Even with my affinity for group exercise, I’ve never been to a class quite like this. A few trusted friends told me to go—like, right now!—so I signed up at TurF in Vancouver.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, and the workout’s name didn’t give me much to go by: Officially called “The Class by Taryn Toomey” and described online as “a transformative workout of the body and mind,” I figured it could be anything.
Turns out, The Class is a sneakers-optional mashup of repetitive calisthenics (burpees for an entire song), freestyle dance and mat-based strength exercises like butt-building bridges. But it’s the dig-deep coaching—set to loud, powerful music—that makes this class so compelling.
(Psst: See which natural deodorants passed out sweat test.)
Okay, so where did The Class come from?
Creator Taryn Toomey says she first developed the class to heal herself. “It began with the intention to combine my self-prescribed medicine of music and movement with community and strength,” she says. “I had no hope or expectation for what it could become. I was simply sharing my journey.”
But since its 2011 inception in NYC—where Toomey still teaches The Class along with about a dozen trained teachers—the workout has attracted celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and grown into a fitness phenomenon that includes live streaming, sun-destination retreats and multi-city tours. (Learn about other workouts celebrities love.) The Class itself is on the schedule at a few North American studios, including LA and Vancouver.
After living in New York, Class OG Angela Hartman brought the concept to Canada when she returned to Vancouver and started teaching at TurF, a Kitsilano-neighbourhood studio plus restaurant/café. It’s the only Canadian fitness studio to offer the method at the moment.
Why is it just called “The Class”?
Apparently, it’s simple and nondescript by design. “I taught the method for a couple of years with no name because it was physical, mental, emotional and music,” says Toomey. The combo was too eclectic to put into words. “It was really a new genre of movement,” she says, “If I gave it a name, it would define it for a student as opposed to being what it needs to be for that person.” And that’s precisely what’s so magnetic about The Class.
What makes The Class different from any other classes?
Its purpose is to create personal empowerment, emotional enlightenment and heart-clearing energy. That’s a tall order for a one-hour workout, but it all depends on how you approach your time there.
When I first stepped into the TurF studio, I was dubious: Angela was burning a stick of Palo Santo wood to cleanse negative energy in the room and yoga mats laid out across the floor were almost touching. My initial reaction was: too busy and too Burning Man.
But something shifted with my energy (sweet Palo Santo—maybe Miranda Kerr was onto something) once we started moving to music—maybe it was the freedom to go barefoot or the do-as-you-wish dancing interspersed with 90s-era jumping jacks. The Class felt like a safe place to ditch daily inhibitions about how you move or what you feel.
There were also Angela’s motivational messages, ushering students away from their sweaty physicality toward deeper inner growth and strength. “Notice the difference between I can’t and I don’t want to,” Angela instructed us. Her words inspired me to let go and embrace the suck of a five-minute burpee set.
As someone who can be reserved around others, I was surprised at how easy it became to cast away my usual reservations and embrace new experiences, like doing a gazillion jumping jacks sans shoes (sore calves for days) or allowing the physical practice to expose emotions, good and bad.
The only Class rules in the class are no phones and don’t talk to anyone. The intention is to open yourself up to catharsis through calisthenics and cardio. Sometimes, between exercises, we’d stand still for a hot minute (literally—the thermostat was cranked), hand on pounding heart, breathing and loudly vocalizing on the exhale. Rumour has it, crying can happen.
Like with any great workout, I left feeling emotionally uplifted and physically spent.
Who’s going to The Class?
Like group exercise in general, The Class attracts mostly women. There was only one man present when I went on a Sunday morning. But everyone’s welcome.
“Women and men of all ages experience The Class for different reasons,” says Toomey. “It might be for a great workout, a way to break through a creative block, or simply to release their body to powerful music.” Whatever the reason, revving up resilience in mind, body and spirit benefits everyone.
Try The Class at TurF in Vancouver; drop-in costs $30 per class.
Next, learn about Toronto’s hottest wellness classes of fall 2019.