By Joshua Stein
We were 30 minutes into Hot Nude Yoga. We were done with handholding and had moved into the partnering part of the class. Thierry V., a very tall 49-year-old Frenchman, was hanging off my shoulders. His partner of 18 years, John, a milliner from County Cork, was across the room. Another man was hanging off John's shoulders. Next to me, the small Asian man was hanging off the shoulders of someone else. For the hanger, this is supposed to release the back. 'It's very sensual,' explained Star. Thierry's butt was rubbing against my thighs. His big smiling head hovered above the floor. We had made the beast with two stomachs, not two backs. I was trying to find, as Star puts it, 'my inner resplendence' ('It's sometimes hard to find,' he added reassuringly), but I was distracted by the 170-pound Gaul hanging off my shoulders. 'This might hurt your, um'what are these things?' asked Star, pointing to his clavicles. 'Clavicles,' someone said. I was practically bent in half in an attempt to keep Thierry aloft. His butt hair and the hair on my thighs were like hot, sweaty Velcro. There must be some level of the inferno like this, I thought. Was it simonists or sorcerers? I couldn't remember. Soon it was our turn to switch. I kicked up into a handstand, after which Thierry snatched my ankles and threw them over his shoulders. Hollis assisted us. He stood in front of me, his dick hanging inches above my nose. My dick was inverted too and probably as confused as I was about it. Upside down, I surveyed the studio. On one wall was primitive artwork by a 'B artist,' according to Star. From my vantage point, inverted primitive pregnant women stood in line on wooden pallets, like Venuses of Willendorf waiting to check out at the supermarket. I looked out the window toward the New York Sports Club, where a bank of unused elliptical training machines lined the windows along Sixth Avenue. I was happy that no one was running on them. On our windowsill was a little porcelain figure of two men in coitus. The Enya lady was still singing. Thierry bent over, I curled upward. I was sitting on his shoulders. My junk dug into the back of his neck. He gingerly bent all the way down and placed my feet on the floor. I thought about Roald Dahl's BFG placing little Sophie back on the ground. We hugged.
When I walked into Hot Nude Yoga, my reservations were twofold. One constellation of fear related to others, and the other to myself. For me, as a straight man, the notion of being naked with 10 similarly denuded gay men was, in a word, challenging. And it was more than just hanging out naked. According to Star, 'Hot Nude Yoga, for many gay men, is a great alternative to going to the bathhouse all the time.' Hookups are common, if not always expected. In fact, Star even has a speech he gives at the end of class that he dubs the 'hookup speech.' It's short and to the point: 'Right now your heart is very open, and because of that you want to express yourself sexually, so my suggestion is just to embody that energy and go home.'
In the days leading up to the class, I imagined the hot nude men who populated HNY's website frolicking and groping each other'and me. I wasn't registered, so I could only imagine the members' explicit stories in the forum section: He was in downward-facing dog. I was standing in tree above him' Star had mentioned that there would be a great deal of partnering and something called 'acroyoga''a mixture of acrobatics and yoga. Still, the scenes in my head were less pornographic, more a tragicomedy of manners. I didn't dread the contact, which doesn't bother me, but the almost certain awkwardness that would ensue. A man would cop a feel, I would cop to being straight, he would be pissed, and we'd both feel rejected.
Conversely, I was also mortified that I'd get a hard-on. In itself and all things considered, it's no big deal. In fact, Star told me, 'Guys get hard-ons all the time.' Gay guys do, but I was straight and, technically, should not be turned on by other men. But my dick is a spiteful, contrary prick. It rarely does what I want when I want it to do it. It would be so like him to get an erection just to spite me and my sexual identity.