Before you step into a yoga class you take your shoes off. Practicing barefoot is not only traditional, but it feels better. It grounds you, symbolically leaves the business of the day at the door, and for me, most importantly it puts everyone on the same playing field. Feet can be a massive point of resistance for people and their bodies and when we take our shoes off, we allow ourselves to be a little bit more vulnerable than perhaps we might normally in a public setting.
Through the practice of men’s naked yoga I have discovered that when we take our clothes off we also take off the bullshit associated with them. You could be a top-dog lawyer, a retail assistant or an astronaut and no-one knows. You could have been wearing Target or Ralph Lauren and no one pays mind. When we’re naked our labels go with the clothes and for an hour or so everyone is visually reminded of the absolute truth, that underneath it all we are equal.
When nude, there’s nothing to hide. You are fully exposed and completely vulnerable. Marks on your body from your past are on show, parts of yourself you love and parts you’re learning to love are all there in witness. This is the space in which the magic happens, and the best part is you don’t even need to do anything. You’ve already done it. You’ve showed up to the class, and the practice will do the rest.
Through a regular nude practice I connected to my fellow yogis on a level of depth that a clothed practice just can’t achieve. I believe this is because such a connection was bred out of our equal standing and our shared vulnerability in each class. As you begin to see how varied our human bodies are, how perfectly real our bodies are (moles, lumps, scars and all) you are softened. With continued classes your hang-up for being naked vanishes.
Pause. Now ask yourself why are we scared to show our bodies? Beyond cultural expectation or fashion trends there is likely a fear of showing part(s) of yourself that you yourself have not accepted. As we breathe through this discomfort of being vulnerable and we flow through postures which express our body in all kinds of ways we begin to get comfortable with our body for how it is. As we flow in an environment of shared vulnerability, we are given the space to feel into our own nakedness. With each passing breath we exhale shame or fear and we breathe in greater acceptance of our complete selves. It makes sense then, that as we embrace our bodies, we no longer fear being naked for we no longer have anything left to hide.
Naked yoga stripped away the subtle, grating body-hatred which I had towards myself. Since practicing, I have genuinely felt an overall sense of acceptance towards my body and in my body. I am not talking about staring at my reflection with a “my arms look great today” attitude (which is also amazing); I’m talking about a deep inner respect for the body which holds my being on this Earth. I see my body as magnificent and beautiful, simply for being here in the first place. I want to add here that I am still ever human though, and there are days when I look in the mirror and do have a moment of self-loathing towards a specific part of my physicality. Most times I come back into the acceptance I now rest in and intentionally send love to that part of me as I ground into reverance and see my body in its truly blessed entirety. It too, is a practice.
As my body confidence gradually improved with each class, I became more empowered. I became aware of the negative self-talk that was plaguing my thoughts every day and felt compelled to begin healing this aspect of me. I began to feel greater confidence in my own being, for who I am and for how I show up. I began wearing clothes that I always wanted to but was scared to, and felt powerful and strong in them. I began to embrace my totality on the physical level, and naturally the energetic and mind-levels started to follow the same path. (For any yogis familiar with the Koshas you know the relationship here).
The journey will be unique for each individual as they cultivate new energy in their own body and mind however one thing remains true for us all. By stepping into our vulnerability on such a raw level, we bring light into the places of our physicality and our emotional body where normally, as we say, ‘the sun don’t shine’. How scary. How transformational. How real.
For anyone who has tried nude yoga, I would love to hear your experience and invite you to share here.
Namaste for now,
Andrew IG: warrior.kind