What I Learned from Teaching…Naked.

Via Brentan Schellenbach
on May 4, 2013
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This past weekend, I taught my very first naked yoga class.

That’s right—buck naked yoga.

Let me tell you, I did not walk into that room amped about getting naked with a room full of strangers. It wasn’t an especially exciting idea to me—in fact, it was kind of scary.

As a young woman, the idea of taking my clothes off in front of people opened up a whole lot of boxes—the marginalization and standardization of beauty, cultural ideas of sex and sexual expression, the objectification and belittling of a full human form to a mere sack of well-appropriated body parts, fears of abuse and trauma…the list goes on.

Those boxes opened because they are all part of my stories. But my stories aren’t only my stories—they are the experiences of my girl friends, my guy friends, my mentors, my parents. It’s all the same stuff.

Part of the stuff is: every single woman I know has either been sexually abused, assaulted or harassed—every woman I know, all of my friends-of-friends-of-friends. Check it: that is 100%.

For the most part, we decide it is our responsibility to undertake the task of making it stop. It’s in the clothes we wear or the gestures we make, and goes all the way to how we allow ourselves to be expressed—we tailor ourselves around dampening unwanted attention.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a culture that teaches us not to rape. We live in a culture that tells us don’t get raped. And if you are raped, there isn’t an appropriate conversation to start dialoguing in, so it’s best to just keep quiet about the matter. And that’s not anybody’s fault—our culture doesn’t equip us with the necessary conversational tools to talk about our grief and our heartache and our traumas in an empathic, constructive way.

This is the part of the story where I begin to unpack my boxes for you; in French, “rape” is a term that means “to shred.” So at 17, I found myself shredded. Shredded and alone because when it happened to me, I felt compelled to be quiet about it.

But we have to talk about it—we have to talk about it in a way that doesn’t alienate anyone or any groups of people by placing blame.

Our cultural conversation is not a conversation of healing. Well...fuck that conversation.

This is not a woman problem; this is a human problem. This isn’t a conversation women should be having—it’s a conversation humans should be having. About respect, about healthy sexual expression, about our accepted (and sometimes unhealthy) paradigms of monogamy, about how to effectively communicate our wants and needs in all situations so that our boundaries stay in tact and our full expression of self preserved.

Healing is a community event.

I didn’t know if I could ever be healed but seven years after the shredding, I found myself taking off all my clothes and teaching a yoga class.

I didn’t know how I was going to feel when I walked in there—I only knew that it was important for me to have this experience: the experience of nakedness.

And you know what? I felt amazing. I felt space between my ribs that I’d never felt before because of compression of my clothes. I felt a completely new expression in my chest with my skin being exposed to air. And I felt…accepted.

There was no weirdness, no misaligned intentions, no self-consciousness. It just seemed obvious to practice in a room of people without clothes. And as I stood there, totally and completely naked, I felt accepted. I felt accepted in a way that I don’t feel when I walk outside, in a way that I sometimes don’t feel in my close relationships, in the way I want to feel accepted when I stand in front of my mirror.

The space inside of us that houses our ability to accept is that same place that holds our pure love, our compassion, our courage and our ability to approach each moment outside the confines of our metaphorical clothes—that which restricts us.

To be honest, I feel more naked out in public fully clothed than I felt in that yoga room; I didn’t feel naked, I simply felt myself.

Even though most of my weekly classes require me to teach with clothes on, I now know how it feels to show up to a place exactly how I am—completely free in my own expression of self…every stitch of me, even the shredded bits.

Our stories of shredding are the same stories that ripen us to our power. And if I can take off my clothes and allow myself to be seen—to be truly seen underneath the layers of conflict and judgment and insights and opinions that I adorn myself with daily as I adorn myself with underwear and shirts and mismatched socks—I can do anything.

With or without clothes.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise




About Brentan Schellenbach

Brentan Schellenbach is a yoga teacher, writer and spiritual truth seeker. She teaches and writes for Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week in person and online. She is dedicated to the study of herself and the world around her and offers knowledgeable insight from these observations. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram and keep up with the different studio writers online. Take a class when you’re in town!


17 Responses to “What I Learned from Teaching…Naked.”

  1. David Foster says:

    awesome! congratulations!

  2. Chandra says:

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  3. jean says:

    There more and more people who lack self love,esteem,respect etc than ever. The less love people have for themselves the more they hate themselves and the world so they try and find it anyway they can even at others expense. TV,movies,music,society etc portray sex as love, looking good ( stereotypical beauty not self happineness or beauty) which is far from the truth. If we could all just stop complaining, hating,judging,etc and showed everyone we meet more love and respect we could slow down this epidemic of evil. Lust,hunger,doing drugs etc ( including chemicals found in foods,drinks, and other things) are triggered and feel the same in our brains.

  4. jean says:

    We all have our own individual stories of pain and misery as there are no exceptions only those who mask it better than others. So it is up to each of us to transform and grow from our pain to help others who are in need of understanding. Our inner scars will one day either become our strength or our demise! If it becomes our demise than we have lost it to the one who stole it. Don’t allow yourself to be stolen and take back your life one day at a time and transform yourself into a greater person that your meant to be!!! Good luck all as life is a constant battle that you can win.
    Peace be with you

  5. Julie says:

    Fuck that conversation. YES
    Or lack of conversation

    I’ve been trying to find a way to articulate that
    an there seems to be a giant creepy dark vacuum
    right where an emergency support team should
    be to scoop you up and wrap the shreds in warmth
    and understanding.

    It’s like if you speak, people hear it as victim.

    I’m planning on attending the one billion rising
    events next year…

    And having a women’s wisdom group starting this
    week in Chicago. I think healing me first is a good
    goal, my attitudes toward myself. Sexual assault
    was a fracturing force. To heal from it is going to
    require a strong voice.

  6. Charlotte says:

    Hello – I don't know what 'shredding' is, but this is a wonderful post. And agree that the 100% statistic is fairly accurate. This has also inspired me to give naked yoga a go.
    Thank you

  7. adventurousandrea says:

    What a freeing experience. I've considered taking a naked yoga class and this definitely made me want to more!

  8. Howard says:

    How brave. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. rapranayoga says:

    I have done my own naked practice at home and I can relate to your experience. Very liberating and freeing. I felt my body appreciated the freedom of not having clothes on. I too am a yoga teacher and would like to find a way to start a naked yoga class. Thank you for sharing your story. 🙂

  10. Jayleigh says:

    Yes. You have an amazing writing voice that seems to come from the depth of your own experience, with no need to cover up your truth or play manipulative games. I don't think anything could be more powerful.

  11. Emma says:

    I too personally know the 100% statistic to be true from past 'experiences'.
    I am currently 30 weeks pregnant and although its in the comfort of my home, I have started doing my prenatal yoga naked. That feeling of freedom and ease of movement, being able to fill my lungs properly to nurture my baby is an experience i'd like to continue after my baby is born. Thank you. 🙂

  12. peach says:

    The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat.
    -James Baldwin

    Brava Brentan!
    For you are bold and brave, to honor both yourself and relate your love for others so beautifully as to speak the healing truth.

  13. Varada says:

    Purely brave and beautiful. Thank you.

  14. Lauren says:

    "Healing is a community event."

    Wow. This is so very, very true. Going on my list of favorite quotations!

  15. Fabulous and inspiring. I love the part about being in a culture that doesn't people not to rape, but us not to get raped, and in that same culture, to not talk about the event or impact. Thanks for changing that culture some with this writing!

  16. meryfernandezs says:

    Thank you. It is a great article.
    I was very recently abused and I find that whenever I speak about the subject people get more uncomfortable than I do. I wonder why. At the beginning I took it a bit "personal", I thought maybe I should not be open about what happened, but then, I thought: If I had won the lottery instead I would tell everyone so why would this be any different?
    It is not my fault that this wakes up uncomfortable feelings in the other person, including my family and friends. I can share this experience because I only witnessed with my body something that humanity experience all the time in different forms. The only difference is that I became more aware of it now and I can open a window to share a different perspective of this continuous impermanent reality.
    Thanks for sharing.

  17. Sarah says:

    Bravo! I’m not sure I could do that 🙁