Peoplehood Review: A Workout Class for the Soul

left: peoplehood gather right: peoplehood exterior

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Our loneliness is killing us. This is straight from the US Surgeon General: According to a recent public health report icon-trusted-source The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation” View Source , one in two Americans have reported experiencing loneliness in recent years, and chronic isolation can spark a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. This is, obviously, a problem.

One potential solution is Peoplehood, a new venture from SoulCycle founders Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler. This self-described “workout for your relationships” aims to foster much-needed community connection by getting people into a room together—virtually and in person—and having them talk to one another. It’s an old-fashioned concept (meeting people is good!) with a new-fangled flair (if you’re going to meet new people, why not book it like a ClassPass workout?).

I gave Peoplehood a virtual and in-person spin. Here’s what it’s like. 

What Is Peoplehood?

julie rice and elizabeth cutler peoplehood soulcycle
Julie Rice & Elizabeth Cutler | Peoplehood

Peoplehood hosts 60-minute guided group talking sessions—or, as Peoplehood calls them, Gathers—led by a Guide. Said guide is not a therapist, nor does Peoplehood claim them as such. (More on that later.) The goal is to build relationships by talking, and, more importantly, listening to other people. Peoplehood claims that this equips people with skills to build deeper, more meaningful connections with others (and themselves). 

Each Gather is presented as a practice, like yoga or other buildable skills. This makes sense! With the proliferation of remote work and dwindling community spaces, much of daily life all but requires isolation. Even acts of self-care, like getting massages or staying in to watch movies, light candles, and do face masks, focus on centering the individual over anyone else’s needs. (Not always a bad thing, to be clear.) It’s not surprising, then, that a lot of us might need to limber up our connection muscles. 

“We tend to create the things we need personally,” Rice and Cutler told me over email. “After we left Soul and as the pandemic hit, the world was shifting. With an increase in loneliness, conflict, and social disconnection we started to think about what people needed next. Peoplehood was the natural evolution from SoulCycle because it put relational fitness in the front row.”

How Peoplehood Works

left: peoplehood front desk right: peoplehood exterior

Gathers occur up to twice a day IRL in Peoplehood’s flagship location in Chelsea, NYC, and up to thrice daily virtually, so anyone in the world can join. Signing up is—unsurprisingly—a lot like booking a spin class. You can access the schedule on Peoplehood’s website and sign up right when you see a class that appeals to you.

Prices vary depending on whether you’re looking to do virtual or in-person sessions. Virtual session options include $25 for a single class credit, $95 for four credits, and $225 for 10 credits. You can also purchase an unlimited monthly membership for $95. IRL prices follow a similar structure: $35 for one class, $133 for four class credits, $315 for 10 credits, and a monthly membership with five in-person gathers and unlimited virtual sessions for $165. New members can also purchase an in-person or virtual three-class pack for $55. (Peoplehood set me up with my sessions so I could write this review.) The classes are set up in a way that you could have a whole new group every time you join, but in the sessions I attended, it seemed like at least some members knew each other from previous sessions. 

Each Gather has a specific theme or focus, like “choices” or “joy,” and may contain up to 20 people. (Both of my sessions only had about five or six people.) Gathers may also be geared to specific groups, like couples, singles, moms, or people in the LGBTQ community.

Peoplehood’s Confidentiality Policy

Every Gather I participated in started with a note on confidentiality: Nothing said in the room should leave the room. Still, it’s worth noting that because Guides are not therapists and Gathers are not therapy, sessions are not bound by HIPAA or by patient/therapist confidentiality. Peoplehood also automatically collects some information from users on its platform, according to its privacy policy

What To Expect In An In-Person Peoplehood Gather

interior shot of a peoplehood gather

Peoplehood sends you an email reminder exactly one hour before your session starts. (This was helpful, as I’d mistakenly marked my in-person Gather down on my calendar for 6:30, not 6, and had to make haste to successfully schlep from my Brooklyn apartment to Peoplehood’s Chelsea location.) After I slipped in and grabbed a cup of water from the cafe—coffee, wine, and Peoplehood merch are also on offer—I sat in a pleasantly lit room in a circle with five other people, including our guide, Juliana.

With a warm, soothing voice, she laid out Gather etiquette. The big ones: Attendees do not share anything said in the room, nor do they interrupt people when they’re talking. To express agreement, you snap, and to express deep connection or empathy with something that someone is saying, you lay your hand over your heart.

The session started with a breathwork and mindfulness practice. Then, Juliana prompted us to say something “true” about ourselves. This happens in every Gather—you’re meant to say the first thing that comes to mind. It can be inconsequential (“I’m excited for the weekend”) or personal (“I’m having a lot of trouble at work”). Next, we said how we’re doing are, really. This is seemingly meant to be an antidote to the robotic “I’m-fine-how-are-you” response most of us are accustomed to chirping out. 

Then, we got into the day’s theme: Choices. We broke into one-on-one groups to alternately share and listen to each other about a bad decision we’ve made, then into a new group to discuss a good decision. In these breakout sessions, you’re encouraged to practice higher listening. This means not cross-talking, giving advice, or asking questions unless the person stops. (The one question you can ask: Is there anything else?)

Finally, we regrouped and announced a positive choice that we planned to make that week. After a final bit of breathwork, it ended.

The hour passed quickly. (In a good way.) Everyone was there to find some kind of connection, so it didn’t feel embarrassing to be vulnerable. It also skipped the same-same small talk that tends to pervade most networking and speed-meeting sessions. I didn’t know what anyone in the room did for work, their hometowns, or their last names, but I did know how they felt about big choices they’d made recently.

When we left the room, I felt a little shy saying bye to people outside. I hadn’t quite confessed my deepest, darkest secrets, but I had revealed more than I usually do in a setting that requires name tags.

Still, I was in a good mood. I consider myself more introvert than extrovert, but I still felt energized post-Peoplehood. On my way home, I may have smiled at more people on the street than I usually do, but I can’t be sure. 

What To Expect In A Virtual Peoplehood Gather

I’ll admit that I logged into my virtual Peoplehood Gather with some trepidation. It had already been a long day of Zoom and emails, and the idea of one more hour of screen time did not spark joy. But I felt better as soon as I logged into my Gather.

For one thing, Peoplehood uses its own interface for video calls, and no one could mistake its cheery green-and-white color scheme for Zoom. (That said, I didn’t have my automatic blur background running, which meant that I had to shield my fellow Gatherers’ eyes from the unmade bed in my background with my body.) 

The virtual Gather followed the same format as the in-person Gather. Our guide, Tirrell, led us through some breathwork and stretches, then we got into a session that touched on choices and regret. To do the one-on-one chats, the system automatically pushed us into random groupings—sort of like a Zoom breakout room—then pulled us back in when the time was up.

Ultimately, I felt just as good leaving this Gather as I did the in-person one, even if my eyes were a little tired. (But on the plus side, I didn’t have to take the subway home.)

Is Peoplehood Worth It?

left: peoplehood exterior right: peoplehood food and drink bar
Sara Hendricks for The Nessie

When I told friends and family about Peoplehood, a lot of them asked the same question: Why pay for the service when much of what it offers can ostensibly be accessed for free (or cheaper) at a meetup group, networking event, or simply by walking up to someone on the street?

The main thing Peoplehood offers is space for connections that aren’t tethered to anything specific. There’s also no need to have shared interests, which is the case with many meetup groups, and there’s no ulterior motive of a job offer hanging over anyone’s head. Gathers give everyone a chance to talk, listen, and flex their empathy muscles. 

“Peoplehood is a place to work on your social health,” Cutler and Rice told me. “It’s a place to create new relationships and strengthen existing ones. We’re promoting social connection and community as a form of healing. Our Guides facilitate peer-to-peer conversation where you’re just listening and learning to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Is Peoplehood Healthy?


Peoplehood may look and feel like your standard group therapy session. (In my in-person Gather, I was reminded of the scene in the Mad Men finale when Don Draper attends group therapy for the first time and is moved to embrace an unassuming man named Leonard.) But Peoplehood makes it clear that it is not therapy. If your needs go beyond building relationships, it’s best to seek out a licensed therapist. 

This comes through in each Gather’s structure. Questions are specific enough to inspire introspection, but not so intrusive as to awaken old trauma. (Much like SoulCycle, Guides go through a several-week-long training program.)

And if loneliness is killing us, it makes sense that connection is the ideal antidote. Having a wide social net can lead to a longer life, better health, and increased wellbeing icon-trusted-source CDC “How Does Social Connectedness Affect Health?” View Source . And one study that evaluated human connections icon-trusted-source American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine “The Connection Prescription: Using the Power of Social Interactions and the Deep Desire for Connectedness to Empower Health and Wellness” View Source compared social interaction to vitamins, calling for a “dose of the human moment” each day. If nothing else, Peoplehood provides this. 

“As humans, we are interconnected and interdependent, whether we like it or not and whether we are aware of it or not,” says Jennifer Paulino, MPH, a licensed coach and Nesswork Provider. We have tremendous impact on one another. As a collective we have seen the ways in which we are capable of hurting each other, but in community, we also heal have the power to heal together.”

Should You Go to Peoplehood?

There’s something embarrassing about admitting you feel lonely, even if statistics show that this feeling is maybe the one thing you’re all but guaranteed to share with about half the US population. Peoplehood creates a space where loneliness isn’t part of the equation. As soon as you walk in, you’re able to talk to someone who will listen. 

Peoplehood does the heavy lifting for you, so you can do what’s really important: Talk to people. (And, you know—listen.) 

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