Through a series of interesting events I found myself on a mat, at a campsite just outside Montagu, in my broeks.
It was a morning yoga session with the biggest twist: everybody was naked.
Now, granted, I wasn’t completely bare. But I was close. And with boobs turned towards the sun in the most brazen salutation I’ve ever done, I felt more in tune with my body than ever before.
So, what is naked yoga?
Naked yoga is yoga naked. Nothing more, or less. But that in itself is enough to send a chill up the spine of your average human.
And I’m a pretty average human. Actually, I am the skinniest human you’ll meet, and have suffered merciless teasing throughout my life, so I’ve got body issues that rival those of the most overweight of you out there. Trust.
Also know that I’m a starer. Pimples. Road accidents. Too-tight pants: Catnip. So a man’s bum during Happy Baby was going to be the biggest fight of willpower I have ever known.
Plus: I wasn’t wearing my shades. If I was going to do this, I was doing it without armour…
Now if you were waiting for me to say I saw things I can never unsee, sorry – it’s just not like that.
Yes, in the first few minutes you wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t notice the penis in the pose next to you (don’t stare, don’t stare, don’t STARE), but the moment you start moving and breathing – and, for me, focusing on not falling over while twisting and turning – there really isn’t much space left in your head to care about the down dog dangle.
Pretty quickly, the bodies become a blur, and then fade out entirely as you start to focus on yourself.
Yes, I did start off in my bikini – but, made conspicuous by attire that screamed embarrassment, and feeling quite liberated by the sun on my skin, the nature all around me, and mostly, the flow, I pulled off my cossie top with a smug flourish and fell instantly deeper into what I think naked yoga is really about: self-acceptance.
And… Other-acceptance. I know, I know, I said I wasn’t looking – but there was this woman near me and I couldn’t help but steal a glance. She was just so comfortable in her skin, made so dazzling and, frankly, beautiful, by her quiet, confident movement.
I wanted to be her. And then I realised I COULD be her. All I had to do was chill the F out.
By the time it came to that winding-down holding your legs and swaying side-to-side bit, I had chilled out. Proper.
I was ready to rip those cossie bottoms off – but, like a lone clapper, it would’ve just been weird. Foiled. But, next time. Because, honestly, that was THE best yoga class I have ever attended.
I walked off with the craziest bounce in my step, the wildest grin on my face. My body felt amazing. I felt amazing. What had happened to me?
The major benefits of doing yoga in the buff
I was curious to know whether my benefits were imagined, or legit, so I quizzed our yoga instructor.
According to him, there are four major psychological bonuses that happen when you practice nekkid.
First off, self-esteem and confidence.
“You cease to be self-conscious when you realise that nobody is looking at you or judging you, irrespective of your body and who you are,” he explains.
And it’s true, within minutes I’d forgotten that I was surrounded by nudies – because they really weren’t bothered by me.
I generally walk out of a yoga class feeling good. I walked away from this one feeling GREAT – especially about myself.
Then there’s the next-level chill factor. “Feeling safe and secure amongst others helps you to relax – to lose some anxiety and stress.
Especially when you realise that naked yoga is nothing to do with anything sexual or sensual; it’s not exhibitionism or voyeurism,” he says. Yup, none of this surreptitious lycra comparison – and likewise no body check-listing.
You really, REALLY focus.
“There is improved mindfulness as you focus on yourself on your mat and follow instructions that guide you through your practice. True yoga is about being grounded on your mat and not looking around at others.”
Yeah, because the other option – distraction – is just awkward…
And the biggest mind-body-soul benefit: Shutting out the shame.
“You were born naked and should feel comfortable with that. Nobody was born with shame,” he says. This, to me, is the heart of it.
And do you score anything physically?
Because essentially, yoga is about stretching, breathing and building strength, right?
So doing it starkers is just a body-positive bonus…
“There is the physical freedom where you feel the absence of clothing on your body – a definite sense of skin on skin and your body heat increasing as the practice continues…
“But, no, there aren’t many physical benefits you’d get from being nude rather than in a normal clothed practice.
"The benefits have been shown to be more psychological,” he muses.
I’m half disappointed, because I want to tell everyone how naked yoga will change their life. But it will, just not in a tighter-tush kinda way…
And, while we're on the body-parts subject...
Soooooo, is there a method you can use to self-centre if you’re worried about being distracted by naked people around you?
Actually, what I’m really asking is: ERECTIONS?!
“I’ve never been distracted by naked people around me,” he says.
“Once the practice begins, you have nothing to think about other than the postures and instruction. Even newcomers, who might have some anxiety, or a man fearing an erection, is usually fine after five to 15 mins as they concentrate on the practice and realise it’s not about sex.”
Any moves you wouldn’t recommend doing naked? Because, had to ask!
“There are some yoga moves that can expose your pelvic areas front and back, but nobody is staring at you, so it doesn’t really matter.” I’m so childish. He’s so wise…
So will we see it in SA?
Naked yoga is definitely a trend overseas, but it doesn’t seem to have taken off in SA… yet.
I’m keen to get my yogi’s thoughts on whether ultra-conservative Saffers will ever find themselves bending over backwards in their birthday suits.
“SA often is behind on international trends,” he says.
And because naked yoga fits so snugly into the naturist movement, it’s fairly obvious that we’ll be trailing way behind as far as nude sporting activities goes.
“South Africans have been quite conservative (due to religious beliefs), plus legislation did not always allow [many naturist activities]. But, really, naturists are just normal people who socialise, swim, play sports… and now even do yoga!”
So let’s get over ourselves. I did. And I’d REALLY like my chance to get those bottoms off…
This article was originally published on Women's Health South Africa.