How one woman uses Naked! yoga to reclaim her body and heal from trauma
Every month, we'll feature one of our students in an interview about their experience with Naked in Motion. Get to know our awesome Naked! community, read about their journeys, and join the movement.
Trigger warning: this interview contains discussions of sexual harassment, violence, and trauma.
Willow: Corrina, you've been a Naked in Motion student for over a year now. Why do you keep coming back?
Corrina: Well I think my reasons have changed over time. I’ve definitely gotten a lot more passionate about yoga. I really came to class for the naked part rather than the yoga part at first. I thought it would be empowering like my work [teaching gynecology exams to medical students and nurses] is empowering and I found that to be the case so I kept coming back. And then I grew very close to you and other people in the class, so I continue to go back. I’m pretty much used to the naked part now; it’s really not the main focus anymore. Now I focus on my practice and being there to talk to newer people coming in as a more seasoned person.
W: What do you feel like new people tell you the most after class about their experiences?
C: They pretty much say similar things, which is that they were very nervous before class and now they feel great.
W: Do you have any advice that you would give to people who are nervous and haven’t come to class but are considering it?
C: I’d say that it is as solitary as you want it to be, so if you don’t want to interact with anyone while you’re naked, then you don’t have to. You have your clothes on in the beginning, no one talks to you or interacts with you other than the instructor if there’s specific feedback or help with the poses during class. But you can absolutely at the end of class hop up, put your clothes on, and leave. You don’t have to talk to anyone, you don’t have to look at anyone. It’s really as involved as you want it to be.
W: Yeah, and on the flip side, you can be like, “Hi, my name’s Corrina,” and mingle, chat and make lifelong friends.
C: And be the last one to put on your clothes.
W: Exactly. Have you met a lot of friends in the class?
C: I have, yeah.
W: Can you speak about your experience with the Naked in Motion Community and the safety of the space?
C: The rules are repeated every single class no matter what. There can be nobody new in the class, it doesn’t matter, we’re getting the exact same spiel. And they’re not just things that you all say at the beginning of the class; the rules are upheld. So we’re an active community, we support each other. And I know that I could say just a few words to you that I’m not comfortable with someone [unwanted attention] and there’d be a tsunami of support.
W: Yeah, cruising violations are dealt with and we take the rules seriously so we can keep the community filled with people who are going to respect the rules. (What is our cruising policy? Check out our Community Rules!)
C: And everywhere else except for class, that’s not something that anyone would really take seriously. If we’re dealing with a work environment and my boss is making comments about my physical appearance, I’d say 99.9% of the time, he would need to like actually grab my butt for it to be considered harassment. There are things that *coughs* Donald Trump says that are sexual harassment and he would not be tolerated in our class. He would be kicked out immediately.
W: (Talking to the air) Yeah, Donald Trump, you are not allowed at Naked in Motion. Just so we’re clear. (To Corrina) So the thing that people think the most about naked yoga is that it will be sexual. Do you have anything to say about the presence of sexual energy in the class, or lack thereof, and how that’s dealt with?
C: I would not go if there was sexual energy. The reason I went in the beginning is because I was interested in aggressively de-sexualizing my nudity. This really comes from being a survivor of sexual violence and trauma, and so it’s something that affects me deeply. When people whistle at me or make comments on the street, I’m pulled into a very traumatizing space and so if that happened [in a Naked! class], I wouldn’t be able to go. It wouldn’t be a relaxing and empowering thing for me.
W: And I think the people who are afraid that naked yoga is going to be sexual might be surprised to learn that we actually have a lot of students who have told me they are sexual violence or assault survivors, and that they come to Naked in Motion as part of their healing process. So what is it about our class that is healing? Can you speak to that as a survivor?
C: It’s about my nudity not being for anyone’s consumption. I am naked in a room full of people of different sexual orientations and gender identities that may or may not be attracted to me, and it doesn’t matter, because I’m there to develop a new relationship with my naked body in the presence of other people. Like, I could be naked at home doing my own yoga nude, which is still great because I get the benefit of seeing my body alignment a lot better than with clothes on which is a big plus of naked yoga, but you can do that at home. The reason why going to class is another facet of empowerment is because it’s in the presence of other people who are also being very vulnerable with you because they’re trusting you to not make comments about their body or not gawk at them. I’ve never seen anyone gawking in the class. I don’t look at anyone during class.
W: Well the point of yoga is internal, to go inward, among other things.
C: Easier said than done, though, because definitely when I go to other [clothed] classes in the city, I’m looking at people’s outfits and their poses and kind of being competitive (laughs).
W: I wanted to talk about bottoms. As you know, women and trans-identified participants are allowed to wear bottoms for any reason. What’s your experience been utilizing our rule?
C: I’ve been going to the class for over a year, and for almost all of that I was bottomless and totally naked and just recently for this past month I’ve been wearing bottoms. Not at the monthly Women’s and Trans yoga class; that class I do feel comfortable taking my bottoms off, but for the [all-gender] regular class, I will keep my bottoms on. And that’s been a new development as I’ve gotten better about checking in with myself: being more in-tune with my emotions and limitations and how far I really need to be pushing myself on a daily basis. I found that [wearing bottoms] was something that I’m way more comfortable with right now. As I’m working very consciously with my sexual trauma history, it’s very much at the forefront of every day. Everything’s very stirred up, and I decided that I don’t need to take that extra step and put that additional pressure on myself because I might just not go to class if I do that, or I might be upset the whole time.
W: That’s such a great perspective to share. We often think of people wearing bottoms on their first few tries. I’ve seen people wear underwear and then take it off partway through class and I think that’s really powerful to watch. But we don’t often see or talk about people like you who used to not wear bottoms but put them on later and that’s totally a valid option. That’s why we have this rule; it allows for more of those personal choices that have to be made for one’s safety and comfort. Thank you so much, Corrina, for chatting about your experience.