I did some personal grooming before attending my first Naked Yoga class. Appearing unkempt in the buff was just one of the things I was anxious about beforehand: I went to the gym four times in the week preceding to feel confident I’d look my fittest in full view, and even still, I couldn’t help but think about the eyeful my classmates might get in my more contorted moments. Other than that, I had no hesitations. I’ve been doing yoga for almost a decade, so I imagined that, other than being bare as the day I was born, it would be yoga as usual. And I was mostly right…
Naked in Motion is a yoga group that holds a two hour yoga session on Saturday afternoons at La Luz, the beautiful multi use studio space on Thames Street between Porter and Varick avenues. The group, which is currently comprised of three instructors (but is looking for additional ones, according to its website), also holds a Wednesday night class in north Chelsea, as well as a monthly women only (and notably non-trans exclusionary) yoga class at a secret location “around the the full moon.” The Bushwick class, which costs $15 (a standard rate for yoga in the neighborhood, for those unfamiliar with pricing) starts with 45 minutes of flow-oriented Vinyasa yoga and wraps up with pose-oriented Yin yoga. All attendees need to bring is a mat, a towel and a water bottle.
The room the class was held in was a normal space for a yoga class with a large street-facing window in the front. There were no eye level buildings across the way, and no way to see inside from the street. So while a big window onto my nakedness might normally be uncomfortable, all the natural light was actually comforting.
I arrived with just a minute to spare. Right off the bat, one thing was evident: while still clothed, everyone, except of one of the two instructors, was definitely presenting as male. I didn’t feel better or worse because of it, though the irony that I’d spent hours to feel confident in what turned out to be a room full of indifferent men didn’t escape me.
I expected there to be some women. Most clothed yoga classes I attend skew female. So I didn’t think a naked yoga class would be devoid of them. However, my girlfriend knew better. “Men go expecting class to be full of naked women,” she told me. “Women don’t go because they expect class to be full men expecting to see naked women.”
An unfortunate social expectation, I thought, and one that the the instructors made every effort to counter by setting rules right away to ensure a safe space for all: women, men, and those who don’t subscribe to a binary gender. Among class policies: No touching before asking. If you see someone from class on the street – you didn’t meet at naked yoga. No cell phones. Another rule: don’t presume the gender or sexual identity of those in class (note the emphasis above on gender presentation, as opposed to identity).
Class began with us sitting on our mats, fully clothed. I took a spot in the back. (The fewer eyes on me, the better.) The mystery of when to derobe was revealed by one of the instructors, who said something to the effect of “Alright, let’s do it.”
All ten of us hastily undressed. I kept my eyes very pointedly downward. I tried to be casual, but something about undressing in a group made me feel skittish. I fought the urge not to cover myself in the initial moments of undress. Fortunately, we began our poses pretty quickly. In hindsight, I’m surprised at how quickly I forgot I was naked in company.
The main event was pretty normal yoga. The first half of class was a Vinyasa flow, which warms the body up. For those not familiar, it means you basically never stop posing. The stretch is in your body’s movement. The next half of class was Yin yoga taught by the second instructor. In Yin technique, the stretch in your body’s stillness. The instructor reiterated, “if you feel yourself working–do less,” but don’t take that to mean it was easy. I’m actually the most sore from the Yin poses.
I found the actual act of yoga while naked to be pretty freeing. I hate fiddling with my shorts, and having to adjust myself, and I hate fixing my shirt when it gets soaked in sweat. When I first started yoga in college, the studio I attended let men take off their shirts. I’ve always missed those days. But now, being naked, there was nothing else to focus on except the pose itself.
Like many yoga classes, the session ended unceremoniously with shavasana, or corpse pose (lying on our backs). The instructors thanked everyone for coming. Then we redressed and went about our merry ways.
Looking back, my initial insecurities feel childish. I didn’t ask my classmates what they were thinking, but surely they had insecurities, too. Maybe that’s the point of class, that our insecurities aren’t insecurities in the company of other people. They’re just characteristics. We’ve all got something that bothers us—and together, we can all not feel weird about it.
What is naked yoga in Bushwick like for a female-identifying yogi, you may ask? Stay tuned for another student’s perspective on stripping down for yoga!