I’d done some reading about The Class prior to taking it. In fact, a Fast Company article, titled "Is This Workout for your Feelings What American Women Need Right Now?" is what piqued my curiosity in the first place.
From what I’d read, I expected an aerobics-like experience in a yoga-like studio with mostly women, and maybe some yelling. I was excited about the yelling.
Founder Taryn Toomey operates a studio in lower Manhattan, where the majority of The Class sessions take place, but on a recent visit to New York, I was lucky enough to find a single session in a Bandier retail shop, much closer to my hotel in midtown (though still a 20 block hike).
In the name of research, I pre-booked this experience a few days ahead ($35/class) and found myself on the 3rd floor of Bandier, just blocks from the Flatiron Building, in a dimly lit studio, yoga mats arranged in a grid, many already occupied by a decidedly female millennial crowd, quiet music pumping as though anxious to go full volume, the air rich with delicious earthy aroma- sandalwood? Or was it vetiver? The scene was set for the senses.
Though scheduled to teach, Toomey was replaced that morning by a sub, who turned up the volume on the music, and opened the class with a series of air squats, to the rhythm of a soulful song by Florence + The Machine. Was that 4 minutes.. maybe 5? Probably the longest period of consecutive squats I’ve ever done, but the loud music, accompanied by a drumbeat of mantras and reflective questions spewed out by the teacher, the addition of arm movements and periodic yelling - the time passed quickly, the room warmed up, the energy palpable. It felt tribal. It felt exciting.
Over the next 90 minutes, we were lead through a series that was mostly cardio, with some body weight movements thrown in. In addition to the squats, there were burpees, “skating” in place, planks, various ab strengtheners, bicep lifts, dancing, yelling. The dancing was my favorite part, freeform with the beat, evolving into jumping jacks, then devolving into a slower, calmer groove. Lots of heart touching. Lots of body scanning. Lots of music with motivating beats by some of today’s cultural icons - Of Monsters and Men, Kings of Leon, Cold Play and Eminem among them. (A quick Spotify search pulls up several The Class inspired playlists, which I recommend perusing)
Perfection was not encouraged. Fitness was not discussed. Performance was not emphasized. Narratives in The Class focused on self accountability, self discovery, acknowledging life's challenges, and working through them, owning your destiny.
The time passed quickly, and when it was all said and done, I had worked up a good sweat. My quads felt like jello from so many squats, but The Class wasn’t close to the best workout I’ve ever had. For the time (and money) investment, I’ll stick to my crossfit and running regimen, no question.
But, I enjoyed the opportunity to dance and move to loud music - by myself, but not alone. I enjoyed the invitation to introspection, and the mentally cleansed feeling that resulted. I enjoyed the yelling. I enjoyed the aromatherapy. I enjoyed the catharsis - a big word, but also an important one that is discussed too rarely in our society.
So yes, I’d go back. If The Class were in my city, I’d probably find myself there a few times a year. I’d take my girlfriends, then follow it up with brunch or coffee. I think we'd all agree that it was time well spent.