Never liked uniforms, as you know. Aha, what's this popping up on the ever-keen-to-interest-you Meetup? Naked Yoga in South London! It seems legit, and not a front for a muscle-boys' knocking shop (they have an app for that), so let's join. After a few weeks on lurking in the group, I register for a class.
It's run by Doria, whose site has got a few references to her naked yoga sideline (or it might be her core offer, I don't know), complete with press coverage and some nice studio shots of her. And were some of the images from a warm evening at Burning Man, I wonder, as it looks like some artistic structures/contraptions in the background on the sand?
Naked Yoga means practicing yoga without the contraints of clothing. There is a sense of freedom practising yoga naked: freedom from negative feelings about your body, and deeper connection with yourself and the world around you. While many equate being naked with sex, this couldn't be further from the truth in a naked yoga class. Naked Yoga is about being comfortable in your own skin and the amazing confidence that comes with it. It's about knowing, accepting and loving yourself at your core.
The studio is tucked away in XXXX road, a block or two away from where the A3 whizzes through on its way to Clapham Common. Shoes off at the foyer - good sign, and then up some little stairs to the studio proper. The building is a former warehouse? Small factory? Dunno, anyway it's converted light industrial about 150 years old with nice high rafters and a lovely weathered looking wooden floor. The floor's lovely and clean, thanks to the shoes-off arrangement.
I'm about the 3rd guest there. Doria's still putting mats out in a U, so I take time to admire the 6ft long model sailboat, which looks like the sort of thing that people used to race on ponds. Not sure what to do now ..., er, um. Aha, someone has taken their kit off and sat on his mat. I'll do that. People, mostly chaps, arrive as we do so, and go through their stretches. I improvise. Not sure I've got a pre-session Routine, so I find where the tension is and stretch those things. Shoulders mostly. Numbers are building up now, and finally we have 6 or 7 men and 2 women, plus instructor.
The added ingredients are : music (Doria's got a cute but effective Bluetooth speaker), lots of heat, and for me, a Vinyasa oriented approach. Removed ingredients are: clothes, light (just the red of the heaters, and some other very minor light sources, and presumably any inhibitions. I'm perfectly fine with the nudity : more concerned about the intensity of the practice.
I shouldn't have worried. Although there is some pretty strong work in the middle of the session, we start gently in corpse, then visualisation and intention-setting, before waking up the breath. There's a core routine in the Vinayasa sequence around which variations are built. Plank, Up-dog (or is it Cobra?), Down-Dog, Forward Bend. Tonight we are working within Warrior 1, Warrior 2 and Triangle. I spend a bit of time thinking "really?, there?" but I'm not bothered by my inadequacies. Doria gives numerous Option 1's for the less flexible to work on, so we don't need to gauge ourselves by the Option 3 crew. I do a lot of sweating!
Practicing without clothes is good. No scrunching or tightening of fabric anywhere at all. Heat can evaporate immediately, no damp patches. Having a glance at fellow practitioners is instructive too and makes more sense when nude. Not that I'm competing or ogling, but I feel I can get a sense of the intended pose by viewing a few examples. The anatomy is easier to read without interfering material.
The high energy aspects of the class then fade, and there's a lovely warm down sequence. Again we are in a corpse-like pose. Our teacher gets us into this state of active repose and then moves amongst the group. A fragrant energising oil, warmed by her palms, is offered to the temples as we rest, which seems to unite/vibrate/connect Heart-Throat-Forehead. We consider the effects of this, and of the practice, reflecting on our intention, and our (unfortunate?) need to re-enter the world and then we finish.