Bold And Naked Yoga With Monika Werner
Finding Joschi Bold & Naked is a bit like searching for a secret, underground club. Only after approval through an online application are you contacted with a space in the next class and finally sent the studio address. On a regular Tuesday night, I step out of the elevator to a slightly ajar studio door. I see boobs. And a penis or two. The beauty is no one cares. This is the entrance hallway to the studio. Disrobing happens before entering the studio practice room. Still dressed, I sign in at the front desk, trying so hard to act cool. By this time, the naked ones have grabbed mats and set up for class. Just like any normal clothed yoga class, the back rows fill up first.
I finish signing the waiver, gingerly remove my clothes, suddenly alone in the hallway. I know what’s happening. I take a deep breath, suck it up, and awkwardly weave my naked booty to the front of the room. It’s just me, the teacher, and an exhibitionist German gentleman in the front row, which makes total sense. The Joschi studio has been around for 8 years, but only naked for 1.5, offering co-ed naked yoga classes bi-weekly and male only naked classes weekly. Monika Werner, co-owner of Joschi Bold & Naked says they tried to do women only, but didn’t get enough interest. Monika makes an effort to keep co-ed classes 50/50 men and women, but the energy in the room is still very masculine – it takes guts (or, you know) to come to naked yoga in the middle of NYC. Monika, who already knows everyone by name, sits and smiles at the front of the room. She checks in with each person asking for an energy level on a scale of 1-10, starting with me. I blurt out 7.8, because I’m naked and feeling awkward. But the decimal gets a laugh and now we’re all naked BFF’s. Monika doesn’t plan her classes; she waits to gauge energy and goes by the mood of the room. Her music, however, is very upbeat, with hints of techno and calm European club music. There’s a subtle non-American theme throughout the whole experience. I hear lots of European accents and other languages spoken (even Monika is from Germany). Apparently the room was very energetic this night. We start with forward folds, quick Surya A’s and B’s, Warriors, and lunges. My legs shake, it’s a naked power vinyasa. Within 30 seconds, I forget I’m naked. Forward folds and Down Dogs aren’t as scary as I expected. Everything is exposed (we even do naked Happy Baby pose…), but no one cares, so I don’t care. I never felt stared at, judged, or sexualized in any way. This means I was also free to glance at other people’s bodies, because that’s what they become – just bodies floating through space, making cool shapes. There is something profoundly innocent about the whole experience. Although the room wasn’t hot yoga (I checked), the fifth floor studio filled with 20 people is humid, and I start sweating during that initial seated check-in. By the time we salute the sun, I’m dripping. My profuse sweat would be mildly annoying in a normal yoga class, but now with no clothes to catch my sweat, it’s suddenly all I can think about. And a sweaty naked body creates some difficulty in certain poses – for example, you really need something to mop up sweat before attempting naked Crow Pose. It’s very slippery. Moving through Chair Pose with twists, Monika gives our core and glutes a workout. From lunges and Warrior, she says, “Imagine yourself in Half Moon” and lets us glide into the balance. Starting to cool down, we move through Revolved Triangle and Revolved Half Moon, finally making our way down to Pigeon. The class was smartly designed, with no shortage of variations for every pose. Ending with options for inversions, Monika reminds us to listen to our bodies for any last stretch, and everyone gratefully makes our way to Savasana. Letting the naked bodies cool, letting the sweat dry, and the eyes close. Monika plays the most beautiful Sanskrit song with chants and chimes so loud I have to open my eyes at one point to make sure it’s not live music. As we wake up, the room is dim and relaxed. The energy is beautiful, no one wants to leave. Everyone lingers, relaxing, chatting, enjoying the nakedness with 20 other yogis. No one wants to rush out of the moment, but eventually move out into the hallway, putting on clothes, complimenting and getting to know one another. And that’s it. I promise Monika I’ll come back for another class and head outside, into the real world. I had gone into naked yoga with big expectations, fears of Downward Dog and eye contact...but the truth is, none of that mattered. Being naked felt natural after a few seconds. I didn’t have any spiritual transformation or massive enlightenment from doing naked yoga, and I think that’s the point. Monika and the Joschi studio are careful who they accept in to class, protecting everyone’s integrity and ensuring a welcoming, loving, positive experience. They create an environment so comfortable and safe that the yogis aren’t really naked anymore; they’re just a sea of beautiful bodies doing an hour of sweaty poses. - Madeleine Kelsey for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $25, mat not included. And you’ll probably want a towel. Pre-registration and questionnaire required online.
Tuesday 7:15-8pm (co-ed class is every other week; check website for dates)
Open Level Joschi Bold & Naked
163 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011