The first time I tried yoga was in the early 2000s in New York City. I’d recently lost a ton of weight the old-school Oprah way, through running and diet change. (This isn't to be confused with the original Oprah way, which involved meal replacement shakes, or the new Oprah way, which involves Weight Watchers and bread.)
I needed to do something to diversify my fitness regimen. But I was also broke, and workouts — no different from today — can be pricey. That’s when I found Yoga to the People, a donation-based yoga class near New York University (NYU).
It was awful
I’d do the poses as best as I could, surrounded by what felt like hundreds of sweaty people packed into a loft meant for 30. And just when I’d find my peaceful mental spot doing some Ninja Pose, someone would moan.
Not a subtle moan. A full-on sex moan.
Then another person would moan.
Then another even louder, as if they were trying to out-moan each other.
Most of these moans came from NYU actors, which explained the great stage vibrato in their reverberating moans. This unnecessary moaning thoroughly turned me off to yoga and I vowed never do it again. Or date an actor.
Okay, let’s try this again
Some 15 years later, I hurt my back — some muscle strain — doing CrossFit (yes, typical story, yada yada, moving on). Once again, I needed to explore alternative fitness options, but this time I needed a workout that’d stretch and tighten my core. I asked around, and literally everyone’s response?
Fine universe, I hear you.
But what kind of yoga?
I live in Los Angeles now. There are more options for yoga than there are flavors of Baskin-Robbins’ ice cream. There’s everything from hot yoga and cardio-based to relaxation-focused and aerial. And then there’s the terminology, which I refused to learn. So, I just kind of let my heart do the talking and decided to do the one that spoke to me most.
That’s when I saw an option for naked yoga.
I know what you’re thinking: That many people in a small room spreading themselves wide really does NOT need to be naked. I’m with you. But like I said, I hurt my back and I like being naked. Naked beach, Turkish bathhouse, a regular Thursday … If there’s an opportunity to be naked, I’m RSVP’ing “Yes.” I found a studio on the west side of Los Angeles that did coed yoga — in the buff.
I’m ready for my enlightenment
I entered the yoga room clothed, like everyone else, put my clothes in a cubby in the changing room (which was separated by gender), and made my way to the floor. Most of my fellow yogis were in their 30s or 40s, a range of shapes, and mostly female.
My biggest fear probably wasn’t like that of most guys in this situation. I wasn’t scared of getting an erection. I was mostly worried about the possible smell of poo. It was almost a game changer for me, but fortunately, the studio had an array of incense available — probably to mask the inevitable smell that comes with Happy Baby Pose.
The instructor, also nude, led us through the traditional poses. Initially, I attempted to go with the flow, but got distracted and started looking around the room to gauge other’s reactions. I’d anticipated people sneaking a peek, but most were peacefully practicing, exclusively focused on the yoga. It’s as if the clothes they normally wore had kept them back from a fulfilling experience they craved.
I decided to focus on my movements. I’m not the most limber, so I was struggling. But I finally “met” myself and focused on my breath, exactly as the instructor said to do. As I attempted to move into a particular movement, the instructor came over and corrected my stance.
“Move your hips forward,” she said.
I did it.
“More forward,” she said.
I did it again.
She didn’t look impressed, which is doubly embarrassing when you’re naked.
After a while, everything became normal. I didn’t feel naked and was able to focus on the yoga. Unlike my days in New York City, there were no audible moaners in the room. (Come to think of it, the idea of moaning in a room full of naked people could probably be misconstrued.)
Being able to truly focus on practice finally gave me the “aha!” moment (everything comes back to Oprah) I was looking for.
I hate yoga.
Yoga sucks, clothed or naked.
Like, being naked is great, but even being naked couldn’t make yoga bearable for me. Looking back, I probably didn’t even hate the moaners. I just hated yoga. And it’s not yoga’s fault.
Honestly, it’s me.
Yoga makes me more inside my head than I want to be. I get stressed. And frankly, stress is the opposite reaction you’re supposed to get from yoga. I’m impressed that others can rest their minds and not feel like they’re being judged. But the whole thing is just too namaste, live-your-best-life for me.
So, yoga and I can continue to agree to disagree. It only took me getting naked, ass up, to realize this ... which, honestly, is how I’ve learned most of my mistakes in life.
H. Alan Scott is a writer/comedian based in Los Angeles. His work has been featured on MTV, VICE, Esquire, The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Daily Dot, Nerdist, and Fusion. He’s appeared on CNN, MTV, Fusion, and “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” He’s consulted on Fusion’s “No, You Shut Up” and TV Land’s “Younger.” H. Alan chronicled his cancer diagnosis with #Chemocation, currently being made into a memoir.