I Tried It: Naked Yoga
Believe it or not, the first thing you notice is the heat.
In the corner of a dance studio on the third floor of an undisclosed location, I lean against a piano and loosen my belt while wiping the sweat gathering on my forehead. Soon I am naked, about to take my first-ever yoga class—garbed or otherwise—with the dozen or so lads of Naked Yoga for Men, a Cambridge-based group that has practiced yoga au naturel for the last 15 years.
My fellow classmates greet me and shake my hand. I focus half my energy on maintaining eye contact, and the other half on being nonchalant about it. The windows are covered with black sheets, and the only light comes from an industrial work lamp tacked to the wall. An air conditioner in the corner window wheezes fruitlessly. This isn’t Bikram, but I’m acutely aware that this is the top floor in very old building.
I position my mat in the back and examine myself in the mirror—something I’ve done countless times before, but never with so much company. In the locker room at the gym, it’s easy to avert my eyes if someone drops trou nearby, and even my own nudity is ephemeral. Here, it’s inescapable. It’s a sea of perineums.
The first few postures aren’t that difficult. One requires that I lay on my back, outstretch my arms on the floor, extend one leg straight up, and rotate it in a protracted circle. For another, still on my back, I bring my legs to my chest and rock side to side. I feel exposed, my manhood dangling there to the tune of an unseen bus screeching outside.
A latecomer joins the class 15 minutes in and parks his mat directly in front of me, providing me the unique joy of staring into the abyss with every cow pose and downward dog. I never become so consumed in the flow that I forget I’m naked. Instead, I become hyperaware of my body, of the interplay of my muscles as I cycle through the sun salutations.
After 90 minutes and a chorus of husky namastes, the organizers inform us there are refreshments—pretzel crisps, cheese, and boxed Australian wine—on the piano in the corner, festooned with a checkered tablecloth. Classmates laugh and catch up. Some massage one another to relieve any residual tension. I gulp the Shiraz served to me in a Dixie cup and put my clothes back on before heading into the balmy night, where no one has seen me in cobra pose.