“It is when you lose sight of yourself, that you lose your way. To keep your truth in sight you must keep yourself in sight and the world to you should be a mirror to reflect to you your image; the world should be a mirror that you reflect upon.”
― C. JoyBell C.
Naked Yoga students are sometimes reluctant, even unsettled, to participate in a partner yoga practice. When in the middle of class I ask them to step off their mat and find someone to work with for a duo pose, some students have said that it is intimidating and anxiety-provoking. Of course, there is always the option to sit it out and do a solo practice during the 5-10 minutes of partner work, but for those who are ready partner yoga can offer a great opportunity to face our own thoughts and feelings as we stand, sit, or lie naked with each other in a supportive, loving, and nonsexual context. It can be a way to deepen our practice. I invite students to practice stepping off of the comfort of their own sweat-drenched mats and stepping into the unknown, to shift the patterns that yoga is designed to shift. Getting rid of old habits and exploring something new is what our practice is all about isn’t it?
Back in high school, I had always been the slowest on the track and the last to be picked for the kickball team. I also had to relive the awkward yet natural sense of arousal in the locker rooms when the other boys started taking off their clothes and I finally got that rare opportunity to compare and contrast body parts, body hair, and skin color. Usually those moments of standing naked with my classmates resulted in a self-deprecating monologue inside my head — ‘THEIRS is bigger/better/sexier/____-er than MINE’ — and I left feeling ashamed and embarrassed because somehow I didn’t measure up. These high school memories continued to hold some power over me -long after I had graduated.
This was the case until I first took Darren Main’s naked yoga class way back in 2007. There I had the opportunity to work through some not so pleasant memories of phys ed class in a radically different way. I began to see the beauty in everyone’s differences, and that included my own. When I first stood across from my partner in the first naked yoga practice, I got to see the other’s strengths and vulnerabilities. I got to experience his uniqueness and his perfectly imperfect body close up and without any filter except my own story. It took me some time to realize what a healing experience that was for me.
As I held the other yogi’s forearms and helped him deepen his seated forward fold, I felt how he eased into a much deeper and more relaxed state with a powerful outbreath. It was quite simple, yet my chattering monkey mind still wanted to have a commentary about the whole experience. Over the course of the brief partner practice, my mind quieted a little bit, and I returned my focus to the breath, trying to let go of control. The other student smiled at me when he came out of his forward fold and thanked me with his smile. So much said without a single word exchanged. I gradually allowed the metaphor of each of us is a mirror for the other manifest and I took a deep breath in and allowed my partner to gently pull me forward into the pose. My worries and thoughts slowly began to melt away.
I felt safe.
I felt held.
I felt unconditional regard.
I felt supported.
The monkey mind let go of its attempts to think through this new experience and just be with it. I took 5 more deep breath cycles and much of the dread and anxiety seemed to float away with each exhalation. When I came out of the forward fold, I opened my eyes and made eye contact. I thanked him with a smile and that was that. And the ripple healing effect this initial naked yoga partner pose had on me continues to be felt.
I teach Naked Yoga because I believe that we can come together in a community and let ourselves shine.
I honor that each one of has his own path, and that healing occurs through coming together and letting go of our stories and embracing our dharma. I bring partner yoga into the class so that we can remind ourselves that we can also be witnessed by another loving man without judgement. And if we don’t get that lesson the first time around, maybe another completely different lesson or healing will be experienced and that’s just fine too. I hope that your naked yoga experience continues to be one that serves you along your Journey, and that you will accept my invitation to a partner yoga pose the next time we get to practice together.
They say that good things come in pairs and I believe good things bare repeating, too!