Guys. I recently quit wearing a bra to regular, clothed yoga and it changed my life. So when a studio in New York finally started offering Naked Yoga classes that were open to women (all-male naked yoga is far more popular), I obviously had to go. Because SO MANY QUESTIONS.
“The etiquette has to be confusing. Is it more polite to show up with groomed pubic hair? Should you clip your tampon strings like a stripper? Are the mats properly sanitized? I’m getting anxiety just thinking about it. I will agree that everything else has to be a breeze after you let it all hang out and loosen your limbs with a group of strangers.”
I think most people would agree that my energy skews towards “fuck politeness,” but really though, does body hair get in the way? Is full wax the way to go to avoid snagging/pinching on a rubber mat? I didn’t know about the tampon string trick, but I have recently befriended a porn star who tipped me off to using a square of two still-attached triangle makeup sponges to remain discreetly plugged while naked. I don’t think I’m personally talented enough to find them if they ever got lost, however, and then I’m explaining to a forceps-wielding gynecologist why I have makeup sponges inside of me, so yeah, clipping tampon strings seems the way to go.
Of course my goal wasn’t to attend Naked Yoga on my period. My goal was to go to an all-female class first, in full-bushed glory, to dip my feet in the water, and then
put on take off my big girl pants and attend a co-ed class, fully-waxed, like a polite, newly shorn baby sheep. But you know what they say: we make plans to flaunt our bald vulvas in a room full of strangers and God laughs.
First of all, the sign-up process for naked yoga is intense and vaguely offensive. Before you can register for a class, you first have to fill out this bizarrely limiting questionnaire, the purpose of which I assumed was to assess your comfort and experience levels. (Also, to confirm that you weren’t a weirdo who was planning to perv out on a room full of naked people in a disrespectful manner.) And, in part, it was. The more standard questions included:
- “Why did you respond to Bold & Naked?”
- “What would you like to get out of participating in Bold & Naked yoga events?”
- “Are you comfortable being touched non-sexually?”
- “Describe your yoga experience. What style of yoga are you practicing and for how long?”
And that was fine. Other questions, not so much.
For starters, the gender options listed for you to choose from are “Mr.” or “Mrs.” Aside from the fact that this leaves out a broad swath of gender identities, which is bad enough in itself — “Mrs.”?! My only choice is to identify as a man or a married woman? Okay, then. Naked Yoga thinks I’m a married woman. Next question:
“Would you characterize yourself as being ‘physically fit’? If so, why?”
Because I am an asshole, I answered this question “Not Applicable; not interested in the idea.” This is also true, in addition to being assholic. I don’t do yoga to “get fit.” I do it because I like the way it feels, and also because I paid NYU a lot of money to teach me how to do four lines of Shakespeare on one breath, and I’m not interested in losing my baller lung capacity. Yogic breathing helps keep your lungs stretchy and your voice shipshape.
Next question: “Body Type.” Fantastic. This one was multiple choice, which is always just the fucking worst. I prefer to self-identify as “zaftig” but most places that ask this question feature an infuriating lack of pro-flattery body type options (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, OKCUPID, DO YOU FEEL THE BURN OF MY LASER STARE?).
So, when I signed up, the body type options that were available to me were “Slim,” “Toned,” “Athletic,” “Muscular,” or “Other.” Please note: THREE OF THOSE THINGS ARE SYNONYMS OF EACH OTHER. Also like, relevance…? I give up. I just marked “Other.” And only after submitting my begrudgingly filled out form did I notice the studio’s disclaimer:
“We do have a selection process and accept students who are fit, take care of themselves and have good energy.”
…Shit. So I was definitely getting rejected for my flagrant body-positivity, because how dare I not conform to this studio’s standards of what bodies that practice naked yoga are allowed to look like? Naked yoga is for everyone, and by everyone, we mean hot people.
By some miracle (or because my listed 8 years of yoga experience balanced out the possibility in their minds that I may be a lumpy and misshapen fatty), I had made it through the screening process and was invited to sign up for class at my leisure.
Scheduling a Naked Yoga class is its own adventure. As previously stated, my intention was to go to an all-women’s class first to get comfy and then dive into co-ed. But while they offer four Naked Men’s classes a week, and three Naked co-ed classes a week, there’s only one Naked Women’s class a week. (A second one is allegedly “coming soon.”) There was a brief phase where they kept switching the day of the week it was offered on, which was hard to work my schedule around, and then this week, they just flat-out canceled it. But I had been excited to go and was tired of waiting, so I threw practicality to the wind and went straight to a co-ed class my first time.
I also wanted to push the envelope (read: troll the studio) on this whole concept of “fit bodies only” so I may have purposely scheduled myself to attend class while in the full throes of PMS bloat. Sure, there was a 60% chance I was going to start bleeding in the middle of class, but I would have loved to see how they dealt with that. (Sadly, no such thing happened.)
Ethnically speaking, I’m from The Hair Belt, and thus, have been raised in the strict tradition of Eastern European women who take their daughters for Baby’s First Wax at around age 12, while everybody else is getting shaving lessons. As a result, I’m both pretty comfortable stripping for strangers and have never taken a razor to any part of my body. I waited till the very end of a wax cycle to attend class, so I wondered if I was also going to get side-eye for my furry legs and rather French underarm situation. Does revealing thick, dark body hair as a lady fall under “not taking care of yourself”?
At regular yoga, I prefer to practice in the front row, because seeing a bunch of bodies in front of me always makes me feel crowded and claustrophobic, so I had no problem nakedly sauntering up to a space sandwiched between two dudes in the front row at Naked Yoga.
Here are the things that were awesome about it:
- Soft lighting! Both the lobby area where you strip to store your belongings, and the studio itself are pretty dimly lit, so it’s really hard to see anyone’s bits in hi-def, even if you’re looking for them. I dare say you could even get away with not trimming your tampon string and nobody would notice it.
- Body hair is a non-issue! I was fully fuzzed and it never got in the way, which is probably largely due to the fact that:
- You’re really slippery! So you’re naked, and you’re sweating, and there’s nothing to absorb the moisture, which means a lot of poses are easier because you’re really slick. Alternatively, I think it was a little mean of the instructor to put us in poses that were dependent on traction to work. Crow was a hot, cruel mess.
- Let’s be honest: watching a bead of sweat slowly drip off your nipple is totally profound.
- Naked Yoga pro-tip, my friends: if it’s been a minute since you’ve seen a nature-made scrotum, and your Naked Yoga neighbor is a dude, Prasarita is JUST A DELIGHT.
- Forging insta-bonds! It happened to be the birthday of this really nice, incidentally good-looking, British guy whose mat was next to mine (Prasarita starred his dangling genitals), so at the end of class, the teacher led us all in singing “Happy Birthday” to him. Naked. This is my life now.
In conclusion, any gossip amongst the regulars/instructors about that round-hipped, expressive, misfit brunette in the front row must have happened behind my back, because I felt totally normal and welcomed. The teacher touched me for adjustments like any other student. Size-wise, I was probably on the fluffy side in comparison to the other ladies in the room (but I am flexible as a motherfucker; do not get it twisted), but not everyone was thin. Fluffy men seemed more common. I pretty much broke every self-care etiquette rule there was to break and was neither ostracized nor held back. If paying $25 a class is something your lifestyle can afford, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Now if only they would fix their shitty questionnaire.
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