I called it my “HUH”-ing time. Two or three times a week during the first six months of the pandemic, I’d log into the digital platform for The Class and spend 60 minutes gutturally shouting while I squatted, burpied, “jacked,” and danced, making quite a racket in my two-bedroom apartment.
It’s been about two years since I did one of the workouts. But earlier this month, I got to visit The Class’ first Los Angeles studio, opened in Santa Monica in September, which meant I got to revisit a defining memory from those early days of the pandemic–but IRL, in a room packed full of women breathing, jumping, and letting it out together.
The Class is the dance/cardio/sculpting/mystical boutique fitness brainchild of former fashion executive Taryn Toomey. In a Class, each song is a different workout segment, where you’ll either do a cardio blast or a strength session for the duration. The format is strangely meditative, and feels both torturous and euphoric. The emotionally tuned-in teachers use gentle language about tapping into the needs of your body, and they encourage students to get vocal and let out their emotions with some primal yelling.
The Class became a popular celebrity workout in New York City in the mid-2010s, both praised and poked fun at for its fitness-meets-spirituality approach (that cost close to $40/class, at the time). But something happened in March 2020, as brick and mortar fitness studios around the world closed: The Class took off.
Coincidentally, The Class had just launched its digital platform in October 2019. That made it one of the few studios at the beginning of the pandemic ready for the streaming boom. In a feature on the platform’s COVID-era success, W Magazine called it an “essential pandemic workout.”
It wasn’t just The Class’s technical ability to connect with students that catapulted its popularity. The specific workout itself, that focused on both physical and emotional release, was just what so many of us needed at that time.
I was one of the devotees. A Brooklyn-based friend of mine told me about how it had become part of her pandemic coping routine, and was shocked that I hadn’t heard of it. The Class was offering a free 30-day membership so I gave it a shot, and while I felt silly at first, I Got It pretty quickly.
It made me feel powerful at a time when I was otherwise so stuck. As I jumping jacked and gave a “HUH” yell in time with the music, I felt like I was able to explode outward all of that pent-up frustration and energy. As my quads burned through an extended squat segment, I was reminded of how I could get through something even if it was painful. While I free-danced and whooped and hollered, I found some joy. It was worth the $40/month subscription, in spades.
Over time, though, my need for The Class faded. The manifestations and emotional assurances of the teachers started to resonate less as we dug into our first pandemic winter. I didn’t want to jump and connect. I wanted to run and tune out. So my exercise routine changed, and after about six months, I canceled my subscription, and haven’t thought about it much since.
But instantly upon entering the Santa Monica The Class studio, I remembered the witchy energy that I loved, which the serene lighting and signature sage bundle-filled air only emphasized.
The mats were much closer together than I ever would have imagined, but that didn’t stop the students from using every inch of their space, and from shouting, moaning, emitting powerful “HUH”s, just like I used to when I was home alone in my living room. I began to let it out, too.
I was also wearing a new The Class x FreePeople Movement onesie, that I had sort of been self-conscious about when I left my house. But in the dim studio, I felt confident–like my body was built to move. I don’t remember what the teacher, Jaycee Gossett, said that prompted it, but as we sat for a moment catching our breath between songs, with my hand on my heart, I thought, “Look how strong and beautiful you are.”
I didn’t know that I needed that reminder. In 2020, I leaned on The Class to steady and strengthen me during a time when the world was moving under our feet. Now, the ground is still unstable, but we’ve all just adjusted to walking on rough terrain. Taking a Class in person jogged my memory of those early pandemic days and allowed me to tap into the reality that, oh yeah, the world is still frightening and unpredictable. But getting to jump and shout with a community helped give me some hope that I, that we, have the fortitude to keep moving, and dancing, too.
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