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Studio / December 2021
Nude Dude

I Bared It All in Naked Yoga

I don’t even like taking my shirt off at the beach. But apparently there are merits to doing yoga in the buff, so I stripped down to try it.

 
I avoid eye contact as I awkwardly shuffle into the yoga studio. It’s less of a “studio” than a carpeted living room—a ’70s-era hippie den—filled with colorful art and glowing lamps. I see a dude, then another dude, then another. Including me, there are seven guys total in the yoga class. There are no women except for the instructor, Ashley Kelly, a.k.a. Chinchilla Roo, and the lady who runs the studio, Amy McBain. I’m nervous. Back-to-gym anxiety is one thing, but this is something else.
 
The first signal that this is not an ordinary yoga session comes when McBain gives a few ground rules: Absolutely no touching anyone else; stagger yourselves to avoid accidental contact; and there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you get an erection.  
 
Now Chinchilla Roo takes her place at the front of the class. “There’s a lot of testosterone energy in here today!” she says with a laugh, putting everyone at ease. I was hoping to hide in the back, but there’s no hiding in this small room—apparently, that’s part of the point of naked yoga. I’m almost directly in front of Roo, and we’re close enough to shake hands. The other men are flanked to my left and right. Roo instructs us to close our eyes….and take off our clothes.
 
I peel off my shirt, then my shorts, and then I stand upright in Mountain pose. I try to avoid looking down at my exposed penis. I’m especially careful to avoid looking to my left or to my right, keeping my gaze straight ahead. But I’m also careful to not look too closely at Roo, who’s now also naked, smiling, as she begins to lead us through the usual gamut of yoga poses: Forward Fold, Warrior 1, Downward Facing Dog. She’s a fun instructor who keeps the session light and non-intimidating, saying things like, “Now you can shake that shit off!”
 

Getting Comfortable in My Birthday Suit

Soon (I know this is hard to believe, but it’s true) I begin to forget that we’re naked and the yoga just becomes yoga. Kind of. At one point, when I bend over into a wide-legged Forward Fold, it’s hard not to feel self-conscious that naked pieces of my anatomy are literally pointing at Roo, just a few feet away. And when I lean forward into a triangle pose, I need to angle my arms to avoid grazing her.
 
I am not a nudist. I don’t even like stripping down on a hot day at the beach much less showing my junk to a roomful of strangers while doing a downward-facing dog. So while I can talk myself into taking a naked yoga class for the sake of a work assignment, it does leave me wondering: Just why do people do this willingly, exactly? “What’s really special about a yoga class in general is you have this built-in energy of ‘we’re all doing this together,’” Roo would later tell me, explaining that the communal vibe is amplified when everyone gets vulnerable together. 
 
That vulnerably can be empowering. “It lets you say to yourself, I’ve already been seen naked today,” says Roo. “I’ve been seen as raw as I can be, so I’m going to continue that trend of allowing myself to be seen, to be raw, and to not shy away from what other people might think.” 
 

Learning Body Love

I entered the studio feeling self-conscious about my paunch that had grown paunchier during the pandemic, about my body hair and about my genitalia. But staring down this anxiety is part of the point, believes Roo, who explains that the class creates camaraderie and removes stigmas that your body isn’t good enough. “Nobody’s grossed out by your nudity,” she adds. “It’s celebrated here. Be naked. It’s good.”
 
The classes aren’t usually all-male; today that’s just a weird luck of the draw. Roo, who also teaches regular yoga (the clothed kind where the participants wear things like sports bras and leggings), initially only offered nude yoga to women in her studio, which was shuttered by COVID. When she was approached by McBain to teach the co-ed classes, she admits it was a tough adjustment at first. “I was like, whoa, there’s a roomful of dongs!” she says with a laugh. Eventually she saw the benefits. “You’re showing yourself in a group without worrying about commentary from anyone,” says Roo. “We’re just here. We’re bodies. We’re moving. It’s an equalizer.”
 
As I do another Downward Dog, I focus on holding the pose (good for my stamina) and realize how good it feels to have the air on my skin—all of my skin. Eventually, the class starts to wind down. We head towards Savasana, where we lie on our backs in “corpse pose.” It feels good to let everything hang out, literally, and to have nothing present between myself and the world. No filters, no barriers, no layers. I focus on my breath and it feels good. I don’t feel ashamed. I don’t feel awkward. I mindfully feel my bare skin against the yoga mat. As I look up at the ceiling, the glow-in-the-dark stars above me seem extra vivid. My senses feel heightened.
 
As we lie on our backs, Roo tells us to turn to our lefts in a fetal position. I turn to the left, and the guy on my left accidently turns to his right—and for a moment, we’re both staring at each other naked, our faces inches apart. Realizing his mistake, we both chuckle and he turns around. 
 
If that’s the worst that can happen, I might just do this again.
 
 
 
 

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Studio / December 2021
Nude Dude
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