This Saturday at Alphabet City Sanctuary, Young Naturists America presents a naked yoga session that promises healing through “crystals, vegan chocolate, and community love.” To find out what it might be like, we had Sally Lynn Edmonds attend a class at Bold & Naked, in Chelsea.
I tell my mom I’m doing naked yoga and she says, “Good, that’s your best look.” She doesn’t think much of the way I put together outfits.
My friend Scott thinks the only people who’d do naked yoga are narcissists who want to fuck themselves, but really I’m just curious to do yoga naked with like-minded people.
The online questionnaire at Bold & Naked’s website asks for my date of birth and details about my workout routine, as well as my body type. Choices for body type are “slim,” “toned,” “athletic,” “muscular”, and “other.”
“Other”? Is that what we call fat people?
At the bottom of the page it says, “We do have a selection process and accept students who are fit, in-shape and take care of themselves.” Yet the website also says that “one of the reasons Bold & Naked is offering naked yoga class is to help you gain confidence by accepting and loving your body as it is.”
So you don’t have to be perfect, but you should be near it?
Despite my concerns, I proudly check “toned” and write that I do yoga and run 2-3 times per week. I rush through the open-ended questions, dismissive of the idea that I need to be screened, that I might not be strong enough, aesthetically pleasing enough, or spiritually pure enough to do naked yoga.
A few hours later I’m approved.
When I arrive at the studio in Chelsea for the Thursday class, I have to fill out a waiver and the two owners ask me for my address, birthday, phone number, and e-mail. This feel invasive. Then again, if people are going to be getting naked together, there should be accountability. Writing down my address will keep a sexual predator like me in line.
The male owner says he heard a question on the radio: “What do you do more often at 50 then at 20?” The answer, he says, is “sleep naked.”
The female owner is going to be my instructor. She seems calm, and she asks me easy questions to help me relax. She isn’t wearing a bra, which I guess will make the transition to nudity that much easier.
The two other women who’ve signed up for the class didn’t show up, so it’s just the instructor and me in the upstairs studio. I put my stuff down and stand in the back of the room. You can take off your clothes and put them in the cubby, she tells me. There’s a screen so I can change in private.
I take a long time undressing. When I finally come out, the instructor is naked. I look at the ground, unfurl my mat, and hunch down. I’m afraid to look up. I put my mat at the back of the room. She tells me I can put it side by side with hers, since I’m the only one. Of course. Then she sits cross-legged and tells me to sit so we can talk. I sit cross-legged on my mat about four feet away, facing her. I’ve put my towel underneath me because I’m afraid of getting genital warts from the mats.
I try to look into her eyes, but at the same time, I can see her nipples. I’m still wearing my glasses, and she asks me if I wouldn’t like to take them off. I say I need them to do balancing poses and keep them on. It seems unfair, to be asked to relinquish them, when I can still be seen.
She touches base before we begin, asks me again why I wanted to do the class, what I want to get out of it. Without clothes on, I do feel more of a sense of intimacy, and I don’t want to omit the fact that I’m writing about the class from what I tell her. This omission makes me hear my answers as clipped and guarded. I tell her that I like being naked, but that “I still feel nervous but not too nervous.”
She asks me what I want to focus on and if I have any injuries. I tell her I like to focus on my hip flexors, and also that I have a little bit of a stomach ache (maybe because I’m nervous). So she says she’ll go easy on me.
Laying down helps me relax. With my eyes closed, I forget that I’m naked. I focus on breathing, and already the clenched feeling in my stomach is unclenching.
We go through a warm up flow of forward bends, planks, chataranga, upward dog, downward dog, and cat-cows. We also do pigeon, twists, warrior one and two, crow, and a squat followed by half-lotus. That’s where you squat down low, wrap your arms around one thigh and clasp your hands, and then stand on the other leg, eventually straightening the leg which is bound by your hands. Suffice it to say that a lot of junk would be exposed. But I was too busy trying to balance to think about it, or to really look at the instructor. Maybe that was my mistake. A focused gaze can be key for balance.
Somehow throughout all the poses, I never get a good look at her bush. My most burning curiosity was how hairy people would be, but I find that in the dim lighting, I can’t really tell, and my eyes surprisingly don’t travel there. I had imagined being exposed to shocking images of genitalia, but in reality, all I see of that area is a darkened shadow.
Sometimes I see myself in the mirror and I’m surprised to note that I look exactly as I expected myself to look. Exactly how I know that I look naked.
During the poses, the instructor occasionally aligns my hips or pushes me deeper into the stretch. It feels fine and her hands are very warm. At the end, we get back to lying on our backs, as all yoga classes end. After a few minutes, bells start chiming and a horn blows multiple times, as if my freshman year roommate was sleeping through her alarm. Was that their way of waking me up after the shavasana? After class, I thank the instructor, and tell her that I enjoyed the experience. I would like to come again, next time, to the co-ed class.