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There is great power in feeling uncomfortable—and Taryn Toomey explains why


Thumbnail for There is great power in feeling uncomfortable—and Taryn Toomey explains why
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Photo: Courtesy of Rachael Dunville

The newest member of the Well+Good Council will be familiar to devotees of The Class by Taryn Toomey. Taryn Toomey developed the renowned practice as a way to combine physical movement with emotional release, and the result is a cathartic sweat session like no other. Here, Toomey talks about the inner and outer aspects of the work she does—and why feeling uncomfortable can lead to incredible growth.

I teach The Class by Taryn Toomey multiple times a week, so I see how much people bring with them from their jobs, relationships, kids, all of life, into the studio. Big emotions. Past hurts. Negative beliefs about themselves. Then we come together. We move, we use sound, we release, strengthen and grow. And a few times each year, something really special happens: I lead The Retreatment, an immersive experience in which a group comes together in a beautiful place for a few days of The Class, meditation, restorative yoga, and reflective community.

One of the most powerful moments of these retreats is the way each one begins and ends: with the group sitting in a circle. Once everyone is together, I bring in a practice that I learned from one of my teachers, Alison Sinatra. I offer up a space for people to say their names, their mother’s name, a single word, or a story about why they’re there—whatever comes through.

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The practice of doing this often brings up a whole inner narrative. When we go around the circle, everyone has a unique reaction. Some people are nervous, some worry about saying the “right” thing, and others hesitate to open up. All of those responses are okay. That’s because when we have a space to go into a deeper part of our selves, a lot of emotions come up.

Be mindful that others might not necessarily be having the same experience you are.

So that’s why I set one rule for the week: As everybody does their own work, the idea of holding space for yourself—and holding space for your neighbors—is really important for creating a safe space. That means no gossip, no talking about people behind their backs, and no spreading toxic energy by criticizing or judging one another. When you decide to talk poorly about something, you’re planting your idea in your neighbor’s being—and that doesn’t give them the chance to have their own experience. I think that’s a good philosophy to live by in general: Be mindful that others might not necessarily be having the same experience you are, and don’t allow the opinions of others to pull you away from your own intuitive knowing.

Now, I know this is easier said than done, especially because most of the time, we don’t exist in that kind of safe space. Believe me, it’s something I’m working on myself! Sometimes I’ll read a snarky article making fun of something that we do in Class, or someone will make a hurtful comment about me, and honestly, it can destabilize me. But then I reframe it as an opportunity to practice my practice. I remind myself that it’s okay for somebody else to have an opinion. And I can decide whether I’m going to allow that to change my understanding of what I’m trying to do—which is to help awaken, heal, strengthen, and evolve. To create a very inclusive, open, warm, connected environment to be a human being in a supportive community; a reprieve in a world that is not always kind.

That’s what I’m teaching in the opening circles. Go ahead and be uncomfortable right now—and speak your truth anyway. It’s what we do in Class. We’re engaging the body to create discomfort to notice what the mind says. Is it telling you that you can’t do this? That you don’t fit here? Is it saying you’re weak? Powerful? Whatever the message, it’s just the voice in your head. We use this method to notice it, interrupt it, and then reroute it.

You might notice that I said “we.” I’m in this work next to everyone, not above them. I’m not thinking, “I figured it out, so this is how you should do it.” Instead, I’m offering up a suggestion of something that has worked for me with the idea that it could potentially touch someone else. That’s truly what the work is.

Accept that growth and healing usually don’t happen without feeling uncomfortable at some point.

So as you move through this world, I invite you to incorporate this kind of mindfulness into your life. Accept that growth and healing usually don’t happen without feeling uncomfortable at some point. Try not reaching for that “something” to make it go away. Create space for yourself to feel your experience—and honor other people by allowing them to do the same. It’s real, deep work that takes a lot of focus, attention, and practice. But the more you do it, the more resilient, open, authentic, and whole you will become. To me, that’s a process worth undergoing, time and time again.

Taryn Toomey headshot for articles
Photo: Rachael Dunville

Known for transforming New Yorkers and Los Angelenos with her magical, virtually unexplainable workout, The Class by Taryn Toomey, Taryn is on a deep soul journey to become one with her past and open herself to higher purpose and greater fulfillment. The Class by Taryn Toomey is currently in New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Greenwich, CT, and the Hamptons—with plans to expand and bring its magic to major cities around the globe. To go deeper with Taryn, join her on Martha’s Vineyard this July for The Retreatment.

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