Nude yoga? Yup, nude yoga

No, it wasn't a porn with naked ladies downward facing dogging each other. Disappointing, I know.

click to enlarge Exactly like this but with more naked women. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Wikimedia Commons
Exactly like this but with more naked women.

"Are you really going to take your clothes off?"

"I couldn't do that. I don't want somebody else's junk in my face."

"All the way naked?"

Yes, all the way naked.

When I saw the "naked yoga" event on Facebook, it intrigued me. I've practiced yoga on and off for years, and I fell seriously out of practice this past year, what with the new job and some karmic medical issues. I kept saying I wanted to get back into it, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I could go to the class in the name of writing about it and, if I never wanted to go back to another (fully clothed) yoga class at the venue (in this case, the Body Electric), I wasn't letting myself down. It wasn't like I was really starting yoga, just this one class.

There was never any question I'd get naked. What shocked me? That so many of my friends — liberated, intelligent ladies — seemed mortified at the concept of joining me. I had no takers for a buddy and so, as I entered the yoga studio entirely too dressed, I was alone.

I know we're supposed to be evolved past the point of caring, but I'm not so I'll assume some of you reading this aren't, either: I'm 5'4" and, depending on how far away from a stressful event I am, my weight fluctuates between 130 and 137. And no, a lot of it isn't muscle. The point is, I wasn't going to go into this class with no body issues, but I didn't care.

In my mind, the point of naked yoga is to get past how you look — your stretch marks, your cellulite, your flab — and distill your practice down to energy made physical, no barriers between you and the chi flowing through the room. And if you're laughing at that idea, you've never had a really great yoga class, where you can feel the energy from a mass of yogis moving in sync and at one with their bodies. 

If only I could, at this point, tell you something eye-popping, like how it was a bunch of women just waiting for an excuse to get some good ol' fashioned pagan orgy on, or perhaps how I was the fat chick in a room full of cheerleaders showing off their taut tummies and snickering at my 43-year-old breasts.

Sorry, guys. No orgy, no cliques, no snickering. What I found instead was a group of nonjudgmental, supportive women who were more into their own practice and building each other up than looking at my hoo-ha.

So, here's how naked yoga works: You go in to a candlelit room, grab a mat and blocks and other yoga periphery, and then you sit and wait for the instructor (in this case, Rachel) to begin. She comes in and yeah, she's muscled and fit and tiny, but when she tells you if you want to take your clothes off to go ahead, it doesn't feel like a challenge. All but one of the women in my class get completely naked; the last woman stays in her underwear.

We start the class. I'm out of shape. It's OK. I know y'all are probably waiting for some mystic revelation here, but it's yoga, and it's actually awesome because I'm naked. It's not an exhibitionist thing; it's that yoga, like swimming, sunbathing and sex, feels better naked. By the time we're halfway through, I'm too absorbed in getting my heels down for downward facing dog to worry about whether my flat ass is in somebody's field of vision. Somewhere along the way the one holdout removes her underwear.

It was two days after elections. I was beat up, exhausted and scared for our country and my future. I'd cried a lot; the day before, at work, we'd held each other and cried as Hillary gave her concession speech. For women, it wasn't about liberal against conservative; it was about women finally getting the power they deserve, and then, heartbreakingly, it was about us not getting the power.

Somewhere in the last few years I've gained a heightened sensitivity to women's empowerment. I grew up right after the hard push for women's lib and well before the millennial pissed-offed-ness that we weren't equal yet; I grew up thinking we'd get there someday, not really mad as hell — more irritated, really — but ready to accept the onus for making it happen. And then it didn't, and I felt weak and drained. I didn't have anything left. Defeated, I walked into that yoga class.

Naked in that room, with Rachel and the other women baring themselves to each other, I felt like I was able to gain it back. When the shavasana ended, Rachel said we could go or stay while she played the bowls. We all stayed, and she sounded the bowls with beautiful ancient notes, and talked about power and how we all should not only harness our power but reach out to each other, and somehow, sitting there, naked and sweaty, I felt hope, but it was more. I felt power swirling around me, a pool inviting me to drink so I could give more back and, yeah, it sounds silly now, but I did. And you know what?

For the first time in days, I felt strong.

Clothing Optional Yoga For Women

The Body Electric Yoga Company, 3015 7th Ave. N., St. Pete.

Jan. 19, 7:30-9 p.m.

Reservations required; these classes sell out.

Clothing Optional Yoga for Men also available: Jan. 12, 7:30-9 pm.

Event page on Facebook.

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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