On Sunday night I went to naked yoga. Yes, you read that correctly: NAKED YOGA; I did a downward dog with no clothes on and a sun salutation with everything out for the world to see.
I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again: life has got very weird.
My sister is now getting worried. ‘There’s a line and this is crossing it,’ she told me over lunch before class. ‘Why are you doing it? Just to say ‘yes’ to things? If you get asked to join a cult or become a Scientologist are you going to say yes?’
Er, at the moment, probably. Yes.
But actually there are a few reasons I did it.
1) I heard about it when I was researching an article and the London based teacher told me I could come along. And I really am on a mission to say yes to random opportunities coming my way.
2) According to The Sunday Times, who ran a piece this weekend, Matthew McConaughey is a fan and Lady Gaga has it in her latest video. So it’s cool – and I live, sleep and breath cool. Ha! I really don’t.
3) It sounded terrifying – and this year has been all about doing stuff that terrifies me. Although on a scale of one to stand up comedy, it’s still less scary than the comedy.
4) It’s meant to transform the way you feel about your body and make you love it, possibly for the first time, which sounds nice.
Although I don’t actively hate my body, I don’t love it either. My arse is fat, my thighs wobble, I have cellulite, I have scars etc. I try not to think about it because I know that I’m very lucky to have a healthy body that works and as a size 12-14, I’m a very normal size – but the truth is I have a kind of low-grade body-loathing all the time. It’s boring and draining. I would like to get rid of that.
When I interviewed Annette, the yoga teacher, she said that the feedback from people is astonishing in terms of how it helps them to love and accept their body.
She believes that we’re living in a time of totally unrealistic ideas about what a body should look like – thanks to the media – and this class goes against that by showing bodies in their many forms.
I thought that she was talking rubbish and that actually it would be lots of perfect yoga bodies – but it wasn’t. When I arrived at the tiny studio in South London I was relieved that everyone looked quite normal. There were all ages from twenties to sixties and about two thirds men, one-third women.
There really were all shapes and sizes – from what I could see, at least.
And that was the weird thing, I actually didn’t see much at all. Once we were in the dimly lit studio everyone kept eyes to themselves.
We were told to find a mat, get ‘changed’ – ie undressed – and lie down. I found a spot, removed my leggings and jumper, took a deep breath as I took off my bra and knickers and lay down quickly. I didn’t look at the two men on either side of me doing the same. It’s amazing what you can block out.
I worked hard telling myself that they were enlightened yogis and not perverts – and that I should grow up. I had a flashback of the nuns who taught me at school. Catholic bloody repression – you can’t shake it.
Cleverly the mats are arranged in a horseshoe shape and at a diagonal so that you can see Annette but are not looking directly at other people – and nobody is behind you.
And it was a relief that most of the class was done lying down with eyes closed. It was more like a moving meditation than acrobatic yoga.
When the moves got a bit more dynamic I did get self-conscious. I had moments – when doing the downward dog – where I thought, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ but at no point did I get an eye-full.
It was more about being in your own body than looking at other people’s.
And in that semi-dark studio, with Annette’s soft voice telling us to ‘inquire’ into our breath, something quite miraculous happened – I liked being in my own body. I wasn’t criticising it, hating it, wishing it to be better. Even when my tummy was hanging down when we were on all fours – there’s a mental image for you – it didn’t bother me. I marveled at how my body could bend and move, and at my soft droopy skin.
And although I didn’t plan this class to be part of my self-help month, it turns out that that realisation is in perfect keeping with The Secret’s advice on weight loss.
The book says: ‘You cannot attract your perfect weight if you feel bad about your body now. If you feel bad about your body, that is a powerful feeling, and you will continue to attract feeling bad about your body. You will never change your body if you are critical of it and find fault with it, and in fact you will attract more weight to it. Praise and bless every square inch of your body. Think about all the perfect things bout You.’
So by lying naked with a bunch of strangers and feeling good about my body, I was engaged in a diet more effective than the Atkins.
According to The Secret, ‘if someone is overweight, it came from thinking ‘fat thoughts’, whether that person was aware of it or not. A person cannot think ‘thin thoughts’ and be fat. It completely defies the law of attraction.’
I didn’t realise until this month quite how many ‘fat thoughts’ I have. I have them all the time, when I wake up and get in the shower, when my jeans are tight out of the wash, when I stand next to a skinnier friend.
And those thoughts always make me want to eat more rather than less. I do the whole ‘Right, I’m not eating carbs,’ thought process for about ten minutes, then feel so miserable I have to make some toast.
But if I woke up feeling slim and fabulous, I’d want to stay slim and fabulous with healthy foods. Or at least that’s how I’m reading The Secret’s thinking. I’m guessing that Rhonda Byrne believes that just by thinking ‘I am thin’ the Universe magically helps you drop a stone but I can’t get that.
Bizarrely, she also argues that it’s not food that makes us fat, it’s our thoughts about food that make them fattening, which is why some people can say ‘I eat as much as I like and never put on weight.’ It’s nuts, of course, but I decided to run with that one. I got home from naked yoga and ate a Danish pastry and told myself that it had absolutely no calories. Take that, Universe!
The Secret advises a three-step plan to weight-loss:
Get clear on the weight you want to be – have a picture in your mind of what you’d look like. If it’s a weight from your past then take out an old picture and keep looking at it.
Believe that you are that weight already. Write out your perfect weight and put it on the scales, over the real number. Buy clothes for the slimmer you, not clothes that fit you now. And – this one is really strange – make it your ‘intention’ to look at slim people and ‘do not observe’ people who are overweight.
Feel good about your weight now. As you think ‘perfect thoughts’ you’ll summon your ‘perfect weight.’
Buy clothes that don’t fit
I don’t really have a set weight I’d like to be and I don’t have scales to graffiti but I did buy this:
It’s a dress in a size 10 – and before you tell me off for spending money when I’m so in debt (see money month) it was heavily reduced in a sale and it’s the first thing I’ve bought in months. I can just about get into it now but it’s very tight on the bum and thighs. I’ve left it hanging on the outside of the wardrobe to remind me of the kind of shape I’d like to be in.
I might wear it out with my new naked yoga friends. Although I’m sure it will make my sister want to hold an intervention, I’m going back. It really did help me feel better about my body. Not the body I want to have or the one I once had but the one I have right now. The one that gets me up and carries me through the day. And that’s quite amazing.
Maybe my sister might have a point – I am losing sight of where the line of ‘normality’ is. But so what? I wasn’t particularly happy being ‘normal’, being weird is much more interesting. I spoke to one of the guys at the end of the class, a very well spoken, good-looking man in his twenties. ‘I’m an economist,’ he said. ‘I have to do crazy things at the weekend to make up for it.’ Exactly! We all need to do crazy things sometimes.