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naked yoga class

I Took a Naked Yoga Class and It Was Actually Awesome

By / June 28, 2018

“I’m taking a naked yoga class this week,” I told my friend at happy hour.

“Sorry, I couldn’t hear you,” she said earnestly. “It sounded like you said ‘naked yoga’.”

This exact exchange occurred three times in the days leading up to my Naked in Motion yoga class, held at a private residence in Brooklyn.

Naked in Motion was founded by Willow Merveille, and hosts yoga and pilates classes in New York City and Boston, including a $10 monthly “Women’s & Trans Yoga class,” open to “all trans and cis women, people who were AFAB (assigned female at birth), and trans men,” according to their website.

Since the nudist community can be overwhelmingly male, this particular class is designed to give people who aren’t cisgender men a less intimidating, and potentially more comfortable, introduction to a nudist space.

I like doing yoga, and I don’t like practicing with people whose yoga clothes cost more than my regular clothes, so I figured, why not?

Before the class

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t that nervous for this class. I’m not a stranger to non-sexual nudity; I worked in a lingerie boutique for a couple years, and have contributed to a fashion-focused lingerie blog for half a decade. Overall, I’m pretty comfortable with being naked, and seeing other people naked. But walking from the train with my required yoga mat under my arm, my mind was racing.

First, I was worried about feeling self-conscious around a bunch of strangers. Then, I realized it would be the first time in three months that I’ve been naked in front of anyone — much less a room full of people. Logistics-wise, I wondered if parts of my body that make yoga more complicated would be seriously in the way without a sports bra.

Plus, where would we change? Would we each have to wait for the bathroom to take off our clothes or something? And on top of all that, I knew that if my new all-natural deodorant were to fail, there would be no fabric shielding the class from my sweaty armpits.

But my worries pretty much all disappeared as soon as the founder and instructor, Willow, welcomed me into the space. As I marveled at the beautiful candlelit apartment, she explained that it’s owned by a local nudist couple, who allows groups to use their spare room for events and classes. With the squishiest, softest carpet, plus hot herbal tea on offer, it was hard to feel uncomfortable. The atmosphere was laid-back and serene.

The class

At 7pm, we laid our mats out in two rows, and sat down to hear the required reading of the rules. You’re prohibited from cruising (or asking people out), from staring, from giving compliments that might be totally innocuous while clothed, and from touch of any kind.

We each had a card on the ground next to our mats; if our cards were out, the instructor was prohibited from adjusting our poses during the practice. If they weren’t out, the instructor still had to ask before touching us, and we could always say no. And even though I was about to be totally naked in front of 7 strangers, I’ve never felt so safe in a space before.

We went around (still fully clothed) and introduced ourselves, giving our names, preferred pronouns, and a word to explain how we were feeling, which immediately gave a sense of community to the space. And then it was time to disrobe, so we did, all together in the closed-off room.

I flashed back to my Bachelor of Fine Arts drawing classes, where the nude models would change into a robe privately, and then take the robe off publicly, sort of like a separation between “human” and “model.” There was no separation here — I was a clothed human, and then I was a naked human.

As soon as we disrobed, we all went into child’s pose, with the two rows of people facing each other, which is how most of the class was practiced. I felt very conscious of my nudity at first, but as someone who practices yoga regularly, getting into the class (a normal routine for me) made my mind relax.

Unexpectedly, I was more worried about accidentally making my classmates feel uncomfortable with actions that might be totally normal in a clothed yoga class, like inadvertently locking eyes with them, or unintentionally touching them when we put our arms out.

Luckily, Willow gave us frequent direction on where to focus our gaze — “At the point where your mat meets the floor,” or even just “Somewhere that’s not another human” — and that made it more than easy.

The class was mostly timed along with breath, with a slow flow and a focus on deep stretches. Everything was easily modified, and despite the slow pace, my muscles definitely got a nice workout.

My lack of a sports bra (and subsequent lack of chest restriction) was surprisingly inconsequential. I thought I might feel some sort of extra kinship with everyone in the room, but instead, I just felt extra in-tune with my muscles and body position in every pose and flow.

And honestly, it felt awesome. Being totally naked made everything feel physically very comfortable, with no spandex or elastic to bug you. There’s no pulling down your shirt or adjusting your shorts after a flow.

Plus, when you don’t check your form against anyone else’s, you can move at entirely your own pace. With the strict safety rules, I felt more comfortable than I could have imagined. It’s worth noting, however, that not all naked yoga class organizations share this same “consent first” philosophy; Willow says many similar groups have no strict rules, or have rules that are only enforced in extreme situations. Some nudists even argue that rules like these make nude spaces feel “creepy” or “constrained,” when the whole point of nudism is to feel easy and free. But Willow doesn’t care; her interests lie in making sure her students feel safe. Before you decide to embark on your own naked yoga journey, make sure the studio’s philosophy is one you feel comfortable with.

After the class

It’s always a little hard to go back to the outside world after a good yoga class, but it felt downright alien to put my clothes back on after this class. I adjusted so quickly to being naked in this room that wearing clothes, even the comfortable dress I had worn that day, felt restrictive and odd.

Walking to my bus stop after class in the summer evening, I decided I’d absolutely take a naked yoga class again.

It’s not a big novelty, an uncomfortable challenge, or a weird story to tell. It’s just a reminder that we’re all just human beings, moving our bodies in ways that feel good. And you don’t really need Lululemon for that.

Want more? Find a yoga class near you and discover more interesting things to do on our New York City calendar.  

By

Quinne Myers is a writer, illustrator, apparel designer, and lingerie industry pundit living in Brooklyn. Loves sweaty concert dancing, eating dessert, feeling feelings, and petting every dog.

More articles by Quinne Myers

Comments

30 Comments

  1. Malachi

    So let me get this straight… It’s a naked yoga with specifically no straight men (because apparently they are the nude problem) as a way to unsexualize sexual things? It’s more weird than it sounds that’s too strange for even Dr. Strange. But hey it’s a new world power to the people (except for straight men)

  2. Daniel

    I agree. On the other hand, the easy route would be to just say you’re a man identifying as a transgender woman, and I can’t see how they would turn you away…?

  3. Victoria

    I loved this article and the “freeing” rules the studio implements. I am going to look for an opportunity to do this in my area.

    @Malachi she was referring to a specific class, not all classes excluding straight male. Recommend rereading the article and adjusting your comments accordingly 🙂

    Turn Your body into the most comfortable outfit you own!

  4. I think my favorite part of this is the fact that it literally labels trans-men as men-but-not-really by including them with the all-female classes.

  5. I have to say it made me feel a certain way that it seemed the class was for everyone except straight males. This from people who claim to want to be accepted for who they are but seem unwilling to grant the same to “certain” others – namely straight males. If I am wrong please correct me, but in having tolerance for people includes all people. I treat people with respect until they give me a reason not to and except the same no more no less. I hope that I am wrong and that I just misread the article because it would really be nice to be judged for my actions and not the actions of others.

  6. CIS men. The new social pariahs. Not to be trusted. Not to be included. Noticed all the men in the accompanying photos though. I’ll stick to my non-discriminatory nude yoga class.

  7. Only the once monthly “Women and Trans” Yoga class restricted the participation of straight (and gay and bi) men, except for trans (whether straight, gay or bi) men. Everything else mentioned in the article was available to all. I don’t see anything strange about a once monthly women and trans-only class for those who need that kind of space.

  8. Shammquanna Wells

    Well nothing is strange to me these days. People are trying so many different things to get healthy mentally and physically. In today’s society it’s important for people to be more comfortable in their skin

  9. The eligibility requirements did not preclude straight men; they precluded cis men who could be straight, gay, bisexual, or pansexual; they permitted trans men who could also be any of these sexual orientations.

  10. Indigo

    Let me set this forward: this particular class is open to ‘all trans and cis women, people who were AFAB (assigned female at birth), and trans men,… designed to give people who aren’t cisgender men a less intimidating, and potentially more comfortable, introduction to a nudist space’. I have to say, after reading the first comment, I can see why this is necessary. Straight isn’t the problem; misunderstanding the need for personal comfort, is.

  11. That was totally awesome Quinn. You always write on Amazing topics. This was fascinating and moving. I related to your reference to the life drawing classes and how they have to go through orchestrated steps to get undressed – and lots to think about.

  12. HAHAHAHAHAHA wtf this is so unnecessary and the comment above me is hilarious wow. This stuff we come up with to entertain ourselves amazes me

  13. Isn’t discrimination illegal? Why yes, it is. You’re stereotyping, straight, men.
    Maybe one day you’ll promote egalitarianism, but probably not..

  14. Mic Mac

    That class sounds really intriguing, not only because I have done yoga naked at home alone (and it feels very different from a stuffed-to-the-gills class – more mindful, less and more self-conscious). It also seems like it works as a small, low-stress introduction to the nudist culture? You’re engaged in an activity, it’s a safe space. I don’t know if there’s any other way of dipping your toe in, so to speak, but I’ve been fascinated since that movie about Diane Arbus.

  15. Wow Malachi, the fact that you left that comment proves their point of not allowing straight men. Think of it as any gym locker room which is separated by sexes.

  16. I have to agree with Malachi, (I see what you did there, “let me get this straight”) why can there not be straight men? So straight men can’t be as comfortable for the yoga community? This all inclusive movement sure seems exclusive for conscious straight men…

  17. Pass. Literally. Those of us who take yoga in the real world know that at some point in every class, someone will inevitably break wind. Just imagine the large “human being” directly in front of you in the downward drop position letting one RIP with no muffler, filter, or net. Also, no matter how attractive a person is, in certain positions there are some things that CAN NOT be unseen, no matter how hard you try. I have heard of this new drunk yoga with clothes on – that sounds more fun & safer. Lol.

  18. @malachi Read the article. “Since the nudist community can be overwhelmingly male, this particular class is designed to give people who aren’t cisgender men a less intimidating, and potentially more comfortable, introduction to a nudist space.”

  19. Steven Ken

    Not to be argumentative, as I understand the idea that some or perhaps most men can be ooglers…
    But this whole discrimination thing would be taken the other way if it were a men’s class! Like the men’s clubs, boy scouts, etc…

    I want to protest this and be allowed to attend!

  20. Monica

    I would never even think about doing naked yoga. They might have rules the participants must abide by, but our bodies should be kept private. It is indeed very weird.

  21. It’s not for men, period, whether straight or gay. Most gay men still think of themselves as men. As well they should because they are…you know…men.
    Seems easier (and cheaper) to stay home, get naked, and do yoga to a video.

  22. Hey Malachi, Daniel, and Steve:
    Your comments are perfect examples of WHY women might not be comfortable being naked in a room with ya. It’s not that all straight men are bad. It’s that there are bad straight men and they say shit like “I’ll be fake trans so they HAVE to let me see their boobs!”

    Gross as F guys. Gross as F. (I’m a gay dude for the record)

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