Downward dog and naked

by ALAHNA KINDRED

Alahna Kindred trades her clothes for yoga

The class was at 6.15pm, but I had to get there by 6pm to undress. I also had to practise sucking in my tummy in the mirror. After all, strangers were about to see me do yoga in the nude.

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Sitting next to me was naturist of seven years James Cunning, a park-keeper from Dundee, who has been to four naked yoga classes. He still remembers how he felt at his first naturist event.

“I was terrified. I am not ashamed to say I was nervous. I asked myself ‘do I really want to do this?’” said Cunning, who now lives in Croydon. “Once you get into it and you see that nobody cares you can really enjoy yourself.”

A naturist is someone who prefers to not wear clothes and isn’t afraid to bare all. The goal is to free yourself from daily constraints.

The studio was heated, although that may have been the sweat caused by my nervousness. My biggest fear was farting, which I did; and people seeing me in the most unattractive positions, which they did.

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However, as the poses became more challenging my worry shifted to trying to touch my toes. Freed from having to adjust my sports bra or keep my shirt from riding up, I only had to worry about doing the poses.

“Being naked lets me be a bit more flexible,” Cunning said. “It makes you move more naturally and freely.”

Leaving the studio I felt a huge boost of self-esteem. I had challenged myself and succeeded, not just because I was naked with seven strangers, but also because I confronted my own perceptions of body image.

“Once you get into it and you see that nobody cares you can really enjoy yourself.”

Doria Gani is a part-time employee for Transport for London (TfL) and teaches the class once a week. Her first experience practising naked yoga in public was at Burning Man Festival in the United States in 2015.

“It was such a liberating experience that I thought everybody should do it,” said Gani.

According to Gani, the biggest misconception about naturism is that it is something sexual.

“This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s all about being comfortable in your own skin and the amazing confidence that comes with it,” she said.

And research proves it. Dr Keon West, a psychology professor at Goldsmiths, found that participating in naturist events could make you more satisfied and happier with yourself.

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His research, published this year in the Journal of Happiness Studies, surveyed people before and after they participated in naturist events in the UK.

Dr West said this is the beginning of researching the effects of participating in nude-only events.

“Naturism appears to have positive effects, not negative ones,” he said.

The eight of us found a way to be free for that hour-and-a-half, but for me it was a bit of a blur, mostly because I chose to take off my contacts as a precaution.

You can see more of Doria’s work here