A few weeks ago I attended a yoga class that was completely different to any other I had ever attended.
The most obvious difference – it involved being naked.
I’ve grown up like a lot of western women. I once felt free running around topless or in the nude as a child, but at somepoint in time my naked body became something to hide. Something that I only shared with myself and with boyfriends. But never anyone else.
In changing rooms I’m always the one quickly getting changed behind my towel. At a push I can walk around in a bra, with my towel wrapped tightly around my waist. But I’ve never felt brave (or thin) enough to walk around completely nude. Because who knew who could be looking and what they might think!
In yoga or while working out, I always wear long tops and quickly pull them back down anytime they move out of place. Even when I’m relaxing in a yoga class, there’s a part of me on constant alert – making sure that my stomach or my butt crack don’t show.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of years rebuilding the relationship I have with my body.
I now feel happy and confident in my own skin. I can look in the mirror without focusing on my flaws. But due to years of tearing myself down and constantly criticising my body, I know what flaws are there. And even though I may no longer feel like they are flaws that need to be changed, I still worry that other people may notice and criticise those parts that I once so passionately hated.
Given all that, I surprised even myself when I hit purchase on a ticket to Rosie Rees’ Nude Yoga class in Sydney. I can still remember just how fast and hard my heart was beating as I entered my credit card details. With huge, out of control butterflies in my stomach, I wondered whether I was crazy to say yes to getting naked in a room full of strangers.
By the time the actual night rolled around, the nerves were still there but I no longer felt so worried. I was excited and ready to discover what the class would hold.
I figured that attending a nude yoga class would create shifts in my thoughts and would be an experience unlike any other – but even I was surprised by everything the class bought up for me.
I’m still learning and putting into practice the lessons that I learnt, but I wanted to share a few of these with you.
You may not be able to attend a nude yoga class (if Rosie ever heads your way – you should definitely get your naked butt to a class) but the lessons are things we can all learn from and implement.
1. We all have similar fears.
At the start of the class, before we all got naked, we sat in a circle in our kimonos and shared why we had decided to try nude yoga. There were a lot of us – from a range of ages – who all mentioned body image struggles and who were here because they wanted to learn to love their body, exactly as it is.
It was almost cathartic listening to all of the other women with the same thoughts and fears. As everyone spoke you could see the nods of agreements and see a deep, deep understanding in the eyes of the other women.
Even though we all have similar worries, how often do we share these? How often do we let other people in on our struggles, our fears, and our worries about not being good enough or being judged by others? Perhaps if we shared our fears more, we would be less worried about what other people think and we would be less judgemental ourselves.
As someone a little on the quiet side, I always dread going around in a circle and sharing something about myself – but the space Rosie created, even before we officially got started, was such a safe and open space, that I wasn’t too worried. And at the end of class when we went around in a circle again, you could feel the palpable change of energy. Everyone was even more open and supportive, and we were completely free to share our experience of the past few hours. I think we all felt connected to every other woman in the room. We knew they would understand whatever came up for us, regardless of whether or not it matched their experience.
2. Vulnerability may feel scary, but it is also a strength.
How many times have you been told or made to feel that being vulnerable is a weakness? Or something to avoid? Probably far too often.
Getting naked and moving through a series of yoga poses in a room full of strangers requires vulnerability. It also requires bravery. A kind of bravery that I was almost too scared to go through with, but that I’m so glad I did.
If I hadn’t allowed myself to be vulnerable I doubt I would have experienced or learnt so much about myself during the class.
3. We need to appreciate the beauty of the feminine body.
The feminine body is beautiful – with its curves, softness and sensuality. We can tap into our sensuality and beauty on own on, and in a situation that doesn’t involve sex or seeing ourselves through the eyes of our partner.
While most of the time we moved with our eyes closed or softly looking downwards, there were times when I could see the other naked women around me. Most of us don’t see other naked women very often, and if we do we quickly avert our eyes.
But in this space it was different. Rosie said there was absolutely no shame in looking at someone else and, at least for me, there was no sense of comparison anytime my eyes landed on someone else’s body.
There were so many women there of different shapes, sizes and ages, yet every single woman exuded beauty. Everyone’s body was so unique, but also had so much in common and we definitely need to learn to love the feminine body, including our own, with all its individuality and all its similarities.
4. Magic happens when we are completely present in our bodies.
For me the magic came in the form of a feeling. A feeling of being completely liberated and free. I’ve grown up seeing myself as a “good girl”. I follow the rules and do what is expected of me. I might toe the line, but never really cross over into the area of “unacceptable behaviour”.
That good girl image of myself, she would never attend a nude yoga class – that would somehow be against the rules. Throughout the class I found myself thinking, over and over: I can’t believe I’m doing this.
My disbelief wasn’t because I was breaking the rules or doing something so unexpected. I was stunned by how free I felt. I almost didn’t believe how much I enjoyed every single minute of class and how un-self-conscious I was of being nude.
I wasn’t worried about what other people thought. I wasn’t worried when we were in poses that had me looking directly at my stomach. I wasn’t worried about whether other people were looking at my cellulite. I wasn’t at all concerned about being naked, and in fact I simply felt utterly at ease.
This magic sense of ease and liberation could only occur because I wasn’t in my head. I was 100 percent in my body.
I was connected to my body through breath and movement, and it made me realise that feeling happy in our body doesn’t need to be complicated. All it requires is a little connection and a lot less thinking.
I didn’t really know what to expect from a nude yoga class, but I am so glad that something within me said yes to giving it a try. By saying yes to vulnerability and getting comfortable with my fears, I fell so in love with my body and my femininity.
Nude yoga is something all women need to try at least once, and when Rosie is next in Sydney I will definitely be going back for more.
Have you ever been to a nude yoga class? What did you experience or learn?