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 only got worse when social distancing measures began here in Boston. I’m not one to pass up an opportunity to shed a tear, but I never expected to find my eyes watering and a lump forming 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.
"The Class creates a safe space for people to 'work out' whatever they need—mentally, psychically, and emotionally—in order to evolve," explains Taryn Toomey, founder of The Class.
Meet the Expert
Taryn Toomey is the founder and CEO of The Class. She is a yoga teacher and studied with a shamanic healer before launching The Class in 2013. Her Tribeca, NY, studio opened in 2017. The Class has since gone global with the launch of The Class Digital Studio.
Before the pandemic hit the world’s “pause” button, I was attending Pure Barre classes at my local studio. After the studio temporarily closed, I tried my best to follow my favorite instructor's direction through her live-streaming class, but always found myself wishing Angela was there in my living room, straightening out my back or lifting my leg just a 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 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 during the years I'd lived in NYC, where The Class is based. “It’s been such an incredible release for me,” one friend told me. “It’s this really weird class where everyone is yelling and grunting and dancing like crazy,” said another.
So what exactly is The Class? Here's everything you need to know about this crazy-cool boutique workout.
What Is The Class?
The Class combines several elements of yoga, dance, and boot camp. It strengthens your body, mind, and spirit.
"The Class is a cathartic workout experience that guides you to strengthen your body, notice your mind, and restore balance," Toomey says. "It has often been described as a spiritual fitness experience that borrows from yoga in its spirit, a rock concert in its energy, and a boot camp in its grit."
Toomey notes that the practice is mat-based but music-driven. She explains that the music will guide you through total-body exercises, including burpees, squats, and jumping jacks. "We repeat one move per song to create a sensation in the body and observe our thoughts, she says.
The Benefits of The Class
What makes The Class different from other workouts is that it works both your body and your spirit. "If you’ve been around The Class long enough, you know that we refer to the practice as an 'inside job,' the kind of work where true transformation takes place. It is only you, done through you, by you," explains Toomey.
You can expect to gain flexibility and core strength from its yoga components, as well as the endurance and strengthening you would get from a HIIT class. The spiritual element is what Toomey says makes her class special. "There is true empowerment that occurs when you provide a space for people to self-actualize and witness their potential," she says. "In that space, you can physically release what is not serving your higher purpose, through and out of the body. When the proper scaffolding is in place to ideate and explore without judgment, a real shift can occur."
What Is Each Class Like?
I didn’t know what to expect when I had my first class with Raj, a tall brunette with flowy hair and toned arms. As I settled into my own workout space in my apartment, I could almost smell the palo santo she’d just lit through the screen and 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. "But I think I’m gonna love it."
Raj instructed me to place one hand on my heart, the other on my stomach, and to 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 was 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 stomachs, and feel it dancing out of our chests. At this moment, I became convinced Raj had found my Spotify account and was playing one of my 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, listen to what my body needed that day, and work with, not against, myself.
The Emotional Release
Raj mentioned how difficult of a time this was for many of us and that it was incredible how we were 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) in my life. I cried from a new, out-of-nowhere appreciation I was feeling for my body. 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 my unexpected crying sesh to a few friends who had also signed up for The Class trial, and they said they'd had similar surprising experiences. “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 the Romancing Your Dream Brand 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 session. “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.”
Toomey explains that this emotional release is part of the experience. "In The Class, we use the physical discomfort in the body to engage the mind, which allows us to observe behaviors, thoughts, feelings, or obstacles that keep us feeling stuck. When we are given the space to feel it, oftentimes an emotion arises—be it laughter or tears," she says. "We use the body as the instrument to feel, breathe, and practice awareness of thought."
At Home vs. In Studio
More than ever, people are streaming classes at home or doing home workouts. Toomey says you can get all the benefits of The Class at home. "The work of The Class has been and always will be a heart-centered practice. The essence remains the same, regardless of circumstances, and that's the beauty of this work. All you need is you," she says.
She says that even though students that stream at home are physically apart, they have found ways to connect. "I have noticed an increased desire for community and connection," she says. "Many students have felt compelled to post a certain moment or a profound quote a teacher said in class on their social media, sharing with their community and, in turn, ours."
She says they created a Facebook group for Digital Studio students to connect with one another and with their teachers. "All these people have never met one other," she notes, "but have bonded and connected through their experiences with The Class."
Of course, there is something to be said about taking The Class in person and feeling the energy in the studio.
How Much Does It Cost?
You can try The Class Digital Studio free for a 14-day trial period. If you decide to subscribe, it is $40 per month or $400 a year. With this subscription, you can live-stream full-length workout classes from its Tribeca studio, as well as sweat-free meditation and other content. Classes are live-streamed seven days a week.
If you are in New York, you can also check out its Tribeca studio for an in-person class starting at $35. You can check out their website to verify they are open and to find out the class schedule.
The Final Takeaway
Ever since I first took The Class, I’ve been feeling only gratitude for discovering a workout I actually look forward to multiple times a week. I light my 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 feel otherworldly, I lower the blackout blinds and turn on my Sega Star Projector—dancing, yelling, and crying under a starry night sky.
The Class is 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 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.