Healing Through Manifesting Movement 

Story by Emily Turner, Photos by Sarah McPherson 

Everyone finds yoga in a different way. Some are drawn to its spiritual aspect, others its physical; some simply stumble upon it. But many never find it at all, because Western studio-based yoga classes can be inaccessible, appearing to only be for a particular gender, body shape, age, income, or cultural background. However, everyone deserves to experience the therapeutic benefits of mindful movement. That’s why local filmmaker, performance artist, and social worker Michelle Derosier has launched Manifesting Movement, an endeavour that “intertwines healing, movement, and storytelling to create transformative journeys.” 

From Migisi Sahgaigan (Eagle Lake First Nation), Derosier has lived and worked in Thunder Bay for over 30 years. She discovered yoga entirely by accident one day  when she was staying in Toronto for film workshops and she entered a studio out of curiosity. She very quickly realized the power of connecting her breath with movement. She continued returning to that studio for classes and “after two weeks of movement,” Derosier says, “I realized I hadn’t been breathing for 44 years of my life.” She returned to Thunder Bay and started attending classes at local studios, and continued noticing the barriers that prevent many people from experiencing the benefits of yoga. 

Now, 10 years later, Derosier is a certified yoga teacher, and is actively creating spaces for people to experience mindful movement and breathwork without having to enter a studio. She has called upon her skills as a social worker, her talents for sharing stories as a filmmaker, and her passion for movement to start Manifesting Movement, so she can create spaces for people to “become curious about their stories and their bodies.” She says that “in Western yoga classes, you go in and you’re silent, and you leave silent.” But she does the opposite, explaining that “at the heart of Manifesting Movement is storytelling.”

Michelle Derosier, founder of Manifesting Movement

“Artists have always known the power of storytelling. Indigenous people have always known the power of storytelling. We have forgotten sometimes, but storytelling helps us metabolize what’s happening around us,” she says. Each movement session is bookended with sharing circles, where everyone—including Derosier—shares what they can about themselves. Derosier then crafts movement sequences based on what the participants have shared, and then everyone returns to the circle to hear the stories that the movement helped them uncover. As a trained social worker, Derosier knows that  “talk therapy has its place, but sometimes it’s not going to move our trauma. Trauma needs to be moved out of our body.”

Derosier has travelled far and wide to facilitate these sessions. “I go to you,” she says. “You do not have to come to me.” Since beginning the work, Derosier has connected with the Elizabeth Fry Society to work with incarcerated women, Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School to work with Indigenous teenagers, and other organizations such as Dilico and the Indigenous Friendship Centre in Dryden to support their staff.

Derosier reminds us that this approach of moving and storytelling to release tension, boredom, and trauma is not new. “We used to move all the time, and then we would sit around to tell stories,” she says. “So, we were manifesting movement for thousands of years. And we just forgot.” This is why Manifesting Movement is far more than just a yoga business—it is an initiative to help “return us to ourselves.”

To learn more about Manifesting Movement and to book sessions, visit manifestingmovement.ca.