In response to a rather public tirade about nudity, my friend Mij, an avid yoga practitioner and instructor, informed me that there is such a thing as naked yoga. Naked yoga is exactly what it sounds like. Interestingly, repulsion was not my first reaction to this piece of news; rather, it was curiosity.
Curiosity as in: How does one practice naked yoga without extreme chafing? There are many misadventures I foresee with naked yoga, but chafing is at the top of the list. This problem would also be aggravated by the fact that — well, at least I and probably most people — would have to be involved in some extreme feats of shaving/waxing/threading/lasering/chemically burning and/or any combination of the above before getting into the studio.
Now I enjoy yoga, but that doesn’t mean yoga isn’t weird. It’s gotten much more mainstream, but there are plenty of kooks out there, and I’ve experienced my fair share. Like Yuki, the instructor of an aerial yoga class I took for several months. Actually, it’s not fair to call Yuki kooky. She’s an excellent instructor, but maybe didn’t realize the inherent awkwardness of some of the poses she assigned us in her aero yoga class. Aerial or aero yoga is a practice that involves a lot of partner work. It’s best to go with a friend because you’ll be lifting and tossing people in the air.
One day Yuki decided to get a bit creative during our class. I always attended with my roommate, a 5’2” petite Asian girl named Miyoko. This created many a problem when Miyoko would base our moves, because it was a bit like an orange on a toothpick, to borrow a phrase from Mike Myers. Basically, we were far too top-heavy.
On this fateful day Yuki split Miyoko and I up because all of the partners needed to be of equal size and strength. Turns out this meant I got matched with two dudes. Yuki then proceeded to show us the move we’d be working on. One partner got into a crab walk position… and the other partner did a headstand with their head tucked between the other person’s legs. This is how I ended up with my head between a guys legs while he thigh-squeezed my neck for “support” and nearly suffocated me. In case you were wondering, my eyes were firmly shut the entire time.
It’s hard to believe that this is not my worst yoga experience. That honor goes to Cynthia of the YMCA yoga hour. Cynthia, a skinny black woman with blond spiral curls and buggy eyes, gathered all of us in a circle before the stretching began. She began a long speech about how we should write LOVE on the bottom of our water bottles because water can feel the vibrations, and ended with a lesson on the power of chanting.
“I want everyone to say their name, color, and purpose,” Cynthia said. “Then the circle will chant it back to them. Our names have a marvelous power when people say them. Okay, I’ll start. Cynthia. Radiant Gold. Unconditional Love.”
Then we all chanted, “Cynthia. Radiant Gold. Unconditional Love. Cynthia, Cynthia, Cynthia, Cynthia, Cynthia.”
Note: I am not making this up or even embellishing.
I think the worst part of yoga is when something is inadvertently hilarious, but of course laughing is taboo. I already have a tendency to laugh at inappropriate times. For instance, one time, while I was riding in an elevator with an older friend of my parents and a few other teenage girls, the family friend related the story of her aunt’s untimely demise. It seems the aunt had pressed the button for the elevator and stepped inside when the doors opened. However no there was no elevator car and she fell down the empty shaft and died. In the silence of elevator my snicker was deafening. “Lauren!” My sister hissed. I mumbled an apology which was accepted with an air of wounded dignity, but I still maintain you cannot tell me a story like that when we’re in an elevator!
Yoga brings out the inappropriate laughter in me, even without Cynthia Radiant Gold. I forced myself to stare at the ground, because if I made eye contact with a single other person I would have to escort myself from the class. Perhaps this would have been for the best. When it came around to my turn it was all I could do to stammer out:
“Lauren. Blue… Love?”
After the chanting portion we moved into balancing our chakras. This involved placing our hand on the appropriate chakra and mimicking Cynthia’s deep grunting noises. I proceeded, if awkwardly, until we came to the pelvic chakra. Cheeks burning, I placed my hand on the very topmost of what could still be considered my pelvis. Cynthia gave a loud, low grunt and I half-heartedly repeated wondering if this was legal as I was still a minor. “Lower!” Cynthia shouted. I whimpered and lowered my hand an inch. Finally, Cynthia decided we ought to do a few poses and the class became something recognizable.
I did eventually return to the wonderful world of yoga, but my chakras have remained happily imbalanced ever since.
Lauren Baity is a recent graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder where she got her degree in English. Besides doing yoga, she loves the three R’s: reading, writing, and roller derby. She plays for the Denver Roller Dolls (alias: Shadow Cat) and finds that the aggression nicely compliments the zen of yoga. Lauren’s blog chronicles the humiliating experiences of her life.