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What is Shape Your Life?

Shape Your Life (SYL) is a free, trauma informed, non-contact boxing program for people who have experienced violence. SYL Toronto is the original site of the SYL program and operates as a partnership between Dr. Cathy van Ingen, Professor in Kinesiology at Brock University and Joanne Green, Executive Director with Opportunity for Advancement.

What is trauma-informed?

SYL uses a trauma-informed approach which takes into account the lasting effects trauma in the lives of participants. Trauma and violence-informed boxing is participant-centred and is built on knowledge about the impact of violence and trauma on people’s lives and health. We run SYL in a way that integrates this knowledge into all aspects of the boxing program in ways that foster participants’ safety, respect and empowerment.

"An amazing program that runs free non-contact boxing program for self-identified women who have experienced violence"

The History of Shape Your Life

Since the program began in 2007, more than 2,300 women and trans-identifying persons have participated in Shape Your Life. In 2017, SYL Toronto relocated to our new home at Bloor Street Boxing & Fitness.

Quick Stats Of Our Progress

In the spring of 2017, Shape Your Life launched a fully redesigned 14-week boxing program and all coaches have taken a trauma and violence informed coaching workshop designed and led by Cathy van Ingen and Joanne Green. The trauma and violence informed coaching workshop is based on 13 yrs of supervising and running Shape Your Life, researching the effects of trauma and pathways to recovery.


 13      2300          23          20+

For info on SYL trauma and violence informed workshops - please contact cathy.vaningen[at]brocku.ca

Over the course of the program's life, SYL has received generous funding from municipal, provincial and federal government agencies, SYL fundraisers and many wonderful individual donors.

From 2016-2019, Brock University received funding for Shape Your Life from the Public Health Agency of Canada's "Supporting Victims of Violence and Protecting Children: The Health Perspective" investment.

In 2019, a Shape Your Life YOUTH program was started by Dr. Cathy van Ingen at Brock University with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada (2019-2021). SYL Youth operates programs in Toronto, the Niagara Region, and Edmonton. Since the COVID-19 pandemic the SYL Youth program has moved to online classes that are open to any youth with Internet access.

We thank everyone for their continued support.


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