The mere thought of doing nude yoga is enough to have most people running for the hills, and with a society obsessed with body image and looking “perfect”, there is no wonder why!
As a Women’s Nude Yoga workshop facilitator, I am met with numerous fears, excuses, concerns and resistance. Instantly people think the worst: fluorescent bright lights, downward dogs, bums in faces (I’ve heard them all)…and I encourage you to think the exact opposite.
Visualise a dim-lit, heated, candle lit room (all my workshops are taught in the evening) with incense burning and soft music playing. See a circle of yoga mats (yep, no rows or bums in faces). Imagine NO downward dogs, only gentle grounded postures and deep, inwards introspection through breath and mediation.
My number one focus is on creating a safe, honouring space of acceptance where we don’t need to be changed, fixed or different than who we are in that moment.
I can confidently say that every single woman who has attended my Nude Yoga workshop has not only enjoyed and loved the experience but has become a more self-loving, confident person for having done it.
So here are some common fears that will come up:
Most people hold an inherent fear of being seen, women in particular. To be fully seen by another, physically or emotionally is to be exposed, which we consider to be terrifyingly “vulnerable”. In our patriarchal (male dominated) society, vulnerability is thought of as a weakness not a strength, thus we build up layers of protection in order to not be seen for who we really are. In Nude Yoga, those walls (physically and non-physically) come tumbling down and we are witnessed in our nakedness without any judgement – sometimes for the first time in our life. Being seen is incredibly healing and part of the process of unraveling our “armour” in Nude Yoga.
I could easily teach my three hour workshops with clothes on, but this doesn’t challenge people and help them experience vulnerability first hand; nudity is the epitome of vulnerability.
I always tell my students: “Whatever we cultivate on the yoga mat, we cultivate off the yoga mat.” When we are fully naked on the mat, we have no physical barriers, guards or protection between us and the other, and what magically happens when we let our guard down (when we take off our clothes), we emotionally let our guard down too. A lot of women will cry, soften, surrender, sob, share, open up – more than they ever have before, and usually with a complete stranger!
Vulnerability is a foreign concept for many women, particularly when we are told to toughen up and basically be a man in the workplace. So for women to have a safe place to come and surrender, it will help them implement vulnerability into their relationships, their work and their life (which will change the world!).
Typically women are horrendously judgemental — to others but more-so to themselves.
When women look at other women it’s usually in a judgemental or competitive way, so the thought of being naked in a group full of women one would assume we would be all looking around scrutinising and critiquing each other’s bodies.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
Since we are all in such a tender, open and vulnerable space during the workshop – our nurturing, loving, feminine side comes out to shine. We look around the circle and only see pure beauty. We feel so much love and adoration at the women for simply turning up and being so damn courageous and brave.
“We’re all in the same boat and the beauty we see in the women, we begin to see in ourselves.”
During the yoga component of the workshop, I actually encourage women to admire and witness without judgement all the different shapes and sizes in the room. We are so often told not to look at naked bodies (because they are so sexual, right?) or if we do look at other women we automatically compare ourselves. I challenge women to not judge themselves and to practice “Ahimsa”, which is a yogic ethical standard of radical compassion and non-violence through thought, word and deed – to yourself and others.
Feeling Body Shame
A common fear women have is thinking they are going to be the “fattest”, “ugliest”, “oldest”, “dimpliest” woman in the room. They are terrified that they will not “belong”, be the “odd one out” or that their wrinkles, hair, lines, rolls, cellulite, saggy boobs or vagina is going to be on show for everyone to see. To some extent it is on show, but what it shows is that we are all imperfect and we all have flaws – not like what you see in the media – which is what we actually need to see! Even models who come to my classes are insecure about their body, sometimes more than any of the other women in the room!
When you see small boobs, big boobs, flat tummies, round bellies, hairy vaginas, bald vaginas – you see it ALL as beautiful and it helps you heal the shame you have about your own body. One of the most powerful parts of the workshop is sharing your body image issues and shame with the class. When you hear the stories women feel about theirs bodies, you notice that you’re not alone and that your imperfections are normal and you stop caring so much what people will think of you.
Stepping out of your comfort zone
Believe it or not but most people don’t like change and resist experiences where they know they’re going to have to grow. Doing something as brave as naked yoga, means you’re going to have to actually DO something out of your comfort zone – which is where you can bust through your fear and step into a new way of being in the world. Being outside your comfort zone is scary because it’s unknown but it’s in these places where we summon strength, see our light and break through old barriers.
Nude Yoga is not just about getting naked and doing yoga (although this is great to do too!), it’s more of a catalyst for change, transformation and self-love. Sometimes we need a drastic experience to change how we feel about ourselves and transform our old limiting beliefs.
Every woman has body image issues and fears about being seen & vulnerable and this workshop is an instrumental way to shift those fears to love and courage.
By Rosie Rees www.rosierees.com