Fitness Studio Concept ‘Jaybird’ Opens in Toronto’s Bloor-Yorkville [Interview/Photos]

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Jaybird, a contemporary movement and fitness studio, has launched its newest location in Toronto’s Yorkville.

Co-founders Barbie Bent and Ariel Swan wanted to create a workout that hits on a deeper level. Jaybird was born at the intersection of mindfulness and fitness, with environments and programming designed to help participants let go of inhibitions and trust their own perceptions.

Originally launched in Vancouver’s Yaletown, Jaybird now boasts a thriving studio in Toronto’s Queen West area, with the newest Toronto location in Yorkville.

Jaybird Yorkville (Image: Graydon Herriott)
Jaybird Yorkville (Image: Craig Patterson)

Bent, CEO, said Jaybird began in July 2019 with the first location opening in Yaletown in Vancouver.

Barbie Bent

“We previously worked together. I founded a company called Lagree West (a B.C. based pilates-focuses boutique fitness business) and we met at Lagree West and we really felt like there was something missing in the fitness space,” said Bent. 

“Both Ariel and I are very passionate about meditation and mindfulness. Interested in consciousness and so we were really striving to create an experience in the boutique fitness space that created a workout that sort of hit on a deeper level. So rather than just providing an experience that was centered around the physical we wanted to target some of the mental benefits as well.”

The Yorkville location is the brand’s first duo concept space. It’s almost double the size of the other locations at 6,000 square feet. One room will have mat classes and a second room will have 20 Reformer Pilates machines.

“We’re absolutely looking to grow. We’re just currently weighing options between a U.S. expansion plan or further expansion in Canada. We haven’t landed on which to choose. That’s something we’re really focused on making that decision,” said Bent.

“Our target clientele is usually between 22 and around 50. It’s a pretty wide clientele because we offer classes that have different styles. Some of our classes are closer to a Pilates style. Some are closer to more of a chilled relaxing self massage. The clientele can be wide depending on what they’re looking for,” said Swan, Head of Product. “We have more than one offering at this space so that allows our clientele to be wider. We have lots of options for people.”

The fitness studio is for both men and women.

Jaybird Yorkville (Image: Graydon Herriott)
Jaybird Yorkville (Image: Graydon Herriott)

Bent said the name was chosen from the old saying “naked as a jaybird.”

“It’s kind of a weird back story but the saying comes, from our understanding, maybe the 20s or 30s, when a prisoner needs to show up to prison they would strip naked and walk down to the cell. But what the root of the saying meant was unashamedly naked. And everything about Jaybird is really about stripping your layers back and coming closer to self. So we felt that word really embodied what we are trying to do at Jaybird. And we also thought it sounds cool,” said Bent.

The Yorkville location has infrared in a room which is unique globally. 

“We’re also adding a lot of mindfulness to that concept which we don’t think exists anywhere in the world,” added Bent.

“Candlelight-only lighting, loud (but carefully-curated) music, and an absence of mirrors encourage guests to release any feelings of self-consciousness and focus entirely on movement. This extends to the classes themselves: Jaybird’s instructors teach with an emphasis on sensation-based cues and language, helping to override any preconceived notions of what a movement should look (or feel) like,” says the brand.

“The goal is to disconnect from distraction, turning attention inward and allowing for a more complete connection with one’s own body.”

Jaybird Yorkville (Image: Craig Patterson)

Both of Jaybird’s founders have a long and vibrant history in the wellness space. Bent is a serial entrepreneur who previously founded Lagree West, a B.C.-based, pilates-focused boutique fitness business with six locations (and counting). She is also an investor in other early-stage health and wellness businesses, including Othership, 101 Cider House/Pulp Culture, and Vine Ventures.

Swan is a master pilates and yoga instructor and former professional dancer with over 20 years of experience in the industry. Shel has led movement and meditation retreats all over the world, in addition to founding Vancouver-based charity Feed The People, and the event series SJS (Slow Jam Sundays).

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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