If you were to wander into the MNR Dance Factory in Brentwood at 9 a.m. last week, you may have assumed you’d stumbled into an especially emotionally charged church service. A group of women stood with their hands stretched to the heavens, blissful smiles on their faces, seemingly praying, while a sunny blonde led them in raising their voices to a gradual roar. “Focus on your body,” she encouraged. “Love the sh*t out of your body!”
Oh. You’re not at church—you’re at the trendiest new workout that just arrived in L.A. The name? Simply The Class—because who needs a real name when you’re activating stagnant “layers” in your body and yelling to release stress, tension, and negative emotions? I was one of those women with her hands outstretched, sweating profusely, short of breath, and asking for blessings from the universe. Here is my honest account of this supermodel-approved workout.
Keep scrolling to read about The Class and find out if it’s right for you!
We covered The Class about a year ago, when it first burst onto the workout scene, but weren’t able to experience it firsthand until it arrived in L.A. this past March. Described as a “cathartic mind-body experience,” the workout mixes the spirituality of yoga with the repetitive motions of Pilates and cardio, complete with an emotion-filled alt-rock playlist that may or may not have been inspired by a late-’00s Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack. Oh, and you yell and shake your body a lot. Created by Taryn Toomey, a lithe, buoyant, disarmingly pretty fashion executive turned yogi, The Class aims to fuse spirituality with things like jumping jacks and leg lifts. Does it succeed? In some ways, yes.
The Class session I attended was a media preview, so the room was filled from wall to wall with editors and fitness gurus. I set my mat up toward the back-left corner and started copying Toomey’s hands-lifted-at-the-heart gesture, rocking back and forth with my legs bent and at hip’s width apart. As I rocked, Toomey’s voice filled the speakers, telling us that we would push our bodies to the limit in the next 60 minutes and thus release our minds. I nodded along, thinking this wasn’t so bad and that maybe I had found the easy workout of my (lazy-girl) dreams. I was sorely mistaken.
Next, Toomey told us to get on our all fours and lift our right legs back and out. As we did this, the music swelled, seemingly in synchrony. After about 20 leg lifts, it suddenly dawned on me in horror that we wouldn’t be stopping anytime soon. Toomey was saying encouraging things about overcoming barriers and connecting our real selves, but her voice was drowned out by my loud panting and the blood rushing to my head. We continued these leg lifts for what felt like 10 straight minutes (well, some did—I took several breaks #guilty) until she finally let us collapse to the floor. Then we were back with our palms outstretched near our hearts, rocking back and forth again as something akin to The Fray filled the speakers. The rest of the workout was similar to this—intense bouts of repetitive moves (we repeated the leg lefts on the other side, then did burpees, jumping jacks, and half push-ups), with “resting” moments between, wherein Toomey’s soothing voice would encourage us to shed negativity and bad habits.
After a particularly grueling set of never-ending jumping jacks, Toomey turned the music down and told us to stand with our legs apart, arms lifted. As I tried to keep my ragged breathing from drawing too much attention, she turned around and seemed to look right at me. “Shake away the anger,” she instructed. “Shake away the anxiety!” And so I shook—as did everyone else. Twenty or so women flailed their arms and legs like convulsing jellyfish, then started yelling to “let go.” The yell started timidly, then grew to a fever pitch as everyone forgot their self-consciousness and yelled away their own personal frustrations, struggles, and fears. “Don’t look at your neighbor!” Toomey admonished us with an almost alarming intensity. “Don’t interfere with their journey!” I squeezed my eyes shut and shook with more intensity.
After this cathartic yelling/flailing session, we did a few more Pilates-inspired moves before finally retreating to child’s pose. Toomey’s voice turned from rigid and authoritative to soothing, lulling us and telling us we should be proud of the progress we had made today, both physically and spiritually. I finished the class drenched in sweat, feeling lighter in both body and spirit (and also slightly like I had experienced the most active contemporary church worship service of my life).
So, does The Class do all that it promises? Yes, to an extent. I like how Toomey blends a journey for deeper self-awareness with heart-pounding cardio, and I definitely left the class feeling more Zen and less world-weary. However, my one qualm would have to be the actual moves you do. Most of them are standard, simple things like leg lifts or jumping jacks, just done for an extended period of time. This is a good thing in one way, because they’re easy to pick up even for beginners, but they can also feel overly simplistic if you’re someone who gets bored easily (me). I spoke with another Byrdie editor who took The Class, and she said she enjoyed it once she fully let herself go, yelling and grunting in full force as she cleared everything else from her mind and powered through more leg lifts. And in the end, that’s exactly what Toomey encourages each person to do—let go and overcome spiritual barriers by breaking through physical ones. With that in mind, I’m looking forward to my next visit—and this time, I’ll be ready to yell.