What happened when I tried naked yoga

1 October 2018
By Fashion Quarterly

Naked yoga

Ever been curious to try naked yoga? Nope, TBH neither have we. Which is why when Verity Johnson stuck her hand up, we said “please, go forth… and then tell us all about it!”

I watched a bead of sweat run down my leg hair. I normally don’t spend a lot of time examining my leg hair. But today I was at naked yoga. And today, my own naked thighs were the safest place to look.

I’d been vaguely interested in trying nude yoga for a while. But the full realisation of what it entailed only really hit me a few hours before while I was in a budget store buying a mat.

I was about to see everything. And bare everything. Dangly bits and all.

Suddenly I realised I was still stained with last week’s fake tan. My body was covered in orange splotches that made me resemble a particularly stubby giraffe. So I seized the cheapest mat and galloped home.

Three hours and multiple exfoliating mitts later, I arrived at class. I had imagined it would be middle aged men resembling pale, wobbling, prunes. Nope. The others were a 20-something guy in trackies and a tee, a friendly Billabong advert blonde, and a cute, 30-something American in board shorts who was the instructor.

Hmmm. So far, so normal.

Then the three of them walked in and disrobed in the middle of the room as casually as though they were buying avocados at Countdown. I swallowed. Ah. There was a lot of…everything.”Be cool,” I whispered, “be cool!” Except it’s hard to be cool when you’re torn between the terror of seeing so much…. skin, and the need to pretend you can’t see it.

The hardest part was the casual chit chat. I was petrified in case I gave the slightest eye flicker downwards. So every time these friendly people talked to me, I had to stare determinedly into their eyes like we were on a highly surreal speed date.

We all sat down on our mats and the yogi began to teach us to breathe. Now, however cynical you are, you can’t deny there’s something soothing about yoga breathing. And after ten minutes of rhythmic inhaling, I nearly forgot where I was.

Breathe in and out…and in and out…and…was that…petrol?!

My eyes snapped open. I could definitely smell petrol. Everyone else around me was completely calm. Weird. I closed my eyes.

I went back to the breathing, then we started sliding through the downward dog cycle. The air was balmy on my skin, and the yogi’s voice as thick and sweet as a caramel shake, and I started to feel as though I was floating. This was almost freeing…

“And now into child’s pose,” cooed the yogi.

I sunk into the mat, inhaled and gagged. It was the mat! It reeked of petrol! Being pressed into it was akin to sticking a gas pump up my nose. “And breathe in deeply…up into warrior… smoothly”. I staggered upwards.

Nude yoga

The sweat was pouring off me now. The room was hotter than a Turkish bath with the heat of naked bodies. I felt dizziness sweeping in. “And into floating warrior”.

At this point several things happened. One, I had to open my eyes to copy how the dude next to me did the floating warrior leg thing. And do this without looking like I was perving on his noodle.

Two, I realised I hadn’t drunk any water today and was well on my way to fainting. I let out a small groan of frustration at my idiocy.

Three, the guy’s eyes opened and he saw me staring at his naked lower half and groaning.

I blushed, whipped my head around, lost balance and dropped from Floating Warrior into Roadkill Possum on Floor.


The rest of the class was spent trying really hard not to look at the guy, not to fall over and not to breathe. I achieved about as much spiritual uplift as when you’re on your way to a job interview and you miss your turn on the motorway.

Eventually it finished, I practically sprinted to the door, and gulped in fresh air.

I got to my car, threw down the mat and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. There was a bright purple rash on my forehead, exactly in the dotted shape of the pattern on my mat. What?!

Two Google searches later, I learned that polyvinyl chloride had been shown to cause rashes, make you feel nauseous and lightheaded. What was my budget mat made of? Yep. A whole load of polyvinyl chloride.

My spiritual experience had been sabotaged by a yoga mat.

It was a shame because I actually enjoyed naked yoga. Initially it’s very strange and overwhelming. But there’s something hypnotic about the caramel voiced instructor and the warm air brushing your skin. It’s a pleasantly exotic, almost spiritual, workout experience.

But just be aware that if you’re going to do it in the height of summer with a cheapo yoga mat, then you will probably pass out and be discovered, sweaty leg hair and all, by a horrified St John ambo.

Words: Verity Johnson
Photos: Stock/Supplied


Sign up & Join
FQ Insider

Unlock exclusive content, behind-the-scenes insights, and special offers by becoming an FQ Insider.

Fashion Quarterly Winter 2023 Cover
Fashion Quarterly Winter 2023 Cover

Sign up & Join
FQ Insider

Unlock exclusive content, behind-the-scenes insights, and special offers by becoming an FQ Insider.

Sign up to the Fashion Quarterly newsletter.

*Ts&Cs apply.
Find out more at fq.co.nz/fq-newsletter