Movement phenomenon The Class injects some emotional energy into a workout.

It was a rough Monday morning, my mood as blustery-with-a-side-of-rain as the March New York City day outside. I’m no Eeyore, but sometimes these things happen. This was the worst case of the Mondays I’ve had in recent memory, and I wanted desperately to head home.

I considered bailing on The Class by TT but had a tight deadline and schedule—and there weren’t many open sessions of The Class actually taught by TT, that is, Taryn Toomey, in the timeframe I needed. The Class has gotten a lot of press for its celebrity clientele and unorthodox (as in, noisy and less-than-regimented) approach to movement. Since I really wanted to experience The Class with the burgeoning fitness celebrity and creator herself, I booked myself in the Express Class on what turned out to be my no-good-very-bad-rotten Monday. (You’ll understand why I’m making such a big deal about my mood in two flips of Eeyore’s thumbtacked tail, I promise.)

The Financial District studio, which opened about six months ago, is an oasis from the noise, bustle and hardness that is NYC. I opened the door to a softly lit space and two smiling, beautiful and seemingly genuinely happy ladies who greeted me as if I were entering my own personal secret garden for the first time. Happy people are a rare commodity in New York City, so it helped lighten my mood immediately.

Unleashing the female beast

I grabbed a spot in the front row by the windows, the mats already set up symmetrically and perfectly spaced. Toomey entered the room in beautiful “athleisure” clothing and heeled boots. She appeared strong and stylish but unpretentious, and she personally connected with every newbie. When she asked me how I was feeling, my lie, “I’m great,” set off two little voices in my head, one berating me for lying and the other congratulating me for appearing so together.

Then class began. Toomey used a headset mic to amplify her voice over the very loud music, which ran so counter to the serenity of the space that it shocked me at first, my internal Eeyore moaning, “Oh great, another class where I get yelled at.” But the music was well-curated for the beat, the message and the timing. The moves were simple and popular (think burpees, jumping jacks and glute bridges). I enjoyed moving loosely to loud music and pounding my feet and screaming on command. Toomey’s website promises The Class will make you sweat, and even in Express format, it delivers.

There is little to no focus on form because that’s not important here. (They offer a slower class if you want to perfect your moves.) What is important is getting out of your own way and letting go of the “stuff” that is keeping you from your joy or “weighing you down,” as Toomey says. What is important and unique about The Class is not the moves or format but basically that from the moment you enter the space, you are led through a mind-body experience during which you confront your own resistance and discover your own resilience. This leads to an emotional, energetic release and, dare I say it, female empowerment.

Putting it all together

Nothing specifically “female” was mentioned during The Class, but perhaps because only women were participating—or perhaps because Toomey herself, tiny but bold with a raspy, sexy voice (and, I mean, those boots!), seems to embody a certain feminine strength—I felt like I was communing with women warriors. There were moments I felt embarrassed for all of us because of the nakedness of what Toomey seems to be after, which often goes undescribed and undiscussed in the current discourse on female empowerment, and which instead focuses on topics like getting ahead in a male-driven and career-focused society. Even in those supposedly female-centric conversations, a word like “emotions” is toxic and “energy” is taboo.

Here, though, I was free to pound my hips and stamp my feet into the ground and scream out frustrations, anger and despair. Navigating complicated gender roles and rapidly changing work landscapes disappeared. I let it all go. And I got a nice burn in my glutes to boot.

After unleashing our female beasts for 45 minutes, in hushed and quiet tones we put ourselves back together again before shuffling out onto the hard streets. Yes, I felt a bit better. I don’t know about energetically shifting or moving that enigmatic stuff out of the way, as Toomey demanded, but better. And better is good.

Just hours later, solutions to what had long seemed unsolvable problems began appearing as calls to my phone or messages in my in-box. Miracle? Depends on your definition and willingness to believe. Certainly I believe in the power of connecting the body and the mind. Bring that together with a community of shape-shifting feminine beasts, and I believe mountains may be moved.

The future of fitness

Fitness professionals know that being perfect about our work and what we eat helps—a lot. But how we mentally and emotionally approach that work and ourselves is profoundly powerful as well. I work with Daily Burn, an online workout provider, and we like to say, “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” One could also say you can’t out-train a clouded, negative mind. If you want to see an outward physical change, then you need to confront the internal state.

Toomey has taken some of the higher-level yogic concepts, distilled them and packaged it all as an accessible and non-intimidating product for a larger audience. This is fantastic because the more ways that those concepts are introduced to more people, the better for everyone. That may sound hyperbolic, but when you realize that all outward disharmony starts with a lack of inner peace and kindness, it’s not too far off to say that releasing the stuff that holds you and hooks you into negative cycles is a good thing for you and for me and for everyone around us.

5 Ways to Bring the Benefits of The Class Home

  1. Play that funky music! And turn it up—way, way up—and dance (or move) vigorously about your space. Notice your breath. Notice how it feels. Invite a friend, pet or child to join you and get silly.
  2. Scream. Maybe not so that your neighbors call the police but into a pillow, in your car with the windows shut, or out into the darkness of the night (if you live remotely and have a poetic streak).
  3. What’s your favorite song? Put it on, loudly of course, and do burpees for the entirety. Repeat with jumping jacks.
  4. Find a piece of earth and stamp your feet into it. Maybe get on your knees and pound your fists as well.
  5. Look in the mirror and ask yourself how you feel. Really ask it and then answer back sincerely. You will be amazed at what happens when you are honest with yourself about how you are feeling. Shifts happen by simply asking the right questions and being present for the answers.
  6. Stop thinking so darn much and lighten up. It’s just life, and the problems of the world are not for you alone to solve. Support yourself, your friends and loved ones, and the causes you espouse to the best of your ability … Then, let it all go. And enjoy!

Photo credit: Lumina, Stocksy