I’d heard the buzz about SoulAnnex around New York City the way you usually hear buzz about an amazing new bakery or underground sushi restaurant. When people told me what they knew about SoulCycle‘s new fitness incubator space in the Flatiron district, it was always a friend of a friend of a friend who’d been there — and as much as I wanted to check it out for myself, I have to admit that the sense of mystery associated with the studio was kind of fun (even if it also felt a little exclusive). Mystery aside, though, I jumped at the opportunity to experience SoulAnnex firsthand for an article. I might even buy myself a coconut water! I thought to myself as I happily accepted the assignment from my editor.
ICYMI, SoulAnnex is a new addition to the SoulCycle family, a “home to custom-created classes taught by the SOUL instructors you know and love, so you can move, define, and align in a new way to complement your favorite SoulCycle rides,” according to a blog post from the company. Launched in September 2017, SoulAnnex offers four or five classes each day that focus on three core concepts: move, define, and align. Like their stationary-bike-focused big sister, SoulAnnex classes encourage fun movement to great music — but this iteration of Soul also incorporates the use of body weight, free weights, resistance bands, high-intensity interval training (you may know this as HIIT), plyometrics, and moves inspired by yoga and Pilates. Seasoned yogis will also recognize an element of mindfulness and body awareness in SoulAnnex classes.
It’s worth noting that I’m not a crazed SoulCycle devotee. I’ve taken a few classes here and there — and I’ve enjoyed every one — but, if I’m being totally honest, I can’t really afford to be a regular, which has made it difficult for me to fully drink that sweet, sweet yellow Kool-Aid. There’s nothing not to love about rockin’ out to an amazing playlist while simultaneously getting a great workout (especially when you’re lucky enough to land an especially inspiring instructor), but the barrier to entry has always been a little high for me. I was anxious to experience the storied SoulAnnex for myself, and to see if I might be more tempted to treat myself to one of these classes on the reg (a 50-minute class will cost you $34).
I signed up for a Sunday morning class called Refind, which, according to the schedule, is an “intense, yoga flow-based class [that] adds weights and rhythm to sculpt, tone, and elongate your muscles.” We New Yorkers had weathered a nasty snow storm a few days before, and I have no problem admitting that I was not excited about bundling into my snow boots and jacket and trudging across the city for a weekend workout session. My mood immediately turned around, though, when I found my way to the SoulAnnex studio space on 18th street. The lobby area was welcoming and relaxed, and in no way felt like a private club for cool, hyper-fit girls only. Within seconds, I felt that satisfying sense of, “It was totally worth it to get out of bed and come here.” One major point for SoulAnnex!
The studio itself was dimly lit, cozy, and calming, with yoga mats, weights, and towels already set up at comfortable intervals around the room. I grabbed a spot near the back and started to stretch while the rest of the class filtered in. Everyone was calm and quiet, and the studio’s configuration seemed to really create the kind of environment that allows people to have their personal space respected and simultaneously feel inclined to exchange genuine smiles with a stranger. Love that!
Given my previous experience with SoulCycle classes, I have to admit that I was expecting a more intense experience than the one I got — but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed the experience any less. I loved the flow of the class and the way it combined familiar yoga poses with free weights. Fifty minutes was the perfect amount of time to get a great workout without being drenched in sweat and limping out of the studio, and within that time, I worked most of the key muscle groups, was led through some awesome stretches, and got to indulge in a very welcome shavasana (AKA corpse pose). As a plus, the instructor was helpful and positive — she also rubbed everyone’s shoulders with some kind of eucalyptus oil during final resting pose — and I basically wanted to be her best friend.
I left the studio feeling like, although it wasn’t the most challenging workout I’d ever done, it was exactly the kind of workout I’d wanted that morning (even though I didn’t know it). I loved the experience offered at SoulAnnex, perhaps even more than the one offered at the cycling studios. For me, that overall experience (plus the workout itself and my instructor/would-be BFF) might even be worth the sticker price, which is what tends to put me off of other trendy exercise studios. SoulAnnex, I’m very into what you’re doing over there.
I was so into it, in fact, that I totally forgot to buy my coconut water on the way out. I may have had myself a little SoulAnnex Kool-Aid instead.
Would you try SoulAnnex? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via SoulAnnex)