In a dark room, women groaned and stuck out their tongues as they exhaled. Eyes closed, barefoot, they clapped and stomped to house music. Soundproof panels blocked their guttural moans from escaping from the studio in a Santa Monica mall. From the street, the mysterious fitness space called The Class is indescribable, with no signage or displays. But inside there was a cacophony of sound and a whirlwind of emotional release.
The class offers a thing, also called the class. In ads that followed me on Instagram, actors Naomi Watts and Emma Stone called the Goop-approved workout “transcendent.” Still, I didn’t know what to expect. Was it renamed mat pilates? Guided meditation? A dance lesson? The following fitness cult, at the SoulCycle? The mystery is intentional. If you want to know what the class is, you have to try it for yourself. So I did.
After 10 years in New York City’s Tribeca Class (the C is always capitalized) opened a location in Santa Monica this year, where I signed up for a 9:30 class. Founded in 2013 by Taryn Toomey, a former fashion executive turned wellness guru, the workout is now taught daily by approximately 20 instructors spread across the two studios. Wellness retreats in upscale resorts like Napa and Ibiza also offer class.
It costs $30 for 60 minutes and works by word of mouth among curious Angelenos, many of whom believe in what’s called “The Method.” In a classroom filled with thick yoga mats, we started by shaking our bodies as we saw fit, moving and beating.
Almost immediately, I understood why marketing avoids details. At first it sounded like Jazzercise to the Tulum crowd. Sometimes there is even a live drummer. Parts of the class were familiar – a series of jumping jacks, running in place, planks and mountain climbers. Rather than boring me, the repetitive motions made it easier to enter a state of flow. Between cardio exercises, the instructor would call “hands to body” for moments of reflection. We each brought one hand to our hearts and the other to our stomachs “to ground us”. Feeling my heart pound and my stomach rise and fall while catching my breath reminded me that it didn’t matter if I did every move perfectly.
Small pulses and bodyweight-only pushes started out easy, but soon felt as difficult as lifting heavy things. As a beginner, I was not comfortable in the free dance parts of the class. I thought too much about how the moves usually reserved for my shower songs might sound to other students. As we struggled, the instructor acknowledged that some elements of the method might seem silly at first, but encouraged us to let our bodies take over. No one was actually looking at my struggling body; they were busy getting what they needed from the class. Once I gave in, I felt like I got what I paid for.
“People come to this class because they hear it’s so hard — but they stay for the feeling,” founding teacher and vice president of teacher education Jaycee Gossett told me. “Or they hear it’s that place where people cry, and sometimes people cry.” She defines the class as a musical experience that combines fitness, mindfulness and meditation. “We move the body in a way that creates a cathartic release. We process strong emotions at the same time.
After countless burpees, bikes, squats and more, the class ended with students lying down for a meditative moment. I felt energized, cathartic, and impressed with my endurance. The experience felt more like a ritual dance than a calorie blaster. The fitness element is a mood-boosting byproduct of work, not the other way around. The Class is a refreshing break from weight loss messages from the fitness world that may seem like a must. But you will still be faced with flashes of wellness marketing. Products from the Goop Persuasion are on sale in the reception area, including a “Sex Journal” and Class-branded supplements and candles.
Still, if you lean even slightly woo-woo, or want to challenge yourself to kiss something awkward, spending your self-care budget on class is more satisfying than buying an Erewhon smoothie.
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