Great article by NICOLA JANE HOBBS
I love when I underestimate the amount of beautiful souls who want to get naked and celebrate their holy body and sensual spirits. Such a beautiful Holy Body Retreat in NYC this past Sunday with Rev. Goddess Charmaine, myself and our beloved community. Naked Yoga, Naked Church, Trance Dance, love and blessings to our body temples and sensual spirits.
Holy Body Retreat with Naked Yoga, Naked Church & Trance Dance!
This Sunday 10am-2pm!!!
Come feel powerful, holy, wild, sensual, free, and totally you
Join Rev. Goddess Charmaine & Isis Phoenix for
Clothing Optional Holy Body Retreat!!!
Freedom Movement Trance Dance
Holy Body Worship “Naked Church”
Group Bodywork & Healing Circle
Sunday, September 29th, 2013
10 to 2pm
This is a Clothing Optional Event
Our bodies are miracles, beauty, complex ecosystems, walking art – each unique, holy and beautiful. Gift your holy body and sensual spirit to a nourishing and celebratory afternoon with your soul family. Come nourish, rejoice and celebrate with yoga, dance, naked church and healing bodywork!
We welcome you to a community who loves, honors and celebrates the holy, sacred and celebratory union of body and spirit.
If you play an instrument and feel led called to bring it we will incorporate sound and music healing into Naked Church and Group Bodywork.
Sunday, September 29th 12 to 4pm
638 E. 6th Street
Ny, NY 10009
$39 in advance
$49 at the door
Questions or to reserve your spot now!
Isis Phoenix: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Goddess: email@example.com
Please bring your yoga mat, a towel and blindfold.
Abigail Ekue came to one of the very first naked yoga classes I taught in 2007 and actually ended up writing and publishing an article about her experience. She is a powerhouse of a woman and someone who I consistently learn from. I asked her to tell me about her relationship to her body and if and when she had ever experienced shame.
Abigail Ekue Interview by Isis Phoenix
I’ve always been athletic. When I was young, I loved the swings, jungle gyms, hanging upside down. I had an adventurous spirit. I grew up in New York City – the urban jungle. In our apartment building, I would jump up and down full flights of stairs. Water fights by the hydrants in the summer, snowball fights in the winter. I ran with the boys. When puberty hit boys began to notice me in a different way. And I was noticing them. Puberty was an awakening. My breasts began to grow. My body was changing. My left breast grew faster than the right – ‘Hefty Lefty,’ is what I call her. It was the last time I can remember experiencing being uncomfortable in my body. I was eleven years old.
I’m a weight lifter and kick-boxer. I do yoga, plyometrics, jumping, bounding, power work – box jumps, squat jumps, combo moves, mountain climbing moves – anything that makes me feel powerful. Love the way the body looks and feels when I lift – the quiver, the burn. I never starved myself. I never went on any crash diets. My mom is Jamaican and my father is from Nigeria. Our bodies are round and strong, our butts are high. Black women would warn me to be careful of losing too much weight with all the working out I was doing. Black women are “supposed” to have big butts. I liked being tight and toned. I loved the feeling of being strong. My butt isn’t going anywhere.
I was a personal trainer and a certified Athletic Trainer. I enjoyed teaching people how to take care of their bodies and how to accept them. Now I do that through my art. I’m a writer, photographer, model, provocateur. My work celebrates beauty and darkness. Mainstream would have you believe there isn’t beauty in us all. It’s time to change the mainstream.
Anya’s story is one that has touched and moved me so deeply. It hits close to home for me as a woman growing up with the challenges of body dysmorphia and confusion around food as nourishment. Her path is fearlessly transparent and deeply self-inquiring. I am so grateful for all that she has chosen to share here. My hopes are that when we tell our stories and lay ourselves bare we create an entry point of unconditional love and universal transformation for the highest light and love possible. Thank you for taking the time to read.
Love & Blessings,
Occupation: Yoga Teacher, Counselor
I’m just starting to put myself out there as a teacher of naked yoga. Naked yoga is not just about taking off your clothes. It’s about taking off your belief systems and, more importantly, realizing just what beliefs you’ve been wearing.
There was a lot of duality for me growing up. I grew up in Italian Jewish family and food was a big part of our lives. It was an eateateat culture, but in this culture it was also expected that you had to thin. In my family, food was a form of both reward and punishment.
From my parents and grandparents, I felt judgment and disdain for people who were overweight. If I wasn’t thin, I wasn’t good enough and no one would love me. How does one eat and be thin?
With those dualities in me, I became bulimic. I used to go from McDonalds, Burger King, 7-11, eat as much as I possibly could and then throw up. The binging numbed my sense of not feeling good enough. I was a train wreck with food for most of my life because of the bulimia. I never felt in control over what I would eat and was in a constant cycle of binging, purging and not eating. I was like a heroin addict when it came to eating. As I look back, there was a lot of undoing to do, to create peace and contentment and acceptance within myself. I have a tremendous amount of compassion for people who are caught up in food addiction.
The practice of yoga has been a wonderful tool on my healing journey. This next step of practicing nude yoga has made me feel more comfortable in my body than I ever have.
Yoga is a process. Nude yoga is a process. I discovered naked yoga sort of by accident. One day, I happened to do yoga in my home yoga studio before getting dressed and discovered how different the practice felt without clothes on. It wasn’t a planned experiment. It just happened. And instantly I felt more open in my body, more deeply connected to my inner self, and more able to radiate my energy. It started organically and it then began to gradually happen more regularly. I found I continued to be drawn to go into my yoga room to practice without clothes. There was a deeper drawing that my body and soul wanted to experience in this practice.
What yoga does is give me a new awareness of my body. It gives me a space in which to attune to myself, and part of that is noticing what foods don’t work for me. Yogic principles of mindfulness help me recognize what my body feels called to eat and predict how I will feel after that. I didn’t learn those lessons on the first try. It took a lot of time and awareness and patience. I have a lot more awareness now but know I still have a long way to go.
Cultivating my relationship with the inner witness to my body’s needs has become one of the strongest lessons I’ve learned through yoga. There are different qualities to this witness. I’ve learnt to see her unconditional love, her acceptance and her great sense of humor. Because I spent so many years with negative thoughts and emotions controlling my mind, the inner witness took a long time to emerge from her shell. But now she has, I can see that all that negative programming is not who I am. I can choose what’s right for me in any moment.
No one knows your body the way you do. Each day the body is different, each year it evolves. What we need to eat and how we need to eat changes as well. There’s no expert other than yourself and your body. That lesson also took some time to sink in. At first, I attempted to heal my food addiction through consulting experts in the field. That basically turned my addiction to bad foods into an addiction to raw foods, vegetarian diets or veganism. I was just as mentally sick on these diets as I was eating McDonalds. I don’t think being vegan or a raw food-ist is the answer if it’s just a swap of one addiction for another.
Just as my yoga benefited from removing my clothes, my relationship with food was strengthened by removing labels, food belief systems and ‘right diet’ concepts so I could focus on my own personal balance. This was so important in the process. Now, I eat raw food on some days and cooked meat on others because I can feel what my body needs and wants on a day-to-day basis. I can choose what’s right for me in any moment. Eating as simply as possible works best for me, but I’m attuned to my needs. I have become empowered to be my own body’s expert.
This empowerment grew alongside the increased body consciousness I found in naked yoga. For me now, teaching nude yoga is about self-study as well as deconstructing imprisoning belief systems. You can’t get out of a prison if you don’t know you’re in one. Most of us don’t know it. We’re just there. The first step is finding what imprisons you. Come to where you are in the present moment and love that, whatever it looks like. I know sometimes it’s hard to love things that seem ugly to us, but begin to love yourself just as you are in the present moment, no matter what it looks like. Put your own needs ahead of pleasing someone else. Practice self-awareness and self-study.
Each person comes to the mat with the work that they need to do. When teaching naked classes, I want to create a space where each person can receive their work, let go of imprisoning belief systems and thought forms, and find their unique truth, so they can feel truly comfortable in their body with or without clothes on.
Anya is currently teaching Nude Yoga at Release in Asbury Park. To inquire about Anya’s New Jersey based naked yoga classes email firstname.lastname@example.org
For private naked yoga sessions with Isis Phoenix in New York City email: email@example.com
I met Lloyd a few weeks after I wrote to tell him he won the ‘Share your naked yoga story contest‘ and to ask him when was a good time to collect on his complimentary naked yoga session, the gift for writing such a great story. Meeting him has changed or perhaps confirmed my perspective on many things. How do I introduce you to Lloyd in a way that will best capture his essence… Lloyd is in that rare race of Man-Gods that are on the planet. His embodiment of the divine masculine is a hybrid of philosopher, warrior, medicine man and lover of the Goddess. On meeting, at first glance I was instantly taken with the thought – Wow! This is a full sized man! His physical frame was similar to what one might see in the marbled statues of Greek and Roman deities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His body is solid like iron and wood but also present is an unmistakable heart energy that permeates every cell generating warmth and openness in his energy field. I learned on our first meeting that he had indeed been a warrior and proudly served his country as well being a published author, physician, massage therapist, research scientist… he had many incarnations so far in just this one lifetime and they didn’t feel anywhere close to being complete. We sat in my living room and spoke for a while on relationships, naturism and spirituality before we moved into our yoga practice. When we did practice together it felt very much like practicing alongside a demigod, huge beautiful sculpted feet, a frame so tall that in his sun salutes his hands brushed the ceiling. It was asking a New York City apartment a lot to hold space for this man.
The basic questions that guided this essay were – Tell me the story of your body and why you chose it? What is yoga to you? Why practice naked yoga?
Occupation: Research Scientist, Physician, Writer, Philosopher.
Norse and Slovak DNA directed the construction of my body 60 years ago after the union of my father’s seed with my mother’s ready egg. That early body suffered involuntary circumcision, a diet of processed and preserved foods, and obligatory church on Sunday dressed in the most uncomfortable clothing available. To compensate I spent a lot of time outdoors, at least until TV became popular enough to replace fun.
With the Sixties came new and interesting ideas from the East, yoga among them. My puberty dawned with the Age of Aquarius and my budding sexuality neatly parallels my education in yoga. Both began with a book.
Neither sex nor yoga should be learned from a book, but that was all we had. In my world depictions of sex and nudity were harshly censored. Today a young person can find pictures of naked people and sex acts. In 1965, we couldn’t. Sex education used no realistic illustrations, let alone that most powerful of all learning tools: the hands-on demonstration.
The anxiety I felt during Mr. Boydston’s 7th grade health class description of the process is still vivid. “The male inserts the penis into the female vagina. He performs a rocking motion until ejaculation occurs.” Insert tab A into slot B? Rocking motion? My god! I’ve been doing it wrong! What if I can’t get it right when I have to do this for real with my wife? What if she laughs at me?
It wasn’t until I saw my first explicit sex film in 1970 that I realized that sex would be fun and easy. And wouldn’t it have saved us all a lot of angst and bother if Mr. Boydston could have just shown us a clip in the first place?
My first book on yoga was fascinating but had no illustrations. It emphasized breathing and meditation rather than asanas. When I chanced upon a magnificent book by B. K. S. Iyengar, richly illustrated with actual photos of the yogi himself, I finally had something tangible to imitate. The breathing and meditation would come later, but a picture of an asana is worth a thousand OMs.
In college – at a Catholic university no less – I took my first yoga class the same year I advanced from sexual observer to participant. The teacher wove breathing and meditation into the asanas and the parts became whole. The teacher explained that yoga should be done in a sacred, calm place (we met in the chapel). She recommended wearing comfortable, loose clothing but then said, “Of course, it is best to wear nothing at all.” To this day I regret withholding the obvious question: “Then why aren’t we wearing nothing at all?”
Indeed, why do we wear clothes? For protection and decoration, to be sure, but why modesty? Is the body evil? Is self-disgust virtuous? Why do we hide for shame and punish people for the heinous crime of being seen naked? Why is there even a word for naked as a special condition? Why should activities naturally done naked require a special moniker? There are “nudists” but no “clothists”. There is “skinny dipping” but no “swimsuit dipping.” Why do we say “naked yoga” but not “clothed yoga?” It should go without saying that yoga is done naked unless otherwise modified.
Naked yoga has helped me in some measure to repair the damage that society’s body shame inflicted. I now not only feel completely normal when naked, I feel that way in the company of others. I now regularly enjoy mixed nude recreation such as the sauna, hot tubbing, skinny dipping, clothing-optional beaches and nudist parks. When everybody has their clothes off, it’s like nobody does.
But naked yoga offers more than mere recreation. The inward focus of yoga opens awareness. The constant chatter of the external world, mostly through the eye and ear gates, crowds out input from the nose, the tongue, the skin and the internal organs. That smothering of the senses is made worse when we truss our bodies up, preventing normal contact with air, sun and water. The wash of sensory feedback is necessary for our grounding, our orientation in the physical world. Indeed, a sense of self could not be possible apart from the framework of the environment, the non-self.
So naked yoga is the optimal way to enhance sensory feedback. It strengthens self-awareness and enriches the experience of social nude recreation. With the practice of naked yoga I’ve resolved over recent years to spend a little time out of doors naked every day. Others have joined me, one by one.
On an evening nude swim in a beautiful but public lake where nudity is technically unlawful, one of my fellow spirits noted that even if we told our colleagues what we do, they still wouldn’t believe it. We are exceptional – healthier, brighter, stronger, more beautiful – because we make decisions and act where others won’t. Courage defines us.
We are of the new old religion, the religion of Olympus. We are demigods, human children of divine origin. Not disembodied spirits; we are flesh, blood and bone that give rise to a brain that supports the soul, fanned by the spirit – the prana – of life-giving oxygen. Our cosmology is inverted, bottom upwards. The spirit arises from the soul, produced by the brain as an inseparable part of the body. Naked yoga links all three in perfect harmony. Naked yoga is the spade with which we dig ourselves free from the mud, wash ourselves, stretch our limbs and revel in our beauty.
But it takes courage. Just because you’re a god, doesn’t mean you don’t have to work at it.
Holy Body Worship, lovingly called “Naked Church” is a clothing optional worship service led by Rev. Goddess Charmaine and Isis Phoenix each month. Having recently abbreviated our name to ‘Naked Church’ we are taking this time to redefine that this continues to be a ‘clothing optional’ event.
Holy Body Worship is an Interfaith spiritual service that celebrates the intimacy and uniqueness of the body and soul relationship through honoring and acknowledging the body as a temple and recognizing it as the vessel our soul chose for incarnation. The option of being naked or skyclad during Service is used to further the expression of reverence and celebration of our body soul relationship to Source. Our bodies are miracles, beauty, complex ecosystems, walking art – each unique, holy and a piece of God/Goddess/Source. The ‘clothing optional’ is simply that – optional. You are never required to be nude during service. It is a matter of choice and truth in the present moment based on how your body feels and wishes to express itself. In service, we view nudity as a form of transparency and intimacy. We bare our soul’s and the places that have been hiding or living inauthentically and bring ourselves back to authenticity, transparency and one-ness. If we feel guarded when we remove our clothes it’s not a form of celebration and we’ve actually moved our relationship to body/soul/source out of union or one-ness and into fragmentation and inauthenticity. However, if you have felt guarded your entire life, perhaps this is the moment to experience your union and one-ness through exploring nudity, through moving through fear and embracing yourself ‘holy’ and completely in this moment.
In Holy Body Worship, we choose to be nude or to celebrate with others who are nude in order to explore a deeper level of intimacy with our bodies, our souls, each other, the divine. To remove that which keeps us separate – and to bring us back into right relationship with body, soul, Source. Whole-y Body Worship celebrates and takes a stand for the right to choose to worship your body naked or clothed or in any state of disrobe that feels appropriate to you in the present moment and also acknowledges that that decision may change from moment to moment. We invite you to ask yourself what makes you feel powerful, holy, wild, sensual, free, and totally you and to celebrate your body soul union from that place?
We look forward to sharing service with you soon!