fitness

"I tried 'naked yoga' in the name of self-love... here's how the class went."

This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever done, I thought to myself as I stared intently into the eyes of a complete stranger, during the home stretch of a three hour yoga class.

Staring at a stranger would be uncomfortable for me at the best of times, but it was made infinitely weirder by the fact both me and said stranger also happened to be bare butt naked. Yes, we were at a naked yoga class.

Below us, the eclectic community of Sydney’s Oxford Street buzzed past, unaware that two floors above, 20+ women were gathered into a candle-lit room, completely starkers on their yoga mats.

It was shaping up to be a weird Wednesday night.

The event was organised and taught by Rosie Rees (you can find her on Instagram @rosie.rees), a Perth-based yogi and sexual empowerment advocate with a mission to normalise nudity and female sexual pleasure, and by my own admission, she’s valiantly succeeding. Not only does she have a side business selling crystal dildos and yoni eggs, her 61,000 strong Instagram following and Facebook group, Yoni Pleasure Palace, have attracted a loyal and ravenous fan base.

She described her classes as a “three hour immersion” in “vulnerability, courage and radical self acceptance” and they were sell-out hits, with lengthy wait lists.

nude yoga

I'm a 24-year-old millennial, stuck in-between the feminist goal of 'sexual liberation' and general womanly insecurities, and I'd been following Rosie ever since Mamamia ran a profile on her 'nude yoga classes' in 2017.

I reached out to her, equal parts curious and cynical, to see if she would have me at one of her classes.

She warmly said yes, and that's how I found myself walking to the studio earlier this month, my heart racing and vision blurry. I'd been boldly (over)sharing with my colleagues my plans for the evening, kind of revelling at their expressions of bewilderment (fair), but as I reached the door, my internal dialogue had drastically shifted.

ADVERTISEMENT

"This is the dumbest thing you've ever done," I said to myself.

After checking in with reception, I was told to take my shoes off and go through the doors to the waiting area where I would strip off, pop on my robe and enter the yoga room with my mat and towel. For a second I was prepared to duck off into the toilets and change, but that seemed counter-intuitive, so I did as I was told.

And so robed and ready-ish (not at all) I joined the other women who were sat on their mats in a rough circle around a spread of tea candles, 'goddess cards' and Rosie's collection of crystal dildos and yoni eggs. The room was comfortably heated, with a diffuser diligently perfuming the room with a relaxing mix of essential oils and there was some yoga-esque mix of wind chimes, gongs and humming - all in all, things were pretty standard at this point.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Rosie Rees | Yoni Queen (@rosie.rees) on

Looking around, there wasn't a specific 'type' of woman who attended the class, a mix of ethnicities, body shapes and ages.

Going into the room, the vibe was... tense, until one very naked and confident Scandinavian woman (shout out to European hot spring culture) walked in sans robe with a nonchalant, "well if we were going to get naked anyway". The room laughed and I think we all admired her confidence.

ADVERTISEMENT

Now a quick FAQ, despite what you might think of naked yoga, without any judgement, it didn't look like this (although, respect...)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Nude Yoga Girl (@nude_yogagirl) on

And definitely not like this...

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Nude Yoga Girl (@nude_yogagirl) on

ADVERTISEMENT

A large part of the hefty three hour class was a lot of personal and intimate sharing, which depending on your cynicism and aversion to inspirational quotes, might actually be worse than taking off your kit in front of a dozen plus strangers, and getting into a downward dog.

It was for me.

I like to think I'm 'pretty good' when it comes to my body and self-esteem, but I know my 'fight or flight' response to uncomfortable and personal conversations around body image, especially mine, is to make a joke or self-deprecating comment of the situation and move on. It's similar to the naff and claustrophobic feeling I have towards motivational speakers and inspirational quotes, and shedding that security blanket came with a special kind of discomfort.

This was different for every woman in the class but Rosie had created a safe and supported space to share our insecurities, shame and learned unattainable standards that we pick up through social media, pop culture and advertising consumption. Some women spoke of their struggle with perfectionism in their physical, personal and professional lives, others said they wanted to undo the fact that they were raised to see 'other women' as competition. Other members who were mothers said they wanted to be better role models to their young daughters and end the cycle of shame and poor self-esteem.

Raw, genuine emotions were shared, as were some tears, but the experience was a reminder in empathy.

After the 'sharing circle' came a 45-minute yoga session, followed by what was the most intense portion of the night. We were asked to leave our mats and walk around the room among each other, directing our eyes to the other women's feet to their faces, before we spent several minutes staring into the eyes of the stranger in front of us. Butts, boobs and vaginas were on display, but taken out of a sexually-charged environment, they were no different to an arm or a leg.

There's also something to be said about seeing so many 'normal' naked bodies devoid of an Instagram filter.

It's easy to hear the words 'nude yoga' and scoff - it's a bit of a strange concept - but to do so would discredit the important and brave conversations which were had, and should be continued with our friends, sisters, mothers and daughters.

At the end of the practice, I rolled up my mat, popped my jeans and sweater back on and left the room with my heart full, and a little more confident and comfortable in my own skin, clothed or otherwise.

Would you ever take a nude yoga class? It's less scary than it sounds, promise.

00:00 / ???