Blood pumping. Heart pounding. Muscles pulsing.
The Class by Taryn Toomey is not your typical yoga class… because it’s not yoga. Instead of gentle poses and flowing breath, The Class aims to push students into discomfort, helping them to achieve more in an intense mind-over-matter fitness session. Calisthenics merge with yoga-like mindfulness, and students find themselves confronting — and conquering — their innermost doubts.
While The Class is spearheaded by Taryn Toomey, Founding Teacher and VP of Programming Natalie Kuhn has been involved since 2013 and before The Class was fully established. For Kuhn, teaching The Class is about helping students recognize detrimental thought patterns that may emerge in moments of intensity or discomfort, and giving them the tools to move beyond.
Kuhn is no stranger to understanding energy, humanity, and movement; she previously worked as a dancer, actor, and performer, touring with the likes of David Byrne and performing in the fiercely competitive off-Broadway scene in New York. After a chance meeting with Toomey, Kuhn pivoted and devoted herself to The Class, embracing the journey and empowering others to follow in her footsteps.
Kuhn’s latest project with The Class is their upcoming Retreatment — a chance to experience the life-altering workouts for yourself at Regenerative Resorts’ own award-winning destination, Playa Viva. Between the outdoor yoga platform by the beach and the invigorating practice of The Class, students will agree that discomfort has never felt so good.
We caught up with Kuhn to ask about her personal teaching philosophies and what makes The Class worthwhile. From authenticity, to empowerment, to the joys of travel, Kuhn’s vivacious approach to life is contagious, and students are sure to share her joy.
How did you first get into yoga, and why did you decide to become a founding teacher for The Class?
A common misconception is that The Class is yoga. The athleticism does not resemble yoga; if anything, it has yogic threads in its philosophy. 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.
With that said, during The Retreatment we offer restorative yoga in the afternoon to cool the body from The Class’s fiery morning practice and ready ourselves for the next day’s work. For The Retreatment at Playa Viva, we will be bringing Kevin Courtney who is a master at using deep relaxation to bring the body into a healing state of repair and bring the mind to rest.
My journey with The Class started in 2013 when I first met Taryn. Back then, The Class didn’t yet have a name or a website. It was something she was developing for herself and her girlfriends in the gym of her apartment building. I loved what she was doing and she had asked if I would be interested in becoming a teacher. We both just trusted each other from the beginning. There was no business plan, there was no teacher training program, there were two women who respected each other and decided to give it a shot.
Why is the idea of discomfort important to The Class, and what can people learn about themselves through discomfort?
As I often say in Class, you don’t evolve by staying in your comfort zone. The way we think about human behavior is mirrored in how muscles strengthen. In order to get stronger arms, you need to break down your bicep muscle tissue by doing something like push ups. Then lactic acid comes in to heal and build the broken muscle tissue and thus, you become stronger. This is not dissimilar to human behavior. In order to get stronger, you need to do the difficult thing in order to break a bad habit and establish a new one. As you repeat it, you strengthen it.
How do you work to empower your students through their time in The Class?
We guide the students by helping them to recognize their thoughts and reactions during the difficulty. Often times, when we are in the midst of intensity, we say things to ourselves that are simply old stories in repetition. We ask our students to notice when that happens and to decide if they want to believe that story. Ultimately, evolution is about awareness and then taking action around what the awareness is revealing to you.
What does authenticity mean to you, and what tips would you offer to people seeking to live an authentic life?
Authenticity means acting, listening, and behaving as honestly as possible. Those of us who choose to do this work will spend our lives edging toward truly living authentically. I say this to release any pressure that readers might feel from having to get somewhere called “authentic” and get there fast. There is no “there.” To start, we ask our students to simply notice their thoughts and to get curious about them. The basis of all mindfulness is the training by which one can live honestly. To understand that you are not your thoughts, thought is generated by you. And from there, a deeper listening can occur, the kind of listening that bypasses the falsehood of our conditioning and allows for the intelligence of our souls to be heard.
How can travel and experiencing new things impact your practice?
If we were to only stay in the radius of where we grew up, all we would know is that particular way of engaging with life. By witnessing an alternative way of living, we gain perspective, increase our capacity for empathy, and expand how we open ourselves to aliveness. In most spiritual traditions, it is often said that the ability to come home requires us to leave it in the first place.
Be sure to follow The Class on Instagram to get the latest details on The Retreatment and find an event near you. Learn more about the upcoming Retreatment in Mexico taking place from April 22-26, 2020 here.