Ok, I admit it...I was weirded out by the whole idea of “naked yoga.” Just who goes to these classes anyway? What are the benefits? Is it all just a gimmick? A peep show? And... could I make it through one of these classes without giggling like a teenager? I was about to find out.
Before signing up to my first co-ed Naked Yoga class, I had to fill out a little questionnaire online (which I assume is to keep the creepies out!). I sent in my little application, and was promptly accepted by the owner. YAY!!! I mean...I think?
On my way to the studio, I felt uneasy and nervous. I stopped by my nearest liquor store and purchased a package of plain M&M’s. WHAT?! I never do that! Maybe it was the nerves...or maybe I was regressing to a child...or maybe I just needed a sugar fix to calm me down. With each “M” I devoured, I shook my head in disapproval at both my decision to eat these candies and at what I was about to do.
I kept looking around the subway train anxiously ready to announce: I’M HEADED TO A NAKED YOGA CLASS!! SOMEBODY STOP ME! Because I told no one about this. I mean, not one person. This was all me. And I could back out at any moment...and no one would know.
Then, my mind flooded with concerns….What will my parents say? Or my fellow yoga teachers? Or my students? I mean...what if someone I knew was in the class?? Agggghhh!!! The embarrassment!! The humiliation!!! I almost got up from my seat when…
The song, “Can’t Keep My Hands to Myself” started playing on my iPhone. I looked down to see who was singing and there, staring back at me was a naked Selena Gomez in a half-seated-sorta-twisty-yoga-pose.
She spoke to me: “Girrrlll...you got nothing to be scared of...I’m only sixteen and I’m like, naked all the time! Like, for no reason at all! Me and T-Swift go naked everywhere together. You’ll be fine.”
Sometimes, when we don’t know the reasons why we want to do something, we just have to follow our own curiosity. And in this case, my “curiosity” was in the form of Selena Gomez. And that lil' pep talk worked!
I walked into Bold & Naked Yoga in Chelsea with a fresh sense of confidence. I am FORTY! I’ve been naked in front of strangers before in fearless act #29. And this time, everyone will be naked with me. I have nothing to worry about. Until, I opened the door...
“CHAAARRRLLLLEEENNNE!!!!” My stomach dropped. O-M-G!! My worst nightmare has come true. Somebody KNOWS me here!!
“Hey girl, ohhhhh...you’re going to take this class!! Hmmmmm...YOU GO, GIRRRLLL!! I’m about to teach the all men class upstairs, while you all get your groove on down here (he laughs).” I felt somewhat relieved to know it was just a fellow yoga instructor. He assured me, “I’ve done it a million times...you’ll be fine!!”
I peeked around the lobby area and there, standing all around me were NAKED PEOPLE EVERYWHERE!!! Um...excuse me? There’s no changing area? Nope. There’s no separate screen to disrobe? Nope. I just have to take everything off...in front of EVERYONE?? YEP. Oh geez.
And then, before I could say, “Is there a bathroom?”….I saw a PENIS! And another PENIS. And another PENIS. And ANOTHER PENIS!!!! OMG! THERE WERE PENISES EVERYWHERE!! I felt like a five-year old and wanted to scream, “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!” For the first time in yoga, I was outnumbered. For every five penises, there were only one pair of boobies. So this is where all the guys are!! They’re in NAKED yoga!! Figures.
I took a deep breath and started undressing. First my shoes, then my socks, then my...and…well...done.
I grabbed my mat and rolled it out in the back of the dimly lit studio. I kept looking forward. I was there for me. Not to peek at anyone’s...well, you know.
The teacher was a woman, which was also a relief. And she was naked, too. The lighting was, well, entertaining. First, it started as a red color, which I didn’t mind as it hid all my cellulite on my thighs. But then it changed to blue, then yellow, then it got progressively brighter and brighter. I kept wondering if by the end of class, there would be a big spotlight on us all and we’d win a celebratory hand mirror like, HEY! YOU DID IT!!! YOU PRACTICED YOGA NAKED IN A BIG BRIGHT ROOM! But alas, that didn’t happen.
Once I got over the room, the lighting, the naked butts in front of me...I actually started to get lost in the flow. Yoga is where I feel safe. And this was no exception. Even though everything outside of me was...well, exposed. Everything inside of me was the same. And I actually started to feel amazing. And powerful. And alive. And...free.
I began to marvel how effortlessly my body moved through each pose with ease and control. I looked at my breasts, my stomach, my thighs, my legs, my arms in a way that I had never experienced before. I felt humbled. I felt grateful. And I wondered...Why was I so hard on myself? On my body? I need to be kinder, more loving, more appreciative. Because I don’t want to look back when I’m Eighty and think, “Damn...I looked good! Why didn’t I really know that then?”
By the end in savasana, I felt so relaxed and comfortable and at peace. I couldn’t believe how far I’ve come. From the shameful tears of exposing my belly in a yoga class to standing on a pedestal for artists to sketch me nude to now, lying naked with other naked strangers...I really shocked myself. I never, in a million years would have guessed that I would actually enjoy this.
When the class ended, I made a quick dash to the bathroom to get dressed. I just didn’t feel comfortable chatting with anyone...naked. I waved good-bye to the teacher and jetted out the door. I had the experience I wanted. And that was enough for me.
Thirty-nine acts down...one more to go. This is my Forty.
This was the one “act” that completely scared me: standing up in front of a bunch of strangers in a classroom-like setting NAKED while holding poses for 15-20 minutes at a time. Yep, all the feelings you’d expect were coming up for me but…that’s also what intrigued me to do it. I wanted to know…How would it feel to be that vulnerable? To be starred at for that length of time? Would I learn to love my body more or would I freak-out, cause a commotion and run the other way? And honestly, if I can’t do it at FORTY, when would I do it…at Fifty? Sixty? Besides, it’s a classy, safe environment. I knew it would be okay. What I didn’t prepare for…getting my period. Oh yes, I’m going there! I was on the second day of my menstrual cycle, not feeling good in my body and trying to figure out how to hide my tampon string (I ended up cutting it!) I was nervous, uncomfortable and just wanted to get it over with.
I arrived at the location and decided to make the most of it. After all, it’s not often I get to be called a “model” so I mine-as-well live up to my professional title (this is what I kept telling myself to feel better). I entered the elevator along with some of the “students” and all I kept thinking was…THESE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SEE ME NAKED IN TEN MINUTES!!! We made our way to the classroom, I entered first, cause you know, I’m the model and was greeted by Simon, the organizer. The class was a FIVE-HOUR Anatomy Workshop & Sketch Drawing Class. Yes, FIVE-LONG-ASS-HOURS! Now, I had imagined the class would have a proper stage in which I would stand, some incredible dimmers and a spotlight with perhaps a smoke machine with a wind-blowing fan for my hair (upstairs not downstairs!)…but no, this classroom had none of that. It was a very cold, office-like setting with unflattering florescent lights (think hospital waiting room) and cheap, portable seats (seriously, some had to sit on a piano bench).
The first two hours were considered the “lecture” whereas the instructor would occasionally ask me to stand up on a very, unstable cube-like piece of furniture (covered by a blanket), which if I wasn’t careful, I could fall into one of the holes. He would then point to a few body parts, describing how they are similar to a baseball or whatever analogy he was using, and then I’d sit back down. And the class was packed; thirty-three strangers were going to see parts of me that not even my closest friends/family would ever see. At one awkward point, while standing on the unstable pedestal, the instructor’s head was right at my private region, in which he pointed and said, “and here’s the pubis…” and all I kept thinking was THANK GOD I left that landing-strip!!!!
I started to relax after that wonderful moment. I realized the only way to truly feel comfortable in this scenario would be to imagine everyone else NAKED, too! And listen, I had plenty of time to fill in the details. I kept myself so entertained that I would catch myself cracking up in the middle of his lecture. (and yes, I was imagining mr. lecturer naked, as well).
After the two-long hours, it was time to start posing like the naked model I was! The room was configured in a circle and I was to stand in the center and hold 3-4 poses for 15-20 minutes at a time. At this point, I was so comfortable being naked, I was cracking jokes, finger-pointing to the students, looking them in the eyes, peaking at their work…I mean, I just didn’t feel exposed at all. The only time I was reminded I was without clothes was when I looked down and saw my thighs…then I thought, oh right, I’m not wearing anything!
But the whole “being starred at” was really no big deal. I wasn’t looked at like a sexual being at all. I was just a model posing so they could sketch my figure. And that was it. It wasn’t like walking down the street in New York City where every corner some guy is undressing me with his eyes and making inappropriate sexual comments. In this setting, I was respected. And the shocking part was…I didn’t feel vulnerable at all. I felt empowered. To be here…at age Forty, openly exposing all of myself…even when I didn’t “look” my best (feeling the extra puffiness from my cycle)…none of it mattered. I just felt free.
I snapped pictures at some of the artists’ work but I didn’t feel any connection to the woman they were sketching. It was strictly their interpretation of this figure (me) and I didn’t take any offense either way. I just observed. And by the end of it, I respected them, as well.
Once 5 o’clock came, I was ready to put my clothes on and leave. Five hours is a long time to observe your insecurities, your weakness, your humor, your strengths, your imagination, your daydreams. I felt full, satisfied…but I couldn’t quite articulate why…until now.
I realized if you were to ask my younger-self what I would be doing at age Forty…I would have never, ever predicted this as my life. And that really thrilled me! Because if you are truly living with integrity, and a sense of self-awareness, you must allow yourself to vier off-path and start blazing your own trails. And that’s me. A trailblazer. The fun and the excitement of life is in the moments, the details, the darkness, the unknown, the surprises, the joys…all of it. And just when you think you’ll be the most scared…you surprise yourself and actually feel the most confident.
I don’t think I’d ever do this type of “modeling” again, but hey, you never know with me. I’m a rebel; I cut strings off of tampons and pose nude while strangers point at my “Mount Majesty” (found this gem on #BuzzFeed.) You just never know what the future holds for me…and I wouldn’t have it any other way. #thisismyforty #nudemodel #artclass #anatomy #nyc #brave #vulnerable #sketchclass #meetup #women
These blog posts are part of my #40daysoffearlessacts Challenge. When I turned Forty on June 6th of this year, I decided to STEP-UP my life and created a "40 Days of Fearless Acts" challenge. Follow along as I step out of my comfort zone, do things that scare me, that I've never done before and/or are just plain silly and make me laugh!