What is it like to take a class in person?

i am Call it my “HUH”-ing time. Two or three times a week during the first six months of the pandemic, I logged onto The Class’s digital platform and spent 60 minutes screaming uncomfortably while I squatted, burped, “jacked” and danced, making quite a racket. My two bedroom apartment.

It’s been almost two years since I did one of the workouts. But earlier this month, I visited The Class’s first Los Angeles studio, which opened in Santa Monica in September, which meant I revisited a defining memory of those early days of the pandemic — but IRL, a room full of women breathing, jumping and Taking it out together.

The Class is the dance/cardio/sculpture/mystery boutique fitness brainchild of former fashion executive Taryn Toomey. In a class, each song is a separate workout segment, where you do a cardio burst or a strength session for the duration. The setting is oddly meditative, and feels both harrowing and exhilarating. Sensitively tuned-in teachers use gentle language about tapping into your body’s needs, and they encourage students to vocalize and express their emotions with some primal screams.

By the mid-2010s, The Class had become a popular celebrity workout in New York City, both praised and mocked for its fitness-meets-spirituality approach (with prices hovering around $40/class). But something happened in March 2020, as brick-and-mortar fitness studios around the world closed: the class opened.

Coincidentally, The Class had just launched its digital platform in October 2019. This made it one of the few studios prepared for the streaming boom at the start of the pandemic. In a hallmark of the platform’s COVID-era success, in the magazine called it a “necessary pandemic exercise”.

It wasn’t just the technology’s ability to connect with students in class that catapulted its popularity. The specific workout itself, which focuses on both physical and emotional release, was exactly what many of us needed at the time.

I was one of the fans. A Brooklyn-based friend of mine told me how it had become part of her epidemic-fighting routine, and I was shocked 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 the hang of it pretty quickly.

It made me feel empowered at a time when I was otherwise so stuck. As I jumped up and let out a “HUH” scream in time with the music, I felt like I was able to let all that frustration and energy explode outward. As my quads burned through an extended squat segment, I was reminded of how I can get through anything, even if it’s painful. When I was free-dancing and whooping and panting, I had some fun. It was worth the $40/month subscription, in spades.

Over time, though, my need for the class faded. As we dig into our first pandemic winter, teachers’ expressions and emotional reassurances begin to resonate less. 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 much about it since.

But as soon as I entered The Class Studio in Santa Monica, I was reminded of the magical energy I loved, which the serene lighting and signature sage bundle-infused air only emphasized.

The mats were closer than I imagined, but that didn’t stop the students from using every inch of their space and letting out screams, moans, and mighty “HUHs,” just like I used to when I was home alone in my living room. I started figuring it out too.

I also wore a new The Class X FreePeople Movement onesie, which I was a little self-conscious about when I left my house. But in the dim studio, I felt confident—like my body was made to move. I don’t remember what teacher Jesse Gossett said that prompted it, but as we sat catching our breath between songs, hands over my heart, I thought, “Look how strong and beautiful you are.”

I didn’t know I needed that reminder. In 2020, when the world was slipping beneath our feet I leaned on the class to steady and strengthen. Now, the ground is still unstable, but we have all adjusted to walking on rough terrain. Taking the class in person brought back memories of those early pandemic days and allowed me to tap into the reality that, oh yes, the world is still scary and unpredictable. But jumping and shouting with a community helped give me some hope that I, we, have the tenacity to keep moving and dancing.

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