I’m a crier, I’ll admit it. I cry watching movies. I cry when I’m drunk. Just the other week, I broke down sobbing to my boyfriend over his video gaming obsession, an issue that’s surely gotten worse since social distancing measures began here in Boston almost two months ago. I’m not one to pass up an opportunity to shed a tear here and there, but I never expected to find my eyes watering and a lump in my throat during a workout class. That is, until I tried live-streaming The Class by Taryn Toomey, where I found myself using a towel to wipe away stinky sweat and salty tears at the same time.
Before the pandemic hit the world’s “pause” button, I was attending Pure Barre classes about four times per week at my local studio down the street. After my first class in late December, it took me a few weeks to get the hang of all the tiny, rigid movements, but soon enough I was tucking, shaking and pulsing like a pro. After the studio temporarily closed, I tried my best to follow my favorite instructor's direction through her live-streaming Pure Barre class on my computer screen, but always found myself wishing that Angela was there in my messy living room, straightening out my back or lifting my leg just a little bit higher.
I missed the in-studio barre experience, but I also noticed that, after “commuting” from my bed to my desk and sitting inside all day, I needed something more than just strengthening and toning my flimsy muscles—I needed to really get my heart rate up and release some energy. When I was offered a free, month-long trial for The Class by Taryn Toomey virtually, I hesitated, partly because I felt guilty for pushing my Pure Barre practice to the side, and partly because I’d heard mixed reviews of The Class throughout the many years I lived in NYC, where The Class is based. “It’s been such an incredible release for me,” one friend would tell me. “It’s this really weird class where everyone is yelling and grunting and dancing like crazy,” said another. I signed up, but made a note in my calendar to cancel my membership once the free trial was up a month later.
My Review of The Class by Taryn Toomey
I didn’t know what to expect when I had my first class with Raj, a tall brunette with long, flowy hair and toned arms. As I settled into my own workout space in my apartment, I could smell the palo santo she’d just lit through the screen, and could feel the slight warmth of her burning candle. The first song she played was “White Ferrari” by Frank Ocean, one of my favorites. “Yep, this is gonna be weird,” I thought to myself. “But I think I’m gonna love it.”
Raj instructed me to place my hand on my heart, my other hand on my stomach, and just breathe, feeling the air travel in and out of my lungs, pumping blood to my strong, beating heart. The next thing I knew, “Roll Away Your Stone” by Mumford & Sons started playing, and we were hopping around together, dancing to the beat, but without an actual dance routine. “Let everything go and get everything off your chest,” Raj yelled over the loud music, grunting and breathing hard between beats. “Thank your body for its ability to move today, we are lucky because of it,” said Raj as we moved next into a minute of jumping jacks.
After we “jacked it out,” a soothing song by Citizen Cope started playing while we were instructed to stand completely still, rest our hands on our hearts and stomach, and feel it dancing out of our chest. It was at this moment that I became convinced Raj had found my Spotify account and was playing one of my own curated playlists during her class. For the next 45 minutes, The Class continued with spurts of intense cardio movements, including skaters, hopping, squats, jumping jacks, and bicycle sit ups, interspersed with more quiet moments of body tapping, shaking and seconds of complete stillness in between. Raj continued to coach me through the workout (and play all my favorite songs), reminding me to modify when I needed to, to listen to what my body needed that day, and to work with, not again, myself.
Raj mentioned how difficult of a time this was for many of us, and that it’s incredible how we are all able to come together in this moment and feel a sense of release, a time just for ourselves. When the cardio portion was done, we were instructed to sit on the floor on our knees, extend our arms out to the sides, and start the “heart-clearing” exercise, where we moved our arms back and forth for a few minutes. This was when I started crying for the first time during a workout. I cried from the frustration of everything happening (and not happening) because of the coronavirus. I cried from a new, out-of-nowhere appreciation I was now feeling for my body. I cried for the relief I felt that I was safe in my apartment, not needing to risk my life to work on the frontlines of this pandemic. I cried for the freedom I felt over being able to dance around candidly in my apartment while no one was watching me, a stark contrast to the watchful eyes and unyielding movements I’d been honing during my previous barre classes.
I mentioned the unexpected crying sesh I’d had with a few of my other friends who I knew were also currently signed up for The Class trial, and they’d had similar, surprising experiences, too. “Immediately after taking The Class, I journaled without lifting pen from paper for around 15 minutes,” explained Kayli Schattner, Founder of The Elevator newsletter and Romancing Success blueprint. “I found the class incredibly therapeutic and more of a wild woman embodiment practice than anything else. It definitely didn't feel like a regular ‘workout’ to me.”
Like me, Amy Miller, Founder of Healing Haus, wiped up tears after her first The Class. “Something about The Class and knowing I was taking an important step for myself really opened up the floodgates for me and allowed for some emotional release, which doesn't usually come easily for me,” she said. “I cried a bit in the beginning and then again at the end when we did the arm movements, which focus on the heart area—I was a little surprised by the release, but more grateful than anything.”
Ever since I first took The Class over a month ago, I’ve been feeling only gratitude for discovering a workout that I actually look forward to multiple times a week, especially during this stressful time. I light my own candle (Le Labo’s Santal 26 Classic Candle has been a recent fave) and burn palo santo before I begin, and sometimes, when I want to really feel other-worldly, I lower the blackout blinds and turn on my Sega Star Projector—dancing, yelling and crying under a starry night sky.
The Class has been the first workout that’s helped me connect movement to feeling good inside my body, rather than focusing on how it will make my body look from the outside. It forces me to dive deep into my heart and soul while also teaching me that movement is medicine, not a painful affliction. And most importantly, The Class has taught me to try out new things, even if they might be considered “weird” or “out there." You never know when that “cancel subscription” calendar reminder will quickly turn into a “definitely renew subscription for your own sanity” note.