(originally published on Austinist.com)
The best thing about doing anything naked is that you’re always prepared. It’s not like going to the gym, where you have to remember your shoes and, well, your clothes. This became evident earlier this week as I was contemplating attending my first co-ed naked yoga class. I was late leaving work and didn’t have time to run home and get ready, so I was on the verge of wimping out until I realized that, quite literally, um, I was born ready.
In fact, I was so ready that I arrived at the yoga studio almost thirty minutes early. I decided to go on inside so I’d have first dibs on potential obstructed view seating. My nervousness, however, had caused me to overlook one important fact: thirty minutes early equals thirty minutes of extra naked-with-strangers time. Duh.
The man behind the counter was very friendly and very clothed, and he asked if I was there for the yoga or the Ecstatic Dancing.
“Um, the yoga,” I said quietly. “You know, the yoga?” I raised my eyebrows slightly for emphasis.
“Great,” he said. “It’s your first time?”
“Not my first time doing yoga, but my first time doing, you know, this yoga,” I told him.
“Well, we’re happy to have you! The class is in there,” he said, pointing to lucky door number one. “Just leave your shoes out here.”
“Um, how do I… I mean, where do I, um…” I stammered.
“There’s a little room in there where you can get ready. There’s a bathroom, too.”
With a deep breath, I sucked it up and opened the door.
The lights were dim, and there were lots of candles. New Agey music played softly. And, of course, there were naked people. Two evenly-tanned, older naked men at the front of the room turned around to look as The Female Instructor greeted me. They waved.
“There’s a place for you to put your clothes right over there,” she said, pointing to door at the front of the class.
I rolled out my mat next to the wall behind the naked men and made my way to the undressing room. Then I went for it. I took it all off. In a sort of mindful state of shock, I crossed my arms and walked back to my mat and sat down. Quickly. Very quickly. But on my tiptoes to avoid excess bouncing.
The Instructor was talking to the two naked men about gardening or politics or her new drapes. Naked Man Number Two mentioned that he’d injured his right hamstring. Naked Man Number One asked the instructor how her vacation was; as they talked, he was repeatedly flipping his legs back over his head, placing his ass directly in front of me, face level. Meanwhile, Naked Man Number Two kept doing that back-twisting thing where you turn your head and shoulders around to look behind you in one direction and then the other. Each time, he would look at me and smile.
The inside of my head sounded something like this:
Move back. To the wall. They won’t notice. Wait, of course they’ll notice. He’ll be offended. He’ll think it’s because of his ass. His ass is fine. Don’t be rude. Look cool. Smile back. Wait, no. Stop smiling. Avoid eye contact. Cross arms in front of boobs. Too awkward. Uncross. Sit Indian style. ‘Indian style’ is offensive. What should I call it? Doesn’t matter. Definitely bad position. Hug knees? Also bad. Holy cow. His penis is being squeezed through the backs of his legs when he flips. Does that hurt? It would be strange to have a penis. He’s probably thinking that about boobs. He’s probably gay. Maybe even repulsed. Thankful he doesn’t see boobs regularly. Wait, am I the only one making this co-ed?
On the next upswing of his legs, Naked Man Number One farted. He said, “Excuse me.” The conversation did not falter.
By minute fifteen (I was counting), the room was finally starting to fill up, but I was still the only female aside from The Instructor. A middle-aged man wearing only steel-rimmed glasses sat down to my right.
“This your first time?” he asked, smiling.
“Yeah. I mean, I’ve done yoga, but not like this,” I replied, smiling back cautiously, try to ascertain his creepiness level.
“This used to be an all-male class, but they started doing the co-ed classes a few months ago. We still don’t have too many women, but they’re starting to find out about it. How’d you hear about us?”
“On the web,” I told him.
“Last week, there was an older woman here who said she heard about it from someone in her knitting group!” he said. We laughed. His creepiness level plummeted. He was just being nice, and I felt bad for assuming the worst. He asked if I’d feel too awkward if I was the only girl, and I told him I’d be okay.
I was starting to feel almost comfortable. The Instructor was talking about being from Alabama, and I even joined in the conversation. Now the class was getting crowded, and two other women finally appeared. We were asked to squeeze in toward the middle, so I no longer had the wall beside me. Another newbie walked in, and he said he’d never even done yoga before. He sat down on my left and actually asked, “Do you come here often?” He was nervous, though, not creepy. He was also slightly excited, but believe it or not, that was the only evidence of excitement I saw for the whole class. Once we started the practice, it became clear why.
Despite her comforting Alabaman accent, Our Fearless Instructor was all business. She told us to stand up in Mountain Pose and to close our eyes.
“First, I want you to relax,” she began. “Slouch your shoulders and go limp like you’re almost going to fall over. Release control of all of your muscles and just hang there for a bit.”
I opened my eyes briefly to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it.
“Now, I want you to go back into the pose and tense all of your muscles. Make everything rigid, even your jaw. Clench everything.”
I did as I was told, making tight fists and squinting my closed eyes.
“Yoga,” she said, “is all about balancing effort and ease.” Her voice was confident, almost clinical. “It’s important to know the difference between the two. So now you know what ease feels like, and you know what effort feels like. Inhabit the space between these extremes. Now go back into Mountain, and find this balance.”
Now maybe I’d heard this before in a yoga class, but I definitely hadn’t remembered it. I’d never been guided tofeel the difference. Maybe heightened awareness due to my nakedness made this realization so intense, or maybe it would have had the same effect even if I were clothed. I don’t know, but it felt like an epiphany. It was about so much more than yoga: the balance of effort and ease, of lightness and heaviness… It was so thought-provoking that I completely forgot I was naked.
Okay, I didn’t really forget, especially during the wide-legged Triangle Pose, but it ceased to matter. The Instructor was so specific in her instructions that I was too busy concentrating to think about anything except following the steps. For the first time, I successfully synced my breath with my movements. She was that easy to follow. I felt calm, balanced, aware…
At the end of class, we did the standard relaxation bit, but with no clothing to adjust or seams to move around, it was extra relaxing. When we emerged from our collective daze, the man who’d checked me in brought out a pitcher of tea. We drank it sitting naked on our mats. I was tempted to treat mine like a shot and to get out of there before anything could spoil my positive experience, but the others were slowly sipping. They were lingering, but not like regular after-yoga lingering. It seemed a bit… long. For me, once the yoga part was done, there wasn’t a reason to be naked. But they wanted to milk it for all it was worth. Maybe they were working up the courage to go out into the oppressive clothing non-optional world.
I, on the other hand, was more uncomfortable drinking tea, relatively unexposed and sitting with my arms crossed, than I was with sticking my most intimate parts in the face of a stranger during Downward Facing Dog. Having realized this, I found it hard to ignore the slight swinger party vibe. It was also hard to ignore that the final male to female ratio was about 18:5. Definitely not your typical yoga class demographics.
I tried to be polite and to linger with the best of them, but I didn’t last long. I went into the undressing room and got dressed. I waved goodbye to Naked Men Numbers One and Two and sat in my car for a good ten minutes before I felt balanced enough to drive. On the way home, I did a quick cost-benefit analysis of the whole experience, and believe it or not, the pros won out. Or maybe that was just the chai talking.
18 males, 5 females
Likelihood I’d do it again:
7.5 (out of 10)
Average penis size:
Most awkward naked pose: