No Shame in Naked Yoga
I didn't ever have ambitions to teach Naked Yoga , nor any kind of entrepreneurial plan thinking this would be the 'Next Big Thing' or 'Latest Fad', as it has been hailed recently. But when someone I know said to me, 'Have you ever thought of running Naked Yoga Classes?' (she'd been searching but could only find men's classes in London), I thought 'Why not?'.
So I set up some classes. Right from the start, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. I was blown away, and still am, by the messages I receive from people having attended the classes. That's why I continued offering the classes - I thought 'I must be doing some good.'
I've come to realise different people benefit in different ways from Naked Yoga, depending on what's going on with them. Some people simply just enjoy feeling free and liberated, feeling their body moving without restriction, the air on their skin, and there's also a psychological sense of liberation in this.
However people also write to me about how they feel more deeply relaxed than they can remember and being able to take that out into their lives, feeling as if they are in the womb, or feeling totally at one. Some people talk about being able to cope more with what life flings at them, being more accepting of themselves and loving themselves more. Others, about getting over weight issues, being less self-conscious, and very importantly, gaining deeper respect for themselves and others, and being less judgmental of themselves and others.
The yoga I teach does often have very profound effects, but adding the nakedness really does take it to a different dimension, as this is one of the areas where we are most challenged.
One hypnotherapist I worked with told me “This has done more than 10 sessions of hypnotherapy could do." And another started referring women to me who suffered from eating disorders.
And I can see why.
So much of the time when we are presented with nudity, there is some sexual association. It remains a taboo with lots of mixed messages surrounding it. So, very often, when we see somebody naked they are assessed as a sexual object, and there are often elements of shame involved. This is changing a little these days but it still deep within our psyche.
Add to this the increasingly high standards of perfection in images thrust upon us by the media, invariably air-brushed these days and which are, in effect, unattainable. It's not surprising that feeling inadequate and unsatisfied with our bodies is, for a lot of us, just a daily reality. And this does include our most intimate parts. A booming industry is now benefitting from this insecurity.
Faced with all of this, it's quite obvious that there will be some kind of cocktail of shame, fear, criticism, inadequacy or judgment at the prospect of a naked body, either our own or that of other people.
I must admit I spent most of my teenage years, 20s and early 30s, really unhappy with my body, dieting more or less constantly. This dissatisfaction began when I started reading women's magazines. There was nothing really 'wrong with me' but in comparison to what I saw, through my eyes, I was awful. And although I could make myself look good with cool clothes, I was always insecure and uneasy about what was underneath. I would love it if future generations didn't have to let this mar their early years.
People I know generally think it's cool that I teach Naked Yoga, some have tried it, others would really like to but feel scared, and for some it's unthinkable. And that's fine. A good few years ago I probably would have been in the latter category too.
If yoga is about unity and integrity, how can we possibly have integrity in our bodies and our relationship to the whole, when a large majority of us have such dysfunctional relationships with our own bodies, and with the bodies of other people?
Naked Yoga actually goes to the core of this issue. In experiencing yourself naked in a safe and respectful environment, in the absence of any judgement, shame or criticism, nothing terrible happens, and you may even have quite a delightful experience. Those unhelpful perceptions are disproved, and the hang ups that hinder us are broken down. Furthermore, we experience being free of the need to judge and criticise others.