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My Other Yoga: The Class by Taryn Toomey

For one yoga teacher, trying something that felt like the complete opposite of her alignment-focused asana style turned out to transform her yoga practice—and her life.

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The electricity I felt running through my body at the end of the second song let me know that I had made the right choice in coming to this class.

I had resisted trying The Class by Taryn Toomey based on the reviews I’d read: A “cathartic fitness class” that creates a “visceral experience” and “moves you emotionally.” People also talked about it being “incredibly healing.”

With a history of trauma that I have steadily worked to overcome for 20-plus years, I was intimidated to say the least.

See also 7 Poses to Release Trauma in the Body

Then one morning, I woke up with a sense that I needed to try The Class by TT. In fact, it felt urgent. So, when I checked the Los Angeles schedule and saw that there was a class in Hollywood, I made the hour-long trek from my home in Santa Monica to the Wanderlust yoga studio, where I was greeted by founding teacher, Natalie Kuhn.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was nervous—and a little afraid. Not for the fitness part; I have been an athlete all my life and I’m a yoga teacher, too. I know how to align and take care of my body. I was nervous for the other bit. The cathartic, visceral, emotional bit.

The Moment That Inspired Me to Go to The Class by Taryn Toomey

I am a mother of three, and my middle child suffers from multiple sensory processing and integration disorders. When information goes into her brain, it often gets lost or confused. Understandably, that’s disheartening and frustrating for her—and the result is explosive rages, which can go on for hours on end. Over the last five years that this has been happening, her outbursts have escalated despite my husband and I seeking answers and help from countless practitioners.

Just a couple days before I tried The Class by TT, one of my daughter’s doctors asked if we could video one of her “tantrums.” In my experience of these episodes, I am always 100 percent present with her. I say the right things; I connect with her; I do everything I can to meet her needs. But when I watched the video my husband recorded for the doctor, I noticed that I wasn’t there with her at all. In fact, I was disassociated—a skill I had learned in my trauma-filled youth.

When things got loud and violent in my childhood home, I would leave my body. And when I watched that video, I realized I was doing the same thing with my 7-year-old. In that moment, I realized I needed to learn how to stay in my body, so I could stay present with my daughter and truly connect with her when she needs me most. I needed to learn how to stay in it with her when I wanted it all to end, or I just wanted to get the hell out of there.


How The Class By TT Taught Me True Embodiment

Natalie began class by letting us know that we were going to be uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. But she explained the difference between injurious discomfort—the kind that’ll get you injured—and the discomfort that’s the result of your brain saying, This is hard, and here is how to make it stop. (That’s the kind of discomfort that makes you stop the jumping jack, put your leg down, rest before the exercise is over, you get the gist.)

During that first song of class, we performed an excruciating number of squats and squat jumps. Immediately, my inner dialogue kicked in. Oh, I did not have enough coffee for this. Further into that first song, as it continued far longer than I wanted it to, I began to panic—to doubt my strength, my health, and my abilities. Natalie cued us to drop the panic talk (it was like she was totally in my head) and to drop into our breath.

Connecting to my breath was familiar to me thanks to my yoga practice. That I could do. When the second song began, and we were gracefully pushed into endless jumping jacks, that same panic started to creep in again. This time, Natalie asked us “to start to notice the feelings that come up the moment things get really challenging.” In that moment, I realized that in my mind, I was in the parking lot, in my car, about to drive home. I was doing the exact thing I needed to not be doing. Worse, I was mentally leaving my body and not feeling anything at all. I knew in that moment that this was the exact work I needed. And by the end of the second song, I felt like a beautiful blend of exhilaration, peace, surrender, and release. My soul was singing.

That first class was a little over a year ago, and I have continued to practice this practice. For me, this work has been a profound awakening of self. I have confronted and healed more demons in the depths of my humanity in this past year than I’d done in more than 20 years of therapy.

I’ve been a student of yoga for more than 25 years, and my yoga practice has given me the gift of knowing how to stay present on my mat. I’ve always studied with alignment-focused teachers, such as Annie Carpenter and Natasha Rizopoulos. And there is absolutely a place for this. Yet what I’m learning in The Class by TT is that in spending all of those years solely focused on alignment cues on my yoga mat, I was actually distracting myself from really feeling.

See also 7 Myths About Yoga Alignment

In The Class by TT, with my heart racing, sweat pouring off every inch of my body, breath compromised, and everything in me screaming GET OUT OF HERE, I have learned how to stay in my body, and how to quiet the negative thought patterns that challenge my abilities to really be in it—whether it’s a series of exercises or the heartache that accompanies watching my daughter rage that’s pushing me to the max.

The beauty of impermanence is that nothing lasts forever. This practice has helped me see that there is powerful medicine in staying present with the good, the bad, and the indifferent. And when I show up—really show up—I can soak up the lessons my body and soul are trying to teach me so that I can life this beautiful life more fully.