I’m not a nudist. In fact, I get self-conscious in a bikini (or even a pair of shorts for that matter) and would much rather cover up with, say, a muumuu or respectable-looking potato sack than downward dog without pants. But for the sake of topical journalism—and getting out of my comfort zone—I took a class at New York City’s first (and only) naked yoga studio. Bold & Naked Yoga, from owners Joschi Schwarz and Monika Werner, began in 2012 with Schwarz’s male-only naked studio, Le Male Yoga. As popularity grew, the pair teamed up and recently introduced co-ed and female classes to the rotation and changed the name to Bold & Naked.
Elsewhere in the country, naked yoga classes are somewhat hard to come by. In some cities, like Chicago, independent groups organize nude yoga meet-ups. But it seems that the practice is far more common on the internet—in the form of web videos and online tutorials—than in physical studios. At Bold & Naked, you’re required to sign up for a class on their website before you can gain access to a phone number or the physical location in Chelsea. Once you’re in, what’s the point? According to Bold & Naked’s website, naked yoga “is about being comfortable in your own skin and the amazing confidence that comes with it.”
I attended their inaugural female-only nude class. We were a small, er, intimate group of different shapes and sizes but consisted mostly of the fit-ish and well-groomed variety. (No supermodels here.) The studio skewed more along the lines of a high-end boudoir than an actual yoga center—with black hardwood flooring, high ceilings, chandeliers, dim lighting and minimal mirrors (but still, mirrors!). There are screens to undress behind and cubes to store your clothing.
I choose to just go for it. Like ripping off a Band-Aid, I hurriedly shed my clothes and stuffed them in a cube as some of the more comfortable-looking ladies took the time to fold their undergarments and workout gear. (Side note: Should one wear yoga gear if one is not actually going to wear the yoga gear? I came straight to class in skinny jeans and a sweater.)
As we disrobed, a few of us made awkward conversation while carefully avoiding the mirror. One fresh-faced girl in the class nonchalantly mentioned her recent experience at Burning Man and giddily chatted up the teacher in the nude. I got the whole I’m-totally-more-comfortable-naked-than-in-clothes vibe from her. I found myself searching for the nearest window, from which to throw myself it seemed, but it was too late at that point.
We gathered to sit cross-legged facing the (very naked and perfectly toned) instructor, Monika. Class had begun, and Monika was saying something that I assume was very inspiring about our bodies—something about finding ourselves beautiful from the inside and out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t process a single word as I was in a rather vulnerable cat-cow pose that looked anything but beautiful from my point of view. My complexion resembled a tub of mayo. I instantly regretted not taking the class during the summer.
But we flowed quickly, and there were times when I forgot about the unattractive cat-cow or my least favorite body part—the bat wing arms that I prefer to cover on even the warmest of days. The naked Vinyasa is like any other vigorous yoga class that I love. We moved though dynamic sun salutations, half moon, pigeon, crow and yes, even happy baby.
As with any yoga practice, I sneaked glances in the mirror: to self-consciously suck in my pooch, flex a butt cheek or put a hair in place—and promptly returned to the work at hand, settling into a space where I’m at peace. It took a bit more time to get to that place while being in the buff, but by the end of class—during Shavasana, the final resting post—I actually felt at ease. I forgot about my bingo arms. I even forgot that I was naked for a few minutes. And as Bold & Naked promises, I felt confident. I think this was about having the balls to take the class more than anything else.
As women, we’re hard on ourselves. We fat talk. We suck in, and we trash our naked bodies. I’m certainly guilty of that. This class forced me to face—and eventually let go—of those insecurities. By getting out of my Lululemons, I became comfortable in my naked skin—even if for just an hour.