Here’s What It’s Like to Take a Naked Yoga Class

“The room looked like the set of a porno about to depict a very large, very zen orgy.”

My motivation to take a naked yoga class was the same as any other misadventure that gets me out of my clothes — I’m 26, and this is the best I’m ever going to look naked. I should start by mentioning I’m not particularly good at yoga. But I am particularly good at getting naked. I’m known amongst my friends for having the skimpiest bathing suits and shortest skirts, and regularly walk around my apartment in the buff. I’m an exhibitionist, to be sure, but a nudist? Not so much. Once the idea burrowed its way into my mind like an oversexed earwig, however, it was game on. I was going, or I would spend the rest of my life in child’s pose, regretfully mourning the lost opportunity.

The few seconds spent riding in the elevator up to the studio seemed unending, trapped in a steel box with only my second-guessing and “holy shit why the hell did I decide to do this?” doubts. But I had little time to keep that up, since there’s no special gateway into New York’s Bold and Naked Yoga space. It’s just like any other studio: you sign in and proceed to get your namaste on. Except for one hang up: I didn’t think to bring a mat. No biggie, the desk attendant assures me — I can rent one. But I also forgot a towel. I pause for a moment to consider all the other ass cheeks that have touched this rented mat before mine, and I’m honored, if not thoroughly skeeved out, to join their proud lineage.

Questionably sanitary mat in hand, it was time to disrobe. I guess I expected some sort of ceremonial threshold where an exceptionally serene mother gaia-type says a chant and bids me to free myself from my fabric shackles. But no. Two steps away from the sign-in desk sits a wall of cubbies: the studio, separated by a door that closes when class is in session, is directly adjacent. And that’s it. You’re literally meant to shed your clothes in the reception area, stuff them in a cubby, and walk naked as the day you were born into the studio. And so I said a little prayer to ward off staph infections from gym equipment, and I did.

I pause for a moment to consider all the other ass cheeks that have touched this rented mat before mine

Wearing only feigned confidence, I stepped through the doors. And ladies and gentleman: it did not smell great. Years of ball and vag odor must have seeped its way into the surrounding walls, and the raised temperatures—while great for loosening muscles—only added sweat into the equation. You are more or less simmering in humid, genital soup.

I chose the back row so I could get the full view of the room, but also because I’m pretty mediocre at yoga and I didn’t want anyone staring more than we all would be already, given the natural propensity to gawk at strangers’ junk when confronted with it. I admit, I expected the class to be full of post-middle age men trying to stave off their erections as they creepily leered at the women, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Above all else, this was a crowd that looked like they did a lot of yoga. Cut and fit and about 50/50 men and women, the participants were young and surprisingly good-looking.

The instructor, a woman who looked to be in her forties with unnaturally large, perky breasts, asked us all to introduce ourselves and rate how we’re feeling on a scale of 1-10. I don’t like to brag, so I gave myself a 7, and tried to mumble my name. Then new-agey remixes of Destiny’s Child and Michael Jackson came pumping through the sound system, and we began.

Once the class got going, I really did start to forget we were naked. Yoga may look like just a bunch of stretching, but it’s an incredibly challenging workout that takes a lot of strength and focus— but not, as it turns out, clothes. And though the nudity may slip your mind from time to time, it never totally vanishes. After all, the room did look like the set of a porno about to depict a massive, sweaty orgy. Contorting into different positions, you get quite an eyeful of sweaty boobs and balls. When I saw a bead of perspiration slowly trickle off a man’s nutsack, it quickly snapped me out of any zen-like euphoria I may have been reaching.

If any of this is starting to sound like a good idea, just consider all the implications of being naked in a room of total strangers first. For one, this is New York City, and real estate is at a premium. So the room that fit about 20 of us wasn’t particularly large. Translation? The positions that involve spreading your legs and bending over literally put you at nose-to-asshole range with a person you’ve never met.

Gross as it can be, I can’t ignore the sense of freedom the class gave me in the moments between wallowing in my athletic inadequacy and wondering when I got my last bikini wax. When you stretch yourself to new limits, completely bare of any boundaries separating you from the world, you start to think about your body differently. For a few fleeting minutes, I stood in awe of what I could accomplish in my natural state.

And then, I looked directly at a woman spreading her starfish an inch from my eyeball, and it was gone.

Photos by Getty Images