“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.
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.