You’re shaking to hold your Downward Facing Dog for just four more breaths and you glance over at your neighbor for a distraction from the weakness in your quivering arms. But in this yoga class, that distraction ends up being more than you bargained for – in this yoga class, clothing is optional and, more often than not, non-existent. Your seemingly innocent glance just instantly familiarized you with the moments-ago-stranger next to you.
Nude yoga has arrived in the Valley by way of Katrina Rainsong, simultaneously striking curiosity and terror into the minds and bodies of Arizonans; this is taking self-acceptance to a whole new level. “A lot of people show the first time as a bucket list kind of thing,” said Rainsong, instructor of R.A.W. Nude Yoga classes in Scottsdale and Tempe. “They come back because there is a refreshing feeling of relaxed freedom in the class.”
Practicing yoga while naked does bring to mind the notion of achieving the ultimate sense of freedom. You do not get much more vulnerable than fully exposing yourself, both literally and figuratively, via a bare-bottomed Happy Baby pose. Rainsong’s classes for R.A.W. Nude Yoga — R.A.W. standing for Revealed, Authentic and Wise — are clothing-optional to ensure her students’ comfort. She does, however, feel that practicing nude allows greater physical comfort “because your clothing isn’t shifting, and on a larger personal scale, you feel more in touch with your surroundings.”
For some, yoga has become another means of expressing style through fun, yet often expensive, clothing. In nude yoga, as Rainsong said, “it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing $10 yoga pants and the person next to you is wearing $80 yoga pants. All those ego structures get stripped away, quite literally.”
There is no structured undressing ritual in Rainsong’s class – everyone is clothed when the class begins and undresses at their own pace. Rainsong herself likes to warm up her muscles and slowly rid of her clothing as she moves through her practice. “It is a symbolized ritualistic expression in removing your layers,” stated Rainsong. Through this expression, she feels “people find a deeper meditative place.” However, sticking to her firm belief in the comfort of others, Rainsong supports students who don’t want to slowly remove the layers and prefer rather to completely de-robe immediately upon the start of class. At the same time, she recognizes that others fear revealing themselves and therefore allows them to remain fully clothed throughout the class. Whether wearing your birthday suit, or Lululemon’s latest pair of yoga pants, Rainsong wants the focus of the practice to be on “community and unity.”
The draw to that sense of community makes itself evident in Rainsong’s co-ed classes. When she began teaching R.A.W. Naked Yoga a year ago, Rainsong estimated the attendance of her classes was 80 percent male and 20 percent female. She began offering a female-only class, but said that, surprisingly, women tend to prefer the male-female balance in the co-ed classes. The scales have evened out and most of Rainsong’s mixed sex classes today are 60 percent male and 40 percent female.
All people interested in trying Rainsong’s class for the first time either have to come to the undisclosed location on the arm of a current student in good standing, or by e-mailing Rainsong herself with an explanation of why you’re interested in the class (which will warrant you an e-mail with the address and time of the class). Every person that attends her class goes through some form of screening to ensure the safety of participants. Rainsong, one of the most effective and supportive yoga instructors in the Valley, makes it a point to provide an environment of freedom and safe expression to students of her R.A.W. Naked Yoga class. She has created a place where, as described by Rainsong, “people find safety and a chance to be vulnerable. How often are we allowed to really feel vulnerable in a safe container?”
For more information on R.A.W. Naked Yoga, visit www.rawnudeyoga.com.