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STOTT PILATES® Instructor Spotlight: Joana Meneses

Joana Meneses Joana Meneses
Merrithew Instructor Trainer

Certified in: STOTT PILATES® Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, Total Barre®, ZEN•GA® Equipment, ZEN•GA® Matwork, Certified Yoga, Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga, TRX and Kettlebell Instructor, AquaPhysical Master-Trainer

Founder: BodyRoots Fitness Studio

Joana Meneses moved to New York to pursue her dream of becoming a comedienne, sharing the spotlight with her idols on the set of Saturday Night Live. But life had other plans. Now a 16-year Merrithew Instructor Trainer, Joana runs a successful studio out of her live/work loft apartment in New York City with a client list that has included Jimmy Fallon and Edie Falco, and regularly travels around the world teaching a variety of fitness modalities, informed by her Merrithew training all the while utilizing the languages she speaks—English, Portuguese and Spanish.


Here is how she did it.

Joana Meneses knows a thing or two about capturing the attention of an audience. And by her own admission, her tale of moving to the big city to follow her dreams “is a pretty fabulous story,” she says. One with a plot twist, and a surprise ending.

Joana has always loved the stage and working out in equal measure. A high school athlete and burgeoning comedienne, she studied musical theater in Oakville, Canada, comedy at Second City in Toronto and dreamed of bringing her brand of comedy to the stage. She set her sights on the epitome of funny — the set of Saturday Night Live in New York City. She moved to NYC for an 11-week theatre centre program in the hopes of one day making it on the SNL stage.

But four years later, Joana was a starving artist in the west village of Manhattan, living off the tips she made at her service job and taking advantage of a $25 per year community centre membership she had splurged on to work out as much as she could. It was 1998, and Joana had heard murmurs about Pilates but had yet to try it herself. When she saw a class at the community centre, she signed up. “Immediately I knew I had to have this in my life,” she says. “I felt longer and had no idea why I could suddenly take deeper breaths in the New York City air.”

Joana tested out a few more Pilates classes in New York, and then chose to sign up for a year of training at the Merrithew Corporate Training Center in Toronto, Canada. She took to her studies immediately. “They couldn’t get rid of me,” she says. “Saturday Night Live fell by the wayside.”

For the next five years, it was “all Pilates, all the time,” Joana says. Her first job after Certification was a three-month stint in Bermuda. After obtaining Instructor Trainer status, she’s traveled to teach in South Africa, Brazil and Portugal. She took a Pilates Director opportunity with the Printing House Fitness & Racquet Club, a popular NYC gym, and stayed with them for eight years. When the Printing House was sold to Equinox, Joana’s clients encouraged her to strike out on her own.

Joana Meneses Pilates in water

She found a “modern-day 'Flashdance' loft” that she converted into a mind-body studio and living space. As Joana’s business grew, she began using her STOTT PILATES® education to further different modalities to offer clients, most notably AquaPhysical, a form of exercise performed on the AquaBase, a floating board in the water that fires up the intrinsic muscles. Of all of the modalities that Joana now teaches, she praises the STOTT PILATES principles as her seeds of inspiration. Whether she is teaching or training herself, Joana’s BodyRoots motto is rooted in "No Movement Wasted." Joana has also trained in Merrithew branded programs ZEN•GA® and Total Barre® and has taken Halo® Training workshops. She loves to teach her clients the necessary patience in learning and understanding the body’s technique in order to fearlessly use it to its full and phenomenal ability. “STOTT PILATES taught me the invaluable lesson that it is never about how fast or how many, it is about the ever-evolving connection to the quality of movement. This is what I tell my clients is their ‘movement poetry.’”

STOTT PILATES Instructor Joana Meneses

Going it on her own was a challenge. “It was a dream come true, but it was scary to step out on your own,” she says. Because she had retained such a high percentage of her clientele, Joana forewent marketing and relied on word of mouth to build her brand. It worked, with 30–40% growth in her first year, she says.

Though there are definite perks to working for yourself out of a live-in studio, Joana recognized the need to stay connected to the fitness community at large. When she had been working for a larger facility, she had organically come across a number of different fitness modalities, and was able to notice new trends and ideas in the industry. Now, she has to focus on getting out and trying new things, new fitness modalities and stay fresh by taking classes and courses herself. When she first tried TRX classes, she saw how her STOTT PILATES knowledge could benefit class participants. When using kettlebells, she incorporated the 5 Basic Principles into the movements for a perfect balance between alignment and power.

Most recently she created her HolyWater FloatFit class on the AquaBase and classes sold out in minutes—it’s currently waitlisted in New York City. “There is a teaching finesse that keeps people moving fluidly on the ground as well as above water. It is a combination of anatomical knowledge and deep intrinsic connection. I owe a large part of my success to the STOTT PILATES education I received,” she says. “All these years later, it keeps giving back. Between continuously being a student and finding a 'tribe' of clients that move me as much as I move them, I feel there is nothing I can’t do,” she says.

Joana Meneses teaching in Portugal

Joana regularly travels to teach, and is currently honored to introduce the world to her hidden native Azores islands in Portugal with LiquidRoots retreats. It might not be Saturday Night Live, but says she is living the dream that many before her gave her the life to dream. “I pinch myself on the regular,” she says, and laughs.