Can you share a little bit about yourself and your journey?
CJ: “I am a teacher at The Class and VP of PR and Community at Thinx. I kind of have a different journey than a lot of the other teachers because I have had a very traditional career path. Equally so, I have had a parallel path in teaching fitness and wellness. I’m 39 and I have been teaching fitness since I was 19 (in college) where I started teaching step aerobics, cardio, kickboxing, and hip hop — no joke. I was at Wellesley College in 1999 and I was like I need a job that is going to pay for other things — not just books — and I’ve been teaching wellness ever since. I was YogaWorks teacher certified by Amy Carpenter, then barre3 certified, and then I became certified by The Class (TC) about 2 years ago. It’s always been my side hustle to have the 60 hour week job and then teach a couple classes on the side. For me it’s been very important to have work life balance because your job can be all encompassing if you don’t have anything else to do. When there’s no outlet beyond what you’re doing and you just burn out. A modality like The Class, is not only a movement but it’s spiritual well being because you start to connect the sensations and physical feelings of the body…so it’s a little bit deeper.
You’re moving not so you can eat but so you can be alive and feel well in your body. Teaching fitness in 1999, it was very calories in, calories out. It was very transactional in a way and that and I think we’ve moved into a more 360 approach to wellness now.”
Sophie: “I just turned 20 and I’ve been teaching The Class for 2 years. When I was 16, I got my 200 hour yoga certification and started working full time at ISHTA Yoga in the West Village. At ISHTA I got my 300 hour certification and started teaching yoga full time. I left school and decided to pursue movement and then I found The Class incidentally through a friend. I decided that I wanted to be able to practice it more so I was looking into working the front desk but that didn’t end up happening. I ended up getting my teacher training from TC. Since then I’ve been expanding on my fitness knowledge, I do personal training and I’ve learned a lot of different modalities.”
How would you explain TC?
Sophie: “I would explain The Class as a mat-based full body physical workout but also mental and emotional. It can be just a physical practice but it invites you to look at your internal dialogue and landscape when you are in discomfort, and explore ways to deal with it.”
“The Class by Taryn Toomey is a transformative workout of the body and mind. Through simple, repetitive calisthenics and plyometrics, participants challenge the body to engage the mind. With guided instruction and powerful music, The Class invites students to witness their resistance to discomfort. The result is an expansive, heart-clearing and body-strengthening release. This Class will challenge and enlighten you all while building an incredibly strong, lean, resilient body. You will learn tools to empower your life.”TheClass.com
How does The Class embody a holistic approach to exercise?
CJ: It’s a richer experience, particularly with TC, where you are taking care of your mind, body and everything else. If you’re just coming to sweat and burn calories more power to you, but you aren’t getting your money’s worth in my opinion. Taking it back a little to 1987 in Tampa, my mom and I used to visit a place called Mademoiselle Spa where she would take step aerobics with a group of 85 women. Because I hated going to the daycare, I would sit in the back of class watching these women in their sparkly leotards doing step aerobics. They would be on a diet of Triscuits and tuna out of a can. We see different shades of that now, but the canned tuna has become a keto diet. But we are still seeing this transactional relationship between movement and food.
The Class supports this idea that it’s not just about the sweat and the movement. While we make these shifts there’s still a mentality of transactional fitness that is so deeply ingrained in our brains. It is Sophie’s and my job to shift those experiences as much as we can.
We’re so inundated by data. There’s so much data and I say this in my class: ‘I know y’all suffer from analysis paralysis. For the next 65 minutes escape analysis paralysis and just do it. You’re doing it right.’”
How do people deal with the discomfort?
Sophie: “They can push through it. We invite vocal release if you’re feeling some kind of intense energy moving through you. The space is open for you to do whatever you need for your body and mind. It’s up to the student.”
Have you found that working in a physical practice, that brings up a lot of discomfort, has made you better able to deal with other uncomfortable situations that may arise in your own life?
CJ: “Every song ends. A lot of the cues that teachers give to students in class translate really beautifully into real life. It’s inviting the students to pay attention to their thoughts and inviting them to recognize if they are giving up — why that is and staying in tune with their body.
It works both ways. Some people in intensity want to shrink but some people, myself included, are like ‘give me more — make it harder. I want to see how much I can take right now.’ and I think that The Class taps into that.”
For women in particular, how can we benefit from The Class outside of the studio?
CJ: “It’s so funny because even though I am in PR, I have a very hard time explaining The Class to people. Even though that’s my entire job. It’s so hard for me to describe because I think the experience is so different for everybody. I think a lot of people see it as a cardio experience and a lot of people see it as the best full body workout you can get. Others see it as the thing they do because they want to ask for a raise but they can’t find the words. So often when I queue the sound I tell students ‘say the thing you weren’t able to say.’ Because for a lot of people and especially women, we find it very challenging to ask for things. We find it very challenging to say this relationship isn’t working for me or I want a new career, or raise, or something. We’ve been told not to speak. In recent memory, women were secretaries and not CEOs. They weren’t speaking up in boardrooms because they were too busy writing down what the men were saying and internalizing it. The Class gives you that outlet — to say the things that you want to say when you can’t find the words. It starts with just making the sound and the words come from there.
When you’re a kid and you scream and shout for no reason, and you dance in your room by yourself, it’s fun. It’s expression. And as you get older you get self-conscious and embarrassed. People put things on you like how you’re supposed to be and what you’re supposed to look like. In The Class you just close your eyes and just are again.”
How do you ensure you take care of your mind, body, and spirit?
Sophie: “Routine is very important. My schedule can be a little different each day and things don’t always pan out the way they’re supposed to, I know for myself that I need to start everyday by moving my body somehow. And I stick to that.”
CJ: “The most important thing is to drink water and get sleep. Also, if you have a therapist — go. Prioritize water, sleep, and therapy.”
How do you manage your own stress?
CJ: “I teach TC! I couldn’t do Thinx in its full expression without doing The Class in its full expression. Working at a startup is a lot of work and I travel a lot. I think the danger of burnout for me is high. Because I have TC, I have this other outlet where I can express myself in a different way. A lot of what I do for Thinx requires me to sit at a desk — it’s a lot. A lot of the time at work my shoulders are up to my ears, hunched over. I was saying it in my class the other day ‘when you have your hand on your heart, roll your shoulders back and lift your heart to your hands’ because we are all looking at our phones all day long and that’s not doing anybody any good.
But I’m going to be stressed too. I just gotta accept it. I’m not going to be perfect, I’m going to eat a little too much sometimes — whatever too much means. But I come back to my three things — sleep, water, therapist. Without those 3 things, I don’t know where I would be.”
Sophie: “Therapy definitely helps. Personally, I just need to workout. That’s how I manage my stress in a non-compulsive way. Teaching The Class helps me a lot with my stress just because I feel like I’m helping other people. Also sticking to my normal routine helps. Hanging out with friends and therapy, therapy, therapy. I always feel tired at the end of the day but when I go and see someone (friends) it makes me feel so much better.”