Taryn Toomey’s The Class has been credited with saving marriages, healing grief, and even leading students to ditch their day jobs and follow their passions. Such is the lore of the impossible-to-categorize, ultra-cathartic experience, with a focus on physical strength and conditioning as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual fitness—whose legendary jump-squats and donkey kicks will also give you a backside worthy of that peach emoji.
Along the way, Toomey has won the hearts of wellness-savvy women who have traveled from as far away as Dubai and Australia to sweat, scream, shake their arms, and stomp their feet with her. But there’s no doubt that the coming year will make her even more of a phenomenon—beyond New York City and Los Angeles, where The Class is currently offered.
“It’s funny, because this whole thing was so accidental and so organic.”
Why? Well, in late January she’ll be opening her first studio home base in New York City—an “energetically balanced” Tribeca destination with crystal-embedded floors and its own custom scent (a magnet for wellness tourists if there ever was one). She’s taking The Class international with a launch in Vancouver, Canada. Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston are being photographed in her fine jewelry line, Airelume, and she’s building up her program of wellness retreats (called The Retreatment), which consistently sell out within minutes. Oh, and she was recently tapped by big-time brands J.Crew and New Balance to star in the launch campaign for their new activewear line.
Toomey’s quick ascent has surprised even her. “Sometimes I look over one shoulder like, ‘Are you talking to me?’” she says when asked about her success. “It’s funny, because this whole thing was so accidental and so organic.”
So how did The Class become as big as it is, and what’s next for the brand? Keep reading to find out why 2017 is about to be Toomey’s biggest year yet.
How it all started
Since laucnhing in 2013, The Class has been based on a one-of-a-kind premise (at least in the boutique fitness realm): Through moving the body and making sounds in very specific ways, students are able to dislodge physical and mental stress, emotional trauma, and energetic blockages. (Toomey refers to these obstacles as “sludge.”)
You’re worked to the point of exhaustion via long sets of single movements—like, doing yogic side lunges for an entire four-minute Florence and the Machine song, followed by three minutes of high-energy, boot camp-style jumping jacks to Stevie Wonder—while an instructor helps you witness how your mind reacts to tough situations (and guides you to shift those patterns).
“I was like, ‘What is this voice in me that constantly tells me I’m not good enough? Why do I have to keep putting myself down?’”
A former fashion exec and yoga instructor, Toomey created The Class as a form of therapy for herself, never expecting it to turn into a business. “I was like, ‘What is this voice in me that constantly tells me I’m not good enough? Why do I have to keep putting myself down?’” she says. “I’ve always felt things in my physical body, so I started to explore where these thoughts came from in my movement practice. I wasn’t concerned with creating a business or some new way of fitness.”
She started teaching her soulful method to friends in rented studio spaces, and it grew from there by word of mouth. And although The Class attracted a fast following, expanding into LA in 2016, it hasn’t always been an easy road bringing something so wildly different into the world.
“When I first started teaching, I’d get people who would roll their eyes or walk out and I used to be crushed by it,” she recalls. “It would take me two days to get over the one person who would leave, which is what I was trying to heal—I was only focused on the thing someone hated about me, as opposed to all the nice things people would say.”
She’s been on a healing quest along with her students, she says, which is why a session with her feels so authentic. “I’m still doing the work,” she says. “I’m able to be as real as it gets.”
Why The Class inspires such loyalty
There’s a fiercely loyal community that’s cropped up around The Class—and to her devotees, it’s much more than a workout.
Amy Swift Crosby, a bicoastal brand strategist and copywriter, is one of those superfans. “The Class has changed my life because I see how my physical resistance and limitations connect to my emotions,” she says. “When one is pushed and expanded, it allows the other to follow. No matter what’s going on, you will feel lighter, freer, happier, and more truthful with yourself by the end of class.”
And you’re also likely to make some cool new friends—The Class attracts mostly women between the ages of 20 and 50 who are bosses in every sense of the word, yet are open and willing to connect deeply. “When you come to class, people are not snarky or talking about each other,” says Toomey. “The messages in the work are super high-vibe: Let’s unite, hold each other up, and help each other thrive together.”
The next wellness superstar?
She insists that, like The Class itself, there wasn’t a strategy behind launching Airelume, The Retreatment, or her cleanse program, The Layer. “All of those things were things I was living, and I realized other people need them as well,” she says simply. Case in point: Her first Airelume jewelry collection sold out in two days; her retreats fill to capacity even more quickly; and when it comes to The Layer, she says, “people say it’s changed their everything.”
“I want to help people understand the work that we do, which is really about uniting and moving our bodies to forgive and feel and do these things that are so incredibly difficult.”
And while all of these side hustles will grow and expand in the months to come, The Class’ first home base in NYC is Toomey’s top priority right now. “I feel like I’m giving birth to my third child,” she says of the space, which will house a roster of both new and established teachers, workshops, guest teachers, and new formats like a prenatal class.
“I want to get this [message] to as many people as humanly possible, without scaling it out and diluting it,” she says. “I want to help people understand the work that we do, which is really about uniting and moving our bodies to forgive and feel and do these things that are so incredibly difficult.”
And then what? “Your heart opens. Your body gets stronger. All in the course of an hour,” says Swift. “That is a gift.”
Ready to try The Class for yourself, no studio visit necessary? Check out Toomey’s go-to moves for releasing frustration, boosting energy, and cultivating love. And for more buzzy instructors, these up-and-coming trainers are definitely ones to watch in 2017.