Caroline Knight tells us her story
I get asked a lot why I teach naked yoga and why I enjoy being naked. Very often it's asked with a slight tone of disdain or incredulity. My answer - because it feels fun and exciting to be naked, because I feel better about my body when I'm naked, because I feel more connected to and more compassion for others when I am naked. The deeper reasons for why this is the case, I'm not acutely aware of. The fact that it feels good is reason enough for me.
At times I have felt incredulity towards people who DON'T like being naked – after all, it's our natural state. Now, I feel more compassion towards these people who still struggle with shame about their bodies and themselves. It's one of the reasons I want to teach naked yoga: to help people become less shameful about nudity and their awesome bodies. It ties in with my desire to help people feel physically more comfortable and present in their bodies – something which my work as a massage therapist also allows me to do.
When I teach naked yoga I achieve that incredible flow state that comes with being completely immersed in the present moment. The hours after I've finished teaching are spent on a conscious high: a true sign I am working in alignment with myself. My mission is to create more body acceptance and de-sexualise nudity in our culture. I not only want to invite Naturists – who are often already very comfortable in their bodies – to my class, but people who are looking to open themselves up to new experiences and higher levels of confidence in themselves. I’m hoping that the people who practise naked yoga, or even just hear about the concept, will become more open to the idea of body acceptance, nudity in a non sexual context and naked yoga.
I wasn't always so open about it. When I started teaching naked yoga, I'd be very selective with who I would tell, fearing judgment and rejection, especially among some of my non-naked yoga practising clients. But this only perpetuated the shame around nudity that I want to help others overcome. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the people that turn out to be Naturists – including one of my colleagues on my advanced clinical massage training course.
My teaching naked yoga is also about changing gender dynamics. I think a woman teaching yoga to a group that includes men while being naked in a non-sexual context is an important step forward in shifting the patriarchal view of women. We still have a long way to go as a species when it comes to our relationship with sex and nudity, that’s why it’s so crucial to talk openly about nudity and provide as many opportunities to explore nudity non-sexually as possible.
My sixteen year old self wouldn’t have been able to imagine myself now, at 32. Sixteen years ago, I had a troubled relationship with my body. Addicted to exercise, anorexic and weighing 40kg, I tried my hardest to eradicate any traces of womanhood from my body. I saw curves and fat as vile things that must be exercised and starved away. I have now embraced my woman’s body that is several stone heavier and looks nothing like a catwalk model - my previous yardstick of beauty. If I want to spread a culture and consciousness of body positivity and acceptance, I must emit these values in my class. That means not shaming myself if I arrive with a bloated belly (either from overindulging or because of where I am at in my cycle). It means not minding if my legs are hairy or I am not feeling my best mentally. Showing up and accepting myself is integral to what I am doing – and I hope this attitude is intrinsically conveyed to whoever comes and joins my class. I offer one to one naked yoga sessions as well as the group class.
My next project is to create a regular naked ecstatic dance event. I got a taste of how great it feels to dance sweaty and naked at the Rave Ritual events put on by the Psychedelic Society. I want to introduce a space where you can be with others who appreciate dancing naked. Dancing in itself is such a powerful tool for embodiment, enjoyment and release – doing it in a nude setting will only heighten these qualities.