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The grueling lifestyle workout that's like Tony Robbins meets P90X

The grueling lifestyle workout that's like Tony Robbins meets P90X
This is no relaxing yoga. Founding instructor Natalie Kuhn of the Class by Taryn Toomey leads the session at Wanderlust Hollywood. (Armin Razmy)

Pity the poor souls who wander into Taryn Toomey’s workout with the cult following, mistaking it for a traditional yoga or meditation class.

The Class is a 75-minute workout engaging both mind and body, and the stress-busting New York import is as grueling as it is contemplative, asking participants to lean into discomfort and question the voices in their head holding them back.

It’s a little like Tony Robbins meets P90X, leaving you both empowered and a bit wobbly as you walk out the door.

Aura

The workout was developed by Toomey, a yoga instructor and former fashion industry executive who wanted to get more “fire and passion out of her practice.”

On a recent Sunday morning at Wanderlust Hollywood, about 50 people, men and women from their 20s to their 50s, packed into the large, wood-floored studio with their yoga mats.

The vibe was friendly and chatty. And on this day, instructor Natalie Kuhn, a former dancer and actress, was walking through the group giving hugs, introducing herself, asking newbies about injuries and burning a palo santo stick to clear the room’s energy. She pointed to her assistant, Carly, who would modify the exercises, asking me to take it at my own pace, since it was my first time.

 
Natalie Kuhn leads The Class by Taryn Toomey at Wanderlust Hollywood. Armin Razmy

I had no idea what to expect other than reading that it was a “cathartic experience” with repetitive calisthenics and plyometric exercises. One of the regulars I was waiting with told me not to worry, that while it would be intense, the instructor would “talk me through it and help me get through it.” Gulp.

Effort

To be sure, this isn’t yoga, though its location in yoga studios does attract a fair number of curious yogis, who wind up getting more than they bargained for. While it begins and ends with the breath, even the warm-up consists of rapid-fire squats and big up-out-and-down arm movements which gain speed along with the music.

Each song focuses on a single cardio-boosting exercise, testing your focus and endurance, as Kuhn, a bubbly but gravel-voiced powerhouse urges you to examine your thoughts and reactions to the repetition and discomfort as the electronic pop builds in intensity.

The exercise moves should be familiar to most gym-goers, ranging from “curtsy squats” and jumping jacks to “skater lunges” and mountain climbers, culminating in one finish-you-off round of burpees.

However, it’s the sheer number of repetitions you’re doing that makes the workout difficult. By the halfway point in each exercise, your heart will be racing and you’re questioning just how long that song is going last.

Kuhn echoes these angry or otherwise negative thoughts and urges you to release them, sometimes with a sigh, or something a little more primal when the going gets tough. You’ll laugh and scream along with her.

After each song, you take a moment in total stillness with hands on heart to breathe, bring the heart rate down and check in with how you’re feeling, before moving on to the next challenging move.

On my visit, it ended as it began, with the burning of palo santo, stretches and a much-needed savasana, with a remake of the Five Stairsteps’ “Ooh Child” playing in the background.

Style

You can see why the Class, launched in 2011, has become so popular. It’s a real head clearer. By the time that you leave, you’re both spent and energized, dripping in sweat and feeling like you’ve had a life coaching session. One of my fellow classmates could barely push open the door to the studio, but she had a smile on her face as she left.

The Class

Where: Locations in Hollywood, Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica.

Cost: $25 for a single class, discounts for packages.

READ ON!

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