trauma and struggles,” said Lauder. “No human is okay 100 percent of the time and that is something I want to emphasize and normalize.”

With the Embody Classroom, Lauder encourages the participants to journal while exploring difficult topics through movement and breath work. Within a few minutes of announcing the initiative, her class was full.

“It’s awesome because I’m able to connect, even if virtually, with friends and family in not only Kanesatake and Kahnawake, but also in BC, Akwesasne and Six Nations,” said Lauder.

Her workshop touches on mental wellness awareness, suicide prevention, stress techniques, alcohol and drug abuse, and the menstrual cycle.

“I aim to revitalize the connectedness our culture once had with balancing wellness,” said the 27-year-old instructor. “I want to talk about the affects intergenerational trauma has had on First Nations people; disconnection to land, culture, foods, herbs and ways of being; learning how to nourish ourselves through plant medicines, mindful meditation and learning to enjoy yourself.”

Lauder has always been an active person. From a very young age, you could find her either practicing gymnastics, cheerleading, figure skating, or kickboxing. But she knows that not every Onkwehón:we had that kind of luck.

“I am doing this for my ancestors who were deprived of the right to move, dance, celebrate, teach, communicate,” said Lauder. “I want to be a leader for our youth. I want to see our communities flourish with happier and more vibrant, resilient individuals.”

Lauder explained that she witnessed her community bloom in 2017 when Kanehsatake CrossFit (KCF) opened. Back then, there were no Pilates instructors in Kanesatake, and Lauder saw an opportunity.

“It became a safe place for me and many other individuals,” she said. “I gained confidence and a sense of clarity, sense of purpose.”

While she started exploring basic yoga a few years earlier, as she experienced intense chronic back pain, the CrossFit gym was the push she needed to get official certification. At the same time, recalled Lauder, her sister was taking Pilates classes at John Abbott College and recommended that she joined her.

“I was hooked. I dove in, scared as hell, nervous, unsure…. excited,” said Lauder.

Her sister wasn’t the only family member who inspired Lauder. She said that she was deeply influenced by her mother, Isabelle Nicholas, who was only 32 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Lauder said her mother completely changed the way she was cooking, started to take time for herself to be more active, leading her daughters to find better ways to nourish themselves.

“I am grateful to have such a powerful role model in my life,” said Lauder.

With the encouragement of KCF’s owners, Kaneratiio Simon and Julie Anne David, Lauder obtained her Pilates certification and launched Embody Pilates in 2018 - Pilates classes she offered both in Kanesatake and Kahnawake.

“I decided that I do not have to be a doctor in order to help people,” said Lauder.

“Pilates gave me a sense of being. I feel my best, my most powerful when I am moving around my stagnant energy.”

Inevitably, the pandemic forced Lauder to slow her practice down. No more pulling double shifts in between the two communities, or monthly trips to Toronto for further training certification. She became so used to being busy and exhausted that she did not know how to simply do nothing.

“My sense of purpose, my passions, my motivation were spiralling and I began to feed my fear, anxiety, depression, scary and overwhelming thoughts and emotions,” said Lauder.

In a sense, she created Embody Classroom not only to offer a safe space for others, but also for herself to grow.

“I am not a professional in every subject that we are going to cover. That’s the point. I will learn and f*** up alongside my students,” she said. “We are only human. We experience one life in this body. I choose to step out of my own comfort zone to better myself, so that I can help people.”


Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door