An Essay by Annessa Babic
On the scale of things to do, I would say Naked Yoga is one I never fully considered. Okay, let's be honest. I did not think about it. I snarked it. A handsome dude I'd been messaging asked if I’d meet him for Naked Yoga on a mid-week night. Without batting an eye, I said yes. And then, I sat there looking at the text with alarm that I needed to find a decent bra and panty set to wear since he'd see it and all my wobbly parts. A night's sleep, shower and shave later, I found myself in Chelsea standing in front of the studio with my tote and yoga mat. One deep breathe later—okay more like five—I put one foot in front of the other and walked in with my head held high and my shoulders back. On the scale of options for a first date, this event certainly trumped brunch.
Yeah, I like brunch as much as the next white girl, but there are only so many times you can throw back a couple of mimosas with your eggs Florentine and not revolt from repetition and banality. I know, people are side-eyeing me on the whole "I detest brunch" thing, but—like all good things—it's been overdone and done again. Day drinking is cool and all, but let's be honest about that. I don't need a special header on my menu to day drink; though, the cool factor of that you might be hungover and hitting the hair of the dog on a date factor does dissipate if you opt for Naked Yoga. That being said, that Naked Yoga . . .
In a studio lit with white holiday lights, and windows looking into the city’s darkness filled with the glitter from street lights and apartment windows a room full of men and three women (one being the instructor) I shimmied down to my birthday suit and set up my mat next to that dude I know. Sitting there, trying to find the beginning of zen I've never encountered in yoga, I thought "This is certainly a first." Rules for the session were covered—ya know, no oogling and such—and then before I could blink we were off doing planks and downward dogs. There are things you cannot unsee, as the wave of men on the other side of the room did not wield a razor in their nether regions as bushes and hedges grew without restraint. Then there was the full-on bush on a woman. Afterward, my date and I chatted on about many things—and aspects of the yoga class—and he wondered if she had to shampoo it. I commented, without a second thought, that shampoo and conditioner were needed as I went for the afro once upon a time. His eyes grew wide, as he already saw there is no afro now, and between laughs, we prattled on about another topic to catch steely glares from nearby subway riders. I will say, hers was shiny and well maintained. Her afro was pretty if my hetero self can say that.
Looking back on the hour or so class, as I rose my frame and arms into tree pose I did feel the fire in my spine quell some. I never did get the centering and zen I'm told that yoga brings, as I've said I've never achieved that. Though, I feared—like others I’ve talked to—that downward dog would bring the chorus of flatulence. It did not, so there’s a bonus. While holding poses and raising my arms, I felt a healthy sense of calm and memories as past brazen events flashed through my mind. Similar to when I run half marathons, mile ten brings on the onslaught of every bizarre decision I've ever made, about halfway through the yoga session I found myself in warrior pose remembering the Turkish bath in Istanbul a decade ago. There, a friend from grad school and I took an afternoon and laid on the marble and let women wash our hair and our bodies. I was a few months past a fibroid surgery, and my scar was still starkly visible. All the women were filled with questions concerning if I had lost a baby, and in my broken Turkish I conveyed that I was fine and there never was a baby. A longer than usual scrub down conveyed stories of their pregnancies and babies.
As I moved from warrior to eagle, or maybe that was vice versa, I was shocked that I was so calm. Nerves that I expected weren't there. Then again, I'm the queen of compartmentalizing (as friends will tell you) and I’m no stranger to the naked dance. In Turkey, again, I showered with women I didn’t know after bathing in the waters and mud of Cleopatra. What I didn’t say in that article I published a few years back is that while in the warm mineral pools several of us shimmed out of our suits for a spell. I was one. Why? Life is a continually changing sunrise and sunset, and in that each day is a new dance and new story to craft. Perhaps I’m crazy. Perhaps I’m brazen. Perhaps I’m still crafting stories for my friends and their children to tell at holiday parties “Remember my friend Annessa? Well, did I tell you what she did this time?”
As dates, and yoga classes, go this one was undoubtedly one of the best. From the coffee beforehand, the fluid poses under dimly lit and perhaps romantic lights, to the endless chatter afterward. I look back, and it all rushes by in an intense moment of ease, comfort, and near blur. Would I do Naked Yoga again? The odds are pretty high. I found a sense of calm, still lacking the elusive zen I’m told will happen, and while I’d rather shimmy on a pole in dance class or run six angry miles the experience was worth a second look, glance, and even stare. After all, I am the same girl who once danced naked in a National Park and streaked with such ease in college it was just another day when it happened. In the end though, with as beautiful as that date was just because the surface was a Monet masterpiece and the dance was fluid, you won't find me using him as my subway pole to keep me steady on the jostling train cars around this city. Beautiful moments are sometimes just meant to be that, and perhaps we will cross paths again. Perhaps not. In the end, the knowledge of crafting another memory, day, and sunrise and sunset that doesn't duplicate the other resides within the folds of my mind's eye. A best life lived. A best life won.