THEM NAKED THANGZ

It is 6pm on a rainy day in New York. I walk through the busy streets of Manhattan. Noisy traffic, jumping over puddles, looking for the right house number on 23rd Street. I must have passed it already. I turn around, walk back and find that inconspicuous entrance. The doorbell similarly simple. No sign of what is hidden behind these walls. I ring the bell, no answer, 2 seconds later the buzzer opens the door. I enter the simple urban hallway and take the staircase, as I am too early anyways – to my surprise, as I rarely managed to be on time lately, especially in this big city. My excitement increases with every step that I get closer to the 5th floor. It feels a bit as if I do something secret or illegal. The address of this place I only received with the online booking confirmation of Monika. And indeed I do this for the very first time in my life. I am truly excited for this experience: my first ever naked yoga class – and I am early. Yay, I am not late for once, I think to myself…but damn, that means I will wait naked for the class to start?! Minutes might be feeling like hours. What to do? What to do? Relax baby, you’re a sauna expert and a GSNU advocate – this is your element’, I think to myself as I open the door.

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Walking these 5 floors heated me up already, but the air in this place reminds me of my last summer beach holiday – it must be around 30 degrees in here. Taking my clothes off is an instant desire right now. That’s inviting, I think relieved, as I see the first naked student passing. A woman walking around stark-naked holding on to a white towel around her neck, chatting loudly with a man sitting next to her in his underpants. Ohhhh yeah!

I walk to the reception and introduce myself to Monika, lightly dressed. A very kind and vivid person with a tiny dialect in her voice that reveals she must be German. And it’s true! Monika is a hippie soul from Stuttgart who has lived in the States since more than a decade already. Our common heritage brings us closer and we continue speaking in German. I start grinning knowing that a lady from the lands of Freikörperkultur (nudism) came to teach Americans how to be naked. As a matter of fact the birthday suit is older than the swimsuit industry and beach ordinances are younger than the nudist tradition. So why all the fuss about being naked?

I ask her about how she came up with her studio Bold & Naked and why she sees naked yoga as a necessity in the world. Monika likes to be naked, however she is certainly not a nudist. She has been doing yoga for a long time already and used to do yoga nakedly by herself for the sake of the liberating feeling. Then her partner joined and eventually some of her friends. It has been a slow progress until she finally decided to teach public classes. Nowadays she even offers teacher trainings as the demand is increasing. There is an equal number of male and female students in each class, in order not to intimidate one or the other gender as well as to create a harmonious energy for the class. That is why she asks to sign up by email prior to every class. Thus she even declines people whenever the number is imbalanced. Lucky me, that I got in. “And between you and me”, she adds, “Americans are so prude, they really need this. Most of my students have never seen their parents naked.“ We laugh, but her face turns serious instantly, stressing out the truth of this sad fact. Interesting, but these people here don’t make the appearance of prudes at all…must be kind of therapeutic. I muse for a moment and walk to the next room to hang my jacket on the coat stand. I still have 15 minutes until the class starts. Should I really join these strangers in my birthday suit chatting about how my day was? No pockets to relax my hands in? Just my yoga matt o hold on to? Hm, I go in stages maybe. So I leave my thong on, politely greet everyone, and then find a good spot for my yoga mat.

The class room is big, would easily fit 30 people. Will it fill up or are we only a hand full of students? Anyways, I decide to chose the back row. That way, I make sure nobody looks “inside“ of me and I can capture more of the atmosphere than in the front row. I’m tired, the discussions in the lobby – too noisy for me right now. I relax on my mat, notice the lack of fabric on my skin and meditate on this sensation of nakedness until the class starts.

Bit by bit the room fills up. Naked people everywhere, nature’s uniform makes us appear so ordinary, as everyone is very relaxed. Class starts, the light changes into blue, time to take my thong off. Monika asks everyone to move a bit to the front in order to open another row in the back. What? But there is no space behind me!, my ego protests. Too late, as the only one who enters that row neatly places his mat right behind mine. Oh dear, I’m getting uncomfortable…Who is prude now?! Well, isn’t that a more authentic experience to have an ass in front of me and mine looked at from someone else behind me?

We all sit up to start the class. Monika dims the light to a cosy cave atmosphere, but still light enough to see the mat. I feel a bit more invisible, a bit more in my own space and relax. She asks who is here for the first time. Only another guy and myself, I learn. Wow, the room is packed, I count 22 students. Everyone is asked to share how he/ she feels on a scale from 0 to 10. I hear some fives, some eights, a ten, a fifteen, twenty, reaching superlatives already before class starts. Monika cheers and jumps from bliss while her fake boobs remain still. This must be America – who offers more? I’m a six, I decide, as my energy is just enough to be here right now.

Monika turns on some powerful modern music beats to prepare us for a sweaty warm up. We start with sun salutations, standing tall, reaching high, bending over, first down dog –interesting – cobra – ahhh ass tattoo ahead of me – childs pose, down dog, plank – what does that ass tattoo in front of me say? Can’t read it, its too dark. None of your business, Annabelle, focus! Inhale, come up, exhale fold down, utkatasana, twist to the right – so many naked people and it is the most natural things in the world, as if yoga has always been practised naked. Exhale, twist to the left. Inhale to the center, exhale release. I finally manage to read it: ’Why the worry?!’ every word in a different font…holy mo..did I just read his ass tattoo? Yes, I did! Can’t hold myself this is too funny! Warrior two – wow that girl over there is super sexy – deeply bend the front knee – look at that booty and her tights, she’s got really toned muscles! – inhale switch sides – how must my booty look from her angle? Down dog – wow, I’ve never looked at my naked self from this angle before…my belly really hangs loose like this? I playfully align my body, moving muscle by muscle in a more conscious way. Warrior two, turn around to the other side of the mat. I realize that no matter which spot in the room I would have chosen for my mat, I wouldn’t be able to escape any gazing person anyways, as we equally turn around all the time. That’s only fair for the front row!

In a way I hope not to be sexually checked out by any guy here, yet I realize that the other new guy and I are the only ones who actually really gaze around at people. Everyone else is really focused on their own mats and floating through the yoga sequence that Monika announces. Sidearm balance… and to the other side. I relax in the moment and finally find myself in the flow, tuned in, feeling free and good in my own skin, floating through the air like being under water – my element. Hearing the sound of my sweat dripping on my mat. Damn I forgot to bring a towel. Not so handy for crow pose …makes me concentrate more though, as I try not to slip my knee off my sweaty arm.

Warrior three balancing pose, now bend over into: standing split… Noooo she didn’t just say that?! She did! WOW! She really LIVES this bold and naked attitude! Ok, no problem, I am good at this, so I do it. While I bend forward, lift my right leg high into the sky and kiss my left shinbone, I hope the guys behind me don’t dare to watch me do this…aaaahhhh Kopfkino!!! Sorry, but I really can’t concentrate here, what a great focus test for an asana, but I get carried away…the ass tattoo guy is so right! – we here in the room are ALL naked, so why the worry? Isn’t it funny that the main message of this whole event was inked on a buttock in front of me? It is winter and cold outside, people wrap up in layers of clothes and we have just been naked for about one hours in a room on the 5th floor somewhere in Manhattan? How often are you really naked other than between taking a shower, changing clothes and having sex? Slowly finishing this philosophical excursion, I find peace in this experience and continue the class with true dedication.

Finally it is time to relax, shavasana, my body vibrates, sweaty, naked, my face relaxed and smiling. Nothing needed to cover up as usual, I have all I need right now. Peace. After the relaxation we chant one final OM together and nobody moves as Monika thanks everyone for this very last class that she’d been teaching in this studio. She has to move out as the building has been sold to a new owner. Everyone is sad and asks where she will be opening the new studio. Trying to inspire her with ideas for new spaces in hope for more of this naked moving bliss work. She is touched by receiving all this love, however plans to take a creative break for a few months before she continues anything new. As a fare well treat she invites us all for ice cream. So funny to see 22 people standing naked in the lobby eating ice cream and chatting about life. Monika promotes her 2017 calendar with pictures of herself and her partner doing aesthetic nude yoga poses.

My body quickly cooled down, so I am back at putting on my clothes again and thanking her for this unique experience. To my surprise this practice did not take so long getting used to. However most impressive was the moment for me when I saw all these naked participants in their street clothes afterwards. Some of them in fancy office suits and high heels. Lawyers, accountants, teachers, bar tenders. Now I catch my mind starts building stories and illusions around them, but before, in the yoga room, we were all the same. All nakedly uniformed. All vulnerable. This actually highlights how much fashion pretends and conceals of a person.

Taking your clothes off and moving your body in the midst of unfamiliar yet equal men and women is a truly revolutionary experience. It is not the same with your tights on and may they be even as short as hot pants. Naked yoga has nothing to do with sexual desires, it rather reconnects you with your own nature. This is exactly what Amelie and I intend: baring our naked souls and living our true selfs. I am grateful for this experience and glad I managed to visit Monika’s very last yoga class. Hoping for her community to get more of this after her break, cause we need more of this bold and naked truth in the world!

 

Merken

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