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(RNS) — “Some people just have it in their eyes,” our leader says. “A passion for life. You can see it in how they move. You can see it in how they act. They go for their dreams.”
We are part of a pack. We are also, according to the white neon sign posted on the staircase, part of a tribe, a crew, a posse, a cult, a gang, a community and, most importantly, a soul.
Middle - SoulCycle - Session - Group - Phenomenon
We, the aforementioned, are in the middle of a SoulCycle session, the $36-a-class group cycling phenomenon that now boasts 88 studios across the United States. The classes — in which the instructor cycles in place on a raised, altar-like podium, surrounded by lit candles — have become a cultural phenomenon and the SoulCycle name an easy shorthand for the bourgeois excesses of wellness culture.
SoulCycle’s 45-minute ride on a stationary bike is not so different from any other spin class at any gym in America. The key to SoulCycle’s distinctive appeal lies in how it frames calorie-burning as a spiritual experience.
Riders - Front - Sequence - Cycle - Choreography
Riders — especially those in the front rows — are expected to follow a complex sequence of “cycle choreography” that resembles nothing so much as a cross between pushups and prostrations. Signs designed to “preserve the soul sanctuary” remind riders that “talking during class is a major distraction for the spiritual folks around you.” Another reads, “There is a direct correlation between your energy and your neighbors.”
Instructors share in the spiritual discipline. Their primary contribution to most classes — other than a bespoke playlist — seems to be personal mantras that focus on the importance of self-control and self-care: When you cycle, you aren’t just getting skinny. You’re digging deep within yourself. You’re discovering what you’re capable of. You’re pushing yourself past the limits.
As one of my...
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