For the past two years, naked yoga has been on the top of my bucket list. On a sunny Sunday afternoon in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, I finally crossed it off my list in a class with 8 other students. I've always enjoyed finding new ways to see what I can learn about myself. This desire for fresh invigoration has amplified since I cut alcohol out of my lifestyle.
The eight of us sat in the waiting room, filled out our waivers, and talked about how nervous/excited we were. One guy mentioned that he'd been a few times. "This class gets me out of my comfort zone. I still get butterflies in my stomach before class – and I like that," he told me. A few minutes before class started, we finally began removing our clothes. We walked, totally nude, into a well-lit yoga room with yoga mats, candles, and Rihanna bumping in the speakers. Our instructor, Joschi, was a German man who exuded confidence from his fit, naked body. He asked how we were feeling, told us jokes to calm us down, and began to guide us through our practice.
In a traditional yoga class, I find myself messing with my clothes the whole time. God forbid my stomach comes out and the entire room thinks I'm fat. How narcissistic to think that my body image issues are SO important that everyone else is worried about them, too. I'll also find myself looking around the room, judging what people are wearing. Oooooh she's wearing lululemon....#besties! Ew...who wears Reebok anymore? Is he wearing JEANS?! I was worried that without clothes conveniently covering my insecurities, I would be totally exposed.
I ended up in the front row of class, sandwiched between a girlfriend of mine who's significantly skinnier than I am and a guy I was dating at the time. Talk about putting yourself out there...
If you're a seasoned yogi, the power flow was a beautiful blend of Ashtanga and Vinyasa. If you have no idea what the hell I just said, it was a killer 90 minute workout that kicked my naked ass. And yes, it looked exactly like you're thinking. There were times when every part of my body was completely visible. I was bent over with my legs spread open. I was on my back doing sit ups with my legs in a wide V shape. I had one leg wrapped around my arm while the other knee was on the ground. I was doing push ups. Regardless of these positions, I was still worried about how my stomach looked.
In the beginning of this unique yoga class, instead of comparing my clothes to someone else's, I found myself comparing my body to other women. Why are my hips and thighs bigger than hers? Is he looking at my love handles? If I didn't eat a cookie before this, I would look so much skinnier.
Yet the more comfortable I got in the room, the more I began to see the bodies (including my own) as just that...bodies. Once my perception shifted, the presence in the room shifted as well. Instead of being surrounded by 8 naked people of varying genders, sizes, races, and ages, I was accompanied by 8 beautiful souls.
I'm not cured of my body image issues after one Bold & Naked class, but I'm now aware of a world where clothes, weight, and body bashing serve no purpose. After that class, I felt so strong, beautiful, and confident. A few of us even hung out naked afterwards to take photos and chit chat.
Yoga is a metaphor; what is learned on the mat can be easily translated to other aspects of life. I've grown to rely on my yoga practice over the past three years to consistently teach me something new about myself. After months of practicing and finally mastering a head stand, I began to learn a level of internal strength I had never experienced before. Now, after literally exposing myself through a naked yoga practice, I carry a new badge of empowerment that keeps my insecurities in check. I did naked yoga a few days ago, it doesn't matter how my stomach looks in these pants! Insecurities, like fears, only live if you feed them.
Sure, I still wish I could lose some of my belly. I wish my hands were more feminine. I wish I didn't have a bunion on my left foot. I wish I didn't have cellulite. I wish I looked more like her. But in reality, I will never look like so-and-so because I'm not so-and-so. I will never be happy 10 pounds lighter until I'm happy at my weight right now.
I'm finding new confidence in my words when I speak. I'm more comfortable in a women's locker room, no longer trying to cover my body while I'm getting dressed. I've realized words like "biggER" or "fattER" only exist in the world of comparison. How can I ever be happy with my body if someone else is always ER-ier than me?
I've spent so much of my life obsessing over my external "imperfections", ignoring my internal beauty and self-worth. My body is far from perfect. And that's what makes it perfect.