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Hot, nude yoga and locker room modesty

8th April 2010

Hot, nude yoga and locker room modesty

posted in Body Image, Rachel |

Is it possible to simultaneously love and hate your friends?  Because I totally hate my good friend Ryan for living the nomad journalist’s life I would have once  sold my heathen soul to have.  Ryan’s been living it up in New York City the past few months as an intern with the Associated Press.   He’s covered the Academy Awards, met tons of celebs and had his stories picked up by some of the largest news media outlets in the nation, but perhaps his most colorful story yet is one the WaPo ran this week: Hot, Nude Yoga.  Yes, you read that right — nekkid yoga.  As Ryan explains, the mostly male-only gatherings are becoming somewhat of a trend in the gay communities of Boston, San Franciso, Los Angeles, Chicago and even Salt Lake City.  And while it is a form of sensualized, tantric yoga, enthusiasts insist that it’s more about physical fitness than it is about sex.  Oh, yeah, and it’s also pretty awkward, says Ryan:

At the small class I attended, an undeniable sexual charge hung in the room, making the exercise at times painfully weird and embarrassing. Many nude yoga classes revolve around partnering positions, a series of postures that put two men within striking distance of the other’s privates.

…Even teachers of naked yoga, while railing against the suggestion that the class is tantamount to foreplay, can send mixed signals. When my class ended, I took aside the instructor, Jeffrey Duval, and asked how he got into naked yoga. Duval acknowledged he attended his first class because he thought it was about sex.

But his experience surpassed all his expectations.

“You’re shedding away your clothes, but you’re also shedding away insecurities and fear,” he said. “I can’t think of a more perfect way to practice.”

The undeniable sexual element may be one reason why naked yoga is such a boy’s club, but Isis Phoenix, who leads a co-ed nude yoga studio in NYC, says that men are often more comfortable with their bodies and showing them than are women.  That makes sense  — after all, women are conditioned from birth practically to be wary of our bodies, brainwashed into believing that that our bodies are like some unruly child in need of taming, shaping, whittling, carving, polishing, waxing and surgically reshaping.  I asked Brandon if being naked around other men in the locker room was as uncomfortable for men as it seems to be for women and he just shrugged it off and said that it was no big deal (not that you’ll see him in naked yoga anytime soon, he adds).  How about it, guys?  Do menfolk prance around the locker room with appendages akimbo?

I have no problem parading around half-naked at home, but naked yoga?  Ha!  I don’t even feel comfortable changing around other women in the locker room at the gym.  I have never understood the casual ease of the Locker Room Lady.  You know the one: the perfectly-toned size-two with perfectly pert ta-tas who prefers to air dry lackadaisically while chatting up her red-faced locker room companions.  In high school, I changed inside a bathroom stall and while I’m not nearly as prudish now, I’ve still mastered the fine contortionist art of quickly changing shirts while never fully taking off the first shirt and never fully unclothe in the company of others, my husband excluded.  While I do still have hangups about my body and especially the loose skin from rapid weight loss, my awkwardness in undressing in public isn’t so much out of body shame as it is a general discomfort in being that physically intimate with near strangers.  Maybe I’m just repressed, but something about communal displays of nudity just kind of weirds me out.

But I do have to wonder if perhaps Jeffrey Duval is on to something and that nakedness among your peers might not actually be something reaffirming.  While I’m sure there are women who might revel in the flaws of others, showing our nakedness also exposes the Big Fat Lie of Hollywood and advertising.  Women au naturale have cellulite, wrinkles and scars.  Our boobs sag and our asses droop.  We have poochy bellies, loose skin and stretch marks.  Our bodies are not perfectly symmetrical and we have stubborn hairs in places we’d prefer not to.  And yet instead of evaluating our appearance in comparison to women around us, instead we look to those images of actresses and models who’ve been airbrushed beyond recognition.

How about you?  Are you an exhibitionist or do you prefer to keep your private parts under wraps?  Would you be game for hot, naked yoga or do you prefer more discrete fitness activities?

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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 8th, 2010 at 12:39 pm and is filed under Body Image, Rachel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 26 responses to “Hot, nude yoga and locker room modesty”

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  1. 1 On April 8th, 2010, Bababooey said:

    All women? Yes, I would be game. We all have the same equipment and it’s great to see that other bodies bend, fold, curve, ripple, wrinkle. Coed? Nope. No risk of sexual scrutiny. (The idea of lesbian women doesn’t bother me, it seems fair since they are also women with women’s bodies. I guess I like het men, but don’t want to do nude yoga with em).

  2. 2 On April 8th, 2010, Alanna said:

    Bababooey, remember that not all men have male bodies and not all women have female bodies.

    I think this would be a fun thing to do. One of my friends actually attends one of these naked gay yoga classes. My major concern, as with anything that potentially involves gender segregation and nakedness, is that trans people wouldn’t be able to partake for fear of violence, or being kicked out, or ridicule. As big a step it is to accept all cisgender bodies as beautiful, it is an even bigger step for society to even see transgender and transsexual bodies as acceptable and valid.

  3. 3 On April 8th, 2010, Rachel said:

    @Alanna: I think it’s so sad that trans people would have reason to fear rejection even among something so liberal and new-agey as naked yoga :(

  4. 4 On April 8th, 2010, Alanna said:

    @Rachel: It is sad. Perhaps if such classes had deliberate, firm and educated inclusion policies, there would be less reason to fear. I think this is something that they will have to be challenged to do.

  5. 5 On April 8th, 2010, Nuclear Rainbow said:

    I’d love to follow a class in naked yoga (even in de mixed group, I don’t really care and could be called a bit of an exhibitionist even)! But I think we don’t do that yet, here in the Netherlands.

    *goes of to google*

  6. 6 On April 8th, 2010, JeninCanada said:

    I hate to say it but I’m one of the Locker Room Ladies; I’m comfortable enough in my own skin that I don’t mind taking off my bathingsuit and getting dried then dressed one bit at a time, or all at once, and being partially naked with the other women in the locker room. Then again, I have a couple of nudist friends and for a couple of summers at camp, our (meaning everyone there) favorite time was naked o’clock.

  7. 7 On April 8th, 2010, JeanC said:

    I have no problem stripping down and wandering around the locker room nekkid as a jay bird. I do however prefer all the floppy bits and privates to be covered when doing things like yoga and what not. Now if I could get away with doing aqua fitness starkers I would be happy, I really, really loathe wet bathing suits.

  8. 8 On April 8th, 2010, Karen said:

    If it were not in a sexual atmosphere, then yes, because the only person I want to feel sexual around is my husband. I’d be extremely uncomfortable otherwise.

    I suspect I’d find that I rather prefer a modicum of clothing for containing my floppy bits, as JeanC adorably calls them. :) But I’d be willing to give it a try.

    I rather think it’d be good for my body image to see that nothing horrible happens when other people see my body. Jaws wouldn’t drop, nobody would titter (ha!) because they’d be too busy worrying about their own selves. And seeing the imperfections on bodies that look pretty darn perfect when clothed would go a long way to easing my own insecurities.

  9. 9 On April 8th, 2010, Lori said:

    I’d definitely do a nude beach. A nude exercise class, though, seems kind of physically uncomfortable and potentially icky (do I really want to be sitting naked on a yoga mat that somebody else was sitting naked on?). So I think I’d pass on the naked yoga, especially if it was hot (even more bodily-fluid ick potential).

  10. 10 On April 8th, 2010, WendyRG said:

    I have no urge to do naked yoga. I like a bit of clothing, thank you very much.

    When it comes to the locker room, my body is so battered by surgical scars and arthritic joints (my knees, to be precise) that I just do what I have to do, neither flaunting nor hiding the way I am. Do I feel good and beautiful in my body? No, not really, but I don’t try to hide it. It is what it is.

  11. 11 On April 8th, 2010, PurpleGirl said:

    I don’t think I’d be up for naked yoga in public–I feel weird enough doing it at home with exposed butt in the air! I do change without worry in locker rooms, though–it’s too much of a pain to cart my stuff back and forth to a bathroom stall. Plus I figure if anybody doesn’t like my fat rolls, they can go right to hell. And maybe if somebody sees me unashamed of my rolls and stretch marks, maybe she’ll feel a little less self-conscious too.

  12. 12 On April 8th, 2010, Lyndsay said:

    This is one area where I’m really influenced by the people around me and what the norm is. I had no problem going into a sauna naked in Finland. I did that at our cottage growing up. It’s the expectation. I like the idea of being topless at a beach. In the locker room I’m pretty modest, as most women are. Naked yoga? I MIGHT be okay with women’s only. I’m not sure. That’s pretty different.

  13. 13 On April 8th, 2010, Tanz said:

    I took up swimming about 3 months ago, and prior to this had little to no changing room experience. For the first couple of weeks I was horribly shy about my fat body… but over time something changed. I’m not quite sure how or why – it was more a progression than a sudden event – but now I’m comfortable stripping completely nude to shower and change in the communal area (as opposed to one of the private cubicles). I’ve noticed that the older women are also happy to bare all; it’s the younger women (and the teenagers specifically) who look at me in horror and take off as little as they can.

    I think it’s sad. It is liberating to feel free to be naked in that space. I like the feeling it gives me; that this body of mine is just that, a body. It’s not a bad thing or even nessecairly a good thing; it just *is*.

  14. 14 On April 8th, 2010, living400lbs said:

    I don’t do nude yoga much at HOME. Don’t know about y’all, but somewhere around a D cup (which was way back in the mists of jr high, I’m an F or G now) physical activity without a bra became downright uncomfortable.

    Sure, I’ll do lay-on-my-back-or-side stretches nude. But Warrior? Cat/dog? Downward Dog? Excuse me while I laugh.

    Regarding nudity in general, for me it’s all about the context. If it’s a nudist or clothing-optional party I’ll take it off; if it’s not I won’t. In a locker room I tend to expose about as much as everyone else (seriously, if all the other gals are wearing towels to/from the shower, I will too; if not then not).

  15. 15 On April 8th, 2010, Scott said:

    I’m a thin, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say fit, male, so my floppy bits for the most part coincide with my privates; as such my body is fairly “acceptable”–though of course we should note that none of the above is the same as “I am body confident”–yet I still wouldn’t go near naked yoga (insert your own “ten foot pole” joke here). Like Karen, I’m married, and have no interest in the sexual energy side of the bargain, but unlike her I still wouldn’t be interested sans the sex. Perhaps it retards social change for me to feel this way, but my body insecurities are something I only feel a need to share with those I’m extremely close to. I don’t so much feel threatened by the thought of others seeing me naked, as that my nakedness isn’t really anyone else’s business, nor does theirs interest me. Perhaps because I’ve already had it for most of my life, I don’t feel the need to seek out acceptance of my body from anyone I’m not married to.

  16. 16 On April 8th, 2010, Angela said:

    I think a naked yoga class could be lots of fun, if it was done right. I’d definitely only be comfortable doing a ladies or “lady identified” version though. I’m not an exhibitionist but have just never felt terribly modest either. My body just is what it is and I think it would be really happy doing yoga moves without cumbersome clothing on. I am much more limber when everything is allowed to flap and sag as it were. I’d really love to see more body/size friendly groups for activities like this.

  17. 17 On April 8th, 2010, twincats said:

    Nope. I, also need to have to the DD’s encased and supported, otherwise it gets uncomfortable.

    I used to belong to Bally’s and had no problem in the locker room, but was only actually naked in the shower or in front of my locker on the way to being clothed/unclothed. Otherwise, I was encased in a towel.

  18. 18 On April 8th, 2010, Willow said:

    Perhaps I’d be open to the idea of naked yoga togetherness had I been raised in a culture that valued naturalness, mutual respect, and acceptance. It seems such hypocrisy to get naked with people you don’t know – an intimate, vulnerable thing to do – yet after class is over, go back to being distant and unfamiliar. Some people might justify this as precisely why they feel safe getting naked with strangers – they can just walk away afterwards – yet to me, it feels wrong.

  19. 19 On April 9th, 2010, Meryt Bast said:

    I have modeled nude for artists for about five years now. Taking my clothes off the first time was scary, but now it’s just business as usual. I’m comfortable being naked in the locker room (though I don’t walk around much!) and sauna, but I don’t think I’d like to do nude yoga with other people. I like my body very much (most of the time, anyway), but I still wouldn’t like feeling that the skinny-minnies from the university were judging me; I haven’t evolved enough to be amused rather than threatened and hurt. Someday!

  20. 20 On April 9th, 2010, sarahbyrdd said:

    Re: the locker room, there’s nothing like being in the women’s chorus of a couple of shows to get you over any body shyness around your peers. By the time you’re done sweating on stage for 3 hours you just want to strip off and get out of there. Who cares what your bits and pieces look like.

    Having lots of body work done was also helpful for getting used to being nekkid around people. And then there’s living in NYC, where no one can be bothered to fully draw their shades and everyone puts on a bit of a show for their neighbors. And I’m not an exhibitionist, really. You just get over it.

  21. 21 On April 9th, 2010, rachel with a little r said:

    Some part of me would like to say, “Gracious, me, no I would never consider such a thing,” but I think once I got over the initial scaredness, I would like it. Now…doing yoga might be more of a problem than being naked, since I’ve…never done yoga before and it would take me a while to learn it.

  22. 22 On April 11th, 2010, Tiptoe said:

    This type of thing would be rather worrisome for me. I’m a pretty private person when it comes to changing in front of others.

    There was a time in my life when I really wanted/needed this type of freedom, but I don’t so much anymore even in recovery. There’s nothing wrong with it though and can certainly help people feel a sense of liberation.

    One thing I do think is interesting is that I remember a substitute teacher I had in elementary school who used to teach in Scotland and she was saying how they viewed nudity so differently–it just wasn’t a big thing. She said the children there changed all in one room.

  23. 23 On April 11th, 2010, Beth said:

    I think you’re wrong about the dress size of Locker Room Lady. I’m sort of one of those Locker Room Ladies and I’m not toned or tanned or size 2 and also I have bad skin. I just don’t have time for hiding my body while changing and/or drying myself. I wouldn’t really be down for hot naked yoga though, that would be awkward. It’s all about context.

  24. 24 On April 13th, 2010, Mary Sue said:

    I was a competitive dancer (5’4″, 250lbs) through middle and high school and into college. You lose all body modesty when you’ve got to change clothes from the skin out with 60 other people in a school bus parked on an outdoor basketball court.

  25. 25 On April 13th, 2010, Liza said:

    I was a swimmer in high school. And a fat girl. So I’ve basically figured out how to go from fully dressed to bathing suit without flashing any of my bits.

  26. 26 On April 18th, 2010, jane said:

    All I can think about is being in a room of naked people doing “downward dog” – wouldn’t the view be ridiculously graphic? I mean it’s one thing to be naked in public, it’s another to bend over while spreading your legs, is it not? And what about pubic hair and natural “secretions”? I would guess women on their periods would be skipping these classes!

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