This holiday weekend, I decided it was time for me get naked in public.

No, this isn’t some April Fools joke a week late. I really decided it was time.

The first time this thought ever crossed my mind was when I was studying at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. At the Institute, we not only dove into the real reasons we hold more weight than our body needs (i.e. psychological and emotional reasons), we also did a ton of work around our relationship to food AND our relationship to our own body.

In our work around healthy body image, I remember my teacher talking about being very uncomfortable with his own body, and it wasn’t until he lived in a nudist colony (!?) for a period of time that he became totally comfortable in his own skin.

I remember thinking, “Wow! I don’t think I’d EVER just walk around naked for everyone to see my body.”

And that’s the first time it really hit me:

I have so many nit-picky complaints about my body. Sometimes I like aspects of my body, but unconditional love? For everything??? Even my soft belly and thick thighs? I then realized I’m rarely even naked in locker rooms despite the fact I’ve worked at health clubs my whole adult life.

This thought alone sent me into the deep work on fully loving and accepting ALL of me…. the good and the bad.

Side note and teaching moment:

This actually takes (real) work on our part to undo the cultural conditioning of perfectionism, followed promptly by hating our bodies when they don’t add up to what we (society) think(s) we (it) should look like.

The ever-evolving work for me has been practicing Self love first and foremost. I do this by slowing down. Not being so busy. Sitting for periods of time in quiet places. Being vulnerable to those who love me.

Being vulnerable to mySelf.

This gives space for thoughts and emotions to come up and become fully integrated and healed.

I also do this by putting myself in situations to teach me how amazing my body is. I’ll get dressed up and go salsa dancing. I’ll hit the beach in a bikini (especially when I don’t feel like it). I’ll do a fun and challenging workout… Or… (apparently) get naked in public!!!

Okay… back to our regularly scheduled Motivation Monday:

Since studying yoga more deeply over the past 4 years in San Francisco, Harbin Hot Springs seemed to be the buzz in my yoga community. It’s a clothing optional “California hippie” kind-of-a place, and for 4 years I’ve been curious to go, but never made the leap….. until this weekend. : )

I got there on Friday and decided to familiarize myself with the place before heading to my room. I hiked around the area, found the cafe, the restaurant, the gazebo, and the cool market where they sell everything from incense and crystals, to raw chocolate and organic bras. : )

Then, I kept venturing up and ended up at a gate that said “no glass allowed past this gate”. I looked up and saw a whole bunch of naked.

Everywhere naked.

I couldn’t even see the four beautiful pools… all I saw was naked. : )

I became very anxious and my mind started racing. “What if someone thinks I’m staring?… don’t stare Audra!…. Just look down. Be cool. This is normal. OMG… I must look so weird to everyone else since I have clothes on! I’m not taking off my clothes… no way. I’ll just walk through as if everything is normal. Ok… that’s enough… get me out of here!”….

And that’s about how it happened.

I spent the rest the afternoon and evening hanging out in the places where people wore clothes. I took a yoga class, hung out at the cafe reading, then headed straight to my room. No hot springs for me. : (

I wrote in my journal, cried a little, and had a big heart-to-heart with mySelf.

Where inside of me was I still holding onto shame about my body?

Where was I withholding love?

I sat in silence and paid deep conscious attention to all the emotions and thoughts that were coming up inside of me, and I held them all in an unconditional loving embrace.

At 8:30pm, I decided it was time. There was a Full Moon Ceremony in one of the hot spring pools led by this 70-something year old wise woman…and I wanted to go.

Gave mySelf a big cosmic hug and kiss, grabbed my towel, and walked up to the pools.

I took a deep breath, headed into the co-ed changing room, took off my clothes, grabbed my towel, walked outside to the showers, cleaned up, then headed to the pool where the ceremony was about to start. There were probably over 50 people already in the pool as I walked down the steps to secure my spot in the corner.

Phew! I did it.

The ceremony calmed me (as well as the 70-something year old naked wise woman leading it).
It was meditative, relaxing, and after about an hour, we all looked to the east and saw the magnificent full moon burning bright in the sky. I cried a little.

What a perfect experience for me to have.

After it was over, I walked back to the changing room, put my clothes on, and headed back to my room.

The next day was a piece of cake. : )

It was a full day of lounging in the sun and hot springs. I was surrounded by people of ALL shapes and sizes. Every imaginable shape and sized body you can think of.
For me, it was a not only healing to feel comfortable enough in my own skin, but the healing really came from seeing how many other people were comfortable in their own skin as well.

It was truly freeing to have this experience.

I had such a great experience that I started thinking I would like to hold a weekend retreat their for women to work on healing body image challenges in a workshop setting while including trips to the hot springs to be naked in public!

What do you think? Would you come? 😉

If you have ever struggled with loving your body exactly as it is right now… I hope you go through this or a similar process for yourself.

Questions I’d LOVE you to answer:

Have you had a similar experience? OR have you always wanted to have a similar experience? If this intimidates you, would you be interested in joining a workshop led by me? I’d love to hear your story!

Share in the comments below.

Love and Light,

Audra : )

4 Comments

  • Anita

    Hi Audra,

    I wanted to share your story of Harbin brought back fond and anxiety filled memories with Gracie when I visited Harbin. Ahh,the co-ed changing rooms. I cringed at the idea and mustered my courage but no two ways to splice it, getting talked to and hit on while undressing is weird. Gracie couldn’t do it and I loved her more for it. I got undressed b/c of the pressure not to stick out with my clothes on. I was new to Cali and thought by doing so I was going through a rite of passage. I laugh at this now. Gracie, she just didn’t care what others thought. She was wearing her swimsuit. There is/was underlying issues about our body issues but I loved that she wanted to be comfortable and relaxed and enjoy her day, so she had clothes on. The only one! She had a great time. I was uncomfortable the whole day and never truly relaxed.

  • Regina

    Hi Audra,

    As you may know, in Europe it is completely normal to be naked in the Sauna. I used to go all the time and it is no big deal because everybody else is naked, too! When I tell my friends in Europe that here you have to wear a bathing suit in the sauna, they laugh. How uncomfortable, to be wearing anything in the sauna! It is definitely a cultural thing. It is unfortunate that people here are so uptight about showing their bodies, especially since Americans are less uptight about many other things.

  • Audra Baker

    Regina:

    My partner is European, and while he wasn’t with me on this trip, he can’t understand why it was such a big deal for me to be nude. It makes me want to move to Europe! : ) And I totally agree with you. The further I go on my journey, the more I cringe at some of the things in my own culture…

    Anita:

    OMG I just laughed so hard reading your comment! While no one “hit on me” (I think I was sending out super intense vibes: “warning do NOT approach me or I’ll chop off your head!!!”), I like you felt like it would be weird to keep my clothes on…so good for your friend for sticking to her convictions. : ) Thank you so much for sharing! : )

  • Kristin

    This story is very inspiring, Audra! It’s so amazing that you push yourself to do things like this, and that you are so self-aware. During my one-on-one coaching call with you, I think I mentioned that I struggle a lot in this area. While I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to sign up to be nude in public, I know I definitely need something like this to undo years of body-shame and low self-esteem. So yes, this intimidates me. And yes, I would love to participate in a workshop. And MAYBE I would consider coming to a retreat after some convincing (and assurance that it would be just women, otherwise I think my boyfriend might freak a little bit :)). Thanks for posting this and sharing your story with us! You’re very brave!

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