The naked truth

Nude yoga allows participants to step out of their comfort zones and clothes

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The lights were dimmed and heavy curtains were drawn over the windows of the studio — I was about to step naked into a room full of strangers.

Nude yoga is not for the faint of heart. Studio 330 on Princess St. hosts a nude yoga session on the first Friday of every month.

At first it seemed like a radical prospect, something ostentatious to bring up at cocktail parties and amongst good friends.

But as I arrived at the studio my nerves took hold.

I have never considered myself weak-willed but the idea of being buck naked in a room with a group of strangers brought back weird memories of my first time at a public swimming pool. The lead up was intense.

Dallas Delahunt, owner and teacher at Studio 330, decided to introduce the class as a monthly opportunity in September, after a successful trial event held last April.

While Delahunt said it’s not uncommon for people to give nude yoga a try once, as a means of crossing it off their bucket list, she has seen a regular following of students who are committed to the practice.

“It’s interesting because a lot of them talk about how they practice naked as it is at home, and that they enjoy this aspect of it because it separates from all of the materialistic aspects of yoga, not seeing clothing labels and that kind of idea,” she said. Delahunt said she made the decision for her and her fellow teachers to instruct the class clothed.

She explained that if a noise complaint were to be filed by upstairs tenants, she would have to answer the door for the police, and would need to be clothed.

“Students can become quite vulnerable in a yoga class, regardless of if they are wearing clothing, and towards the end of the class it’s not uncommon for them to cry or to have a bit of a meltdown,” Delahunt explained. “I didn’t feel that I would be able to hold the same kind of space if I’m handing them a tissue and I’m naked.”

She said that a large benefit of a nude yoga practice is the self-awareness and acceptance that is gained through the practice.

Students dealing with body image and weight issues have turned to nude yoga as a way to approach and overcome their tribulations.

“It’s more of that self-acceptance, you can’t hide from it, right?” she said.

She added that nude yoga provides a more inward and focused practice for most students.

“This is not a more internal practice, but there’s a shift when I observe them practice, they’re much quieter and they appear to be definitely very reflective in their practice,” she said. “The entire room has a really interesting quiet quality to it.”

Since the introduction of nude yoga to the studio, Delahunt said that she has received a lot of negative feedback.

“It’s important for me to note that this wasn’t done for shock value, it wasn’t done to be provocative at all, it was quite the opposite, it was a very personal request from our community.” She said she doesn’t include the nude yoga class on the public schedule, not to hide or shy away from the attention, but to preserve the intimacy that the practice deserves.

I entered the studio wrapped in a thick towel. Everyone else was similarly wrapped, making me feel slightly better, though the thought of being naked and performing downward-dog still made me feel sorry for whoever was behind me. I quickly took a spot at the front of the room.

I was relieved to find out I wasn’t the only nude yoga virgin in the room.

Though the instructor, Jenn Storring, remained clothed, the class was the first nude yoga experience for her as well.

“I would say any of the nerves I feel about it have more to do with wanting to provide a lovely experience for people,” Storring said. “It’s a practice we usually only offer once a month. I feel like there’s a community of people that come to this class and I want to provide a comfortable experience.”

As a practitioner, however, Storring said nude yoga is not her “cup of tea” — she prefers to remain clothed so her body remains at a comfortable temperature.

When guiding the practice, Storring said her main concern are the participants and any history of injury they may have.

She said she would lead the nude class as she would any other practice.

“People get on to yoga mats for all kinds of reasons, often it’s for a physical experience, a work out; after a while ... eventually the spirituality starts to seep in,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a surprise, sometimes it isn’t.”

For a first time experiencing nude yoga, Storring advised newcomers to absorb the full experience that the practice offers.

“Embrace it as an experience, know wholeheartedly that yoga as a practice can sort of loosen up all kinds of feelings in your body whether it’s feelings or sensations or emotional experiences,” she said. “The practice itself offers so many benefits.”

Though anxiety and apprehension coursed through my veins, I prepared myself to step out of my area of comfort.

“A return to innocence is how I heard it referred to. I mean it’s definitely outside lots of people’s comfort zones, and I think people have arrived on their mats to take this course for that reason,” she said.

As I stepped onto my mat I was reminded of how inflexible I am, although I practice yoga regularly and deeply enjoy the benefits it offers when I commit to it.

The moment we began I felt transported. Even though I acknowledged the other naked bodies around me, there was no sexual tension in the room.

Yoga is a meditative practice and the rush or anxiety I felt about being naked in public for the first time seemed to wash away. All I was left with were myself, the moves and the steady rhythm of my breathing.

After the first few moments of being naked the novelty vanished. Perhaps the reality of knowing that everyone has a body underneath their clothes, female or male, is reinforced in nude yoga.

I was suddenly very aware of my mortality, and the mortality of the people around me. The fact that we are all fragile humans with skin, hair and teeth and that we are not on this earth for long became reinforced when faced with what is underneath.

Andrew Burrows, ArtSci ’13, and a participant in the class, first brought the practice of nude yoga to Studio 330 last spring when he approached Delahunt about the practice.

“We were all born naked, we’re all just bodies,” Burrows said about the inclusivity and simplicity of nude yoga practices.

Burrows said the practice of nude yoga began among the male homosexual community, but that it wasn’t the way in which he wanted to explore the practice.

He said that sexuality doesn’t play into any factor of the nude yoga practice.

“It’s kind of beautiful,” he said. “It’s like come one come all, we’re all the same underneath our clothes.”

— With files from Katie Grandin

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