Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and Gwyneth Paltrow are all devotees of the notoriously emotional US workout, The Class. But will it get lost in translation for uptight Brit Kerry Potter? She grabs her trainers – and tissues – and finds out
This isn’t just any old workout, this is The Class workout - and A listers are falling over themselves to tell us how much they love it. Emma Stone describes it as “transcendent”, while for Naomi Watts, it’s “an emotional epiphany”. Both are so into it, they appear in the ads. Gwyneth is – naturally – on board too, with Goop calling it a “cathartic release”. All of which sound very… intense. I warm up for my debut Class by watching the promotional video, during which one attendee refers to experiencing “an emotional exorcism”, and another talks about how it helps us “un-stick ourselves and un-fuck ourselves”. OK, now I’m really scared. When does a fitness class become a cult?
What is it?
The Class (with that name, they’re clearly too spiritual to be concerned with SEO) is the brainchild of Taryn Toomey, a former Ralph Lauren sales executive turned yoga teacher, who pitches it as “the workout where fitness meets mindfulness”. Her New York city studio has been going for a decade, but things really ramped up during the pandemic lockdowns, with fans flocking to the extensive library of online, at-home workouts. An LA studio followed in autumn 2022, with various tours, retreats and residencies across the world and the teacher roster swelling to 26. Drew Barrymore (above) and Alicia Keys are both regulars too.
Each session, which typically lasts between 30 and 60 minutes, is a mix of yoga poses, basic aerobic exercises such as jumping jacks and burpees, meditation, and – shudder! - freestyle dancing. You move to the music (The Class has previously collaborated with Harry Styles and George Ezra) and you do it on a yoga mat, with no equipment necessary. At the studio classes, there is, apparently, a lot of crying, yelling and screaming among participants, in order to release emotions and move stuck energy. Now, I’m no stranger to the concept of exercise making you want to cry – when I’m trudging through snow in the pitch black to my 6.30am weight lifting class, questioning my life choices, for example. Or the first time I did hot yoga and thought I was going to die of heat exhaustion. But crying as an emotional release while working out? Hmmmm. I have a feeling I might be too, well, British for this.
My first Class
I’m also too nosey. I spend much of my first online class with Taryn pondering the living room behind her, a tasteful symphony of Kelly Hoppen-style neutrals, with our guru resplendent in matching tones. Is that her actual house? That cream, curvy sofa looks very expensive. Ditto the coffee table made from a vast hunk of marble – God, I hope she doesn’t slip and bang her head on the corner. And what about that heroically low-cut top – how do her boobs not fall out when she’s doing star jumps?
When I do actually focus, I enjoy the yoga and HIIT aspects of the class – they’re straightforward and suitable for all levels of fitness. I’m less keen on the dancing bits – they’re not guided you just have to dance like no one is watching. Unfortunately, they are – my children and husband walk past intermittently, sniggering at the apparent seizure I’m having. As for the music, it’s mellow, inoffensive Ibiza beach bar type beats or Colplay-esque pop, and that’s fine by me.
It is, however, the emotional stuff I find hard to take seriously. “Celebrate your body and its capacity to feel,” Taryn solemnly instructs us at the beginning. We’re encouraged to shout “HUH!” as we breathe out. At one point we release anger by holding an imaginary watermelon, while doing jump squats. No, me neither. We stop and place our hand on our chest to “thank our heart for beating”. But isn’t that just its job? I wonder. Maybe I’m over thinking this. It’s essentially 30 minutes of being bombarded by inspirational Instagram mantras. Maybe I should just turn down the sound. By the end, I feel energized and happy in the way I feel energized and happy after any workout, due to the release of endorphins. I can confirm there is no crying.
I’m clearly far too cynical and too stiff of upper lip to be a devoted student of The Class. It’s very American and I am very British, so there’s an aspect of culture clash here. That said, it is decent value (a two week free trial then £32 per month for unlimited classes) and a surprisingly accessible, all-levels home workout that’ll get your heart beating faster. Just don’t forget to say thank you.