Prior to naked yoga, my experiences with public nudity were limited to humid summer nights spent skinny dipping in college and the dressing room at Loehman’s, a ladies discount clothing retailer famous for their single, huge, mirrored dressing room in the round where everyone tries on bargains in front of each other. So when the Shakti Goddess Women Only Nude Yoga Class appeared on the schedule at my yoga studio, I was surprised to find myself intrigued. Then terrified. I am a curvy girl with a generous figure, and, although I had been practicing yoga for more than three years, the thought of doing it without clothes on in a room with other women who are obviously thinner and potentially more flexible than I am made me want to run and hide. Who am I to be thinking about doing something like this? The answer came to me in an instant. Who am I not? I called my best friend, the one person I can tell this stuff to without ever worrying that I will be laughed off of the planet, about my plans. “I’m going to a nude yoga class”, I said, feeling brave, and a little crazy. “Wow, that sounds like fun.” She paused for a beat and added dryly, “For you, I mean.”
The first night of our class, I showed up a few minutes early, breathless with excitement. The class ahead of this one had not yet finished, so I waited in the foyer of the studio, fidgeting nervously with my mat and towel, telling myself I could leave if I absolutely, positively wanted to. Then, before I knew it, the door opened, people streamed out, and I found myself setting up my space, amidst a small cross section of other women, all getting ready to get naked on the mat. And that voice in my head, the one that got me there in the first place, said “Stay.”
And so I did.
The shades were drawn, the door was locked, the lighting dimmed, and the class began. Candles were lit and the smell of sage and sweetgrass smoke wafted through the room. What followed changed my yoga practice forever. As we began moving and breathing through the postures, a positive energy filled the room. It didn’t matter what we looked like or how perfect our down dog was. We were all beautiful spirits, each in her own way.
Though I don’t go around announcing my naked yoga practice to the masses (until now), somehow, it does seem to come up in conversation every so often. Most people are, at first, kind of shocked. The reaction quickly changes to amazement, then to curiosity. They want to know if it’s ok to look and what I see when I do. I tell them that I usually don’t see a lot – somehow, taking ones clothes off seems to make one pretty aware of herself, and not much else. They comment on how courageous I am, that they could never do something so daring. The fascination is equally divided between my female and male friends, and I am becoming known in some circles as “the naked yoga girl”. Odd questions like “so is the class like stripping and yoga combined?” come up every so often. Just to clarify, the answer is no, the class is not anything like stripping, modeling, or anything else you can think of doing while undressed. To me, it’s more like flying; not in the airplane sense, but in the way that my body and spirit are allowed to move freely, without being constrained by my clothes. It’s amazing how much more deeply I breathe when my waist and ribcage are not bound in elastic, and how much easier it is to relax without worrying about my bra straps falling down or making sure my shirt isn’t bunched up. There just isn’t any shirt to think about.
So, at this point, if you are thinking as you read this article, there is no way you could possibly do this because your body is not thin/toned/tanned/shaved/or otherwise fill in the blank enough to be in a class with other naked women, think again. That’s not what true yoga is about. We come to the mat to discover a bit more about who we are, with body parts in shapes and sizes that are as different as our individual personalities. We arrive, grounded in our roles as lovers, sisters, mothers, friends, and whatever else society assigns to us. Little by little, those definitions fall away with each item of clothing we remove. As we begin to feel the breath in our lungs, the air on our skin, and our bodies in space, the judgments we apply to ourselves seem to fall away as well. Slowly but surely, the goddess within each of us comes out to play. In the safe space that is created by our willingness to explore our vulnerability, we cultivate strength, stamina, and grace. At the end of class, I always leave a feeling little lighter, a little clearer, and a little more divine than when I came in.