BDSM Yoga Exists, for Some Reason

I squeezed myself into some latex and went down to check a class out.

|
Nov 24 2017, 10:18am

All photos by Albina Maks

“You’re brave,” the girl said lightly, looking me up and down. What? Surveying the room, I realized everyone else had shot for looks that recalled Britney Spears’ backing dancers or Daenerys Targaryen at the gym. There were interesting crossover bra straps and peekaboo cleavage.

One man attending the class was slightly more exposed—he would eventually strip to just his hot pants, telling me later that despite doing “yoga for many, many years”, he’d found the class “more physically challenging than [he] was expecting.” Meanwhile, my outfit meant I was labouring under roughly the same degree of self-consciousness about my breasts as a Mills & Boon character (“she climbed the stairs, chest heaving”).

I couldn’t tell you precisely why I felt the need to go to a kink yoga class on a Friday morning in Berlin where participants are encouraged to “wear latex and kink clothing to increase your power of intuition,” except that maybe it had something to do with a hunger for something new. In the last year of my 20s, I go to more baby’s-first-birthday parties than all-nighters and skip Sundays out clubbing to stay home and work.

All of this made me a shoo-in for the class—if you had the requisite appetite or energy to fuck with a full-time kink lifestyle, you’d presumably just go to Berlin’s sex clubs. But this class was perfect for harassed freelancers: it was a sober, ninety-minute opportunity for exploration, followed by complimentary tea. A friend with a more interesting life had come through with the ideal outfit: a latex bustier and hot pants, plus a silver dog collar and leash. I chickened out on the collar at the last moment.


Watch: Meet the Real People Behind Your Virtual Boyfriend


Madeleine White, the Australian yoga teacher and brains behind the concept, stood in the centre of the room in a lurex catsuit, radiating calm. The 25 year old explained that the constrictive aspect of BDSM wear helps with mindfulness—that it focused your attention on your body. I assumed it was just a really good line. But when we got down to the breathing exercises, my lizard brain actually stayed focused on the way my latex-wrapped abdomen moved, something that rarely happens when I’m using a meditation app at home.

After strutting round the room, feeling the way our bodies moved, we were instructed to focus on our “ovaries or gonads,” circling our hips in a figure of eight with this part of our anatomy. White instructed us to come closer together and to touch our neighbour’s back at the level where their ovaries or testicles would be, though cautioned us to “feel the person’s energy—if you can feel that they’re not comfortable with you doing so, don’t touch them.”

Read more: Your Brain on BDSM: Why Getting Spanked and Tied Makes You Feel High

We all sheepishly placed our hands no lower than at the base of the back. We were bold, we were kinky, but we weren’t about to go anywhere near a stranger’s bottom outside of a sex club. We swayed in unison, dutifully did our figure eights with our ovaries and “gonads,” a word I have never heard with such frequency before. Eventually we all held hands.

It was nice. Cosy, even. This was about the extent of the kink aspect of the class, aside from White giving us all individual head and neck massages at the cooling down exercise, which, like much of the class, felt curiously intimate rather than kinky.

The rest of the class was far more dreamlike, taking its cues from Butoh, an avant-garde dance form the New York Times once called “Japan's most startling cultural export.”

White emitted that same trilling noise you hear at the dolphin show at SeaWorld and encouraged us to exhale doing the same. We pretended to rip our faces off with a pop. We pretended that our nipples were eyes and our belly button was a nose and our pelvis was a mouth and we tried to breathe through our pelvis. We were told to be dying fish and to energetically flop around on the hard wooden floor. White later told me that this was the more yoga-friendly version of the Butoh exercise where you pretend “you’re a fish out of water with a wound that’s open and bleeding and then you’re raped.”

There was enough yoga to keep exercise junkies happy—White asked us to try and do 108 yogic knee squats, which involved navigating between squatting and standing with some fancy heel work, which sounded easy in theory, but in practice felt Olympian. I did ten sets, got tired, left to drink some water, and half-heartedly did a few more.

Sweat was pouring off me. Doing these exercises in latex was no joke. Not only was it twice as hot, but leaping up and down meant having to keep an eye on my neckline, while the floor work that came later and which required me to lie on my front meant impaling myself on the oversized zip of my top. It was masochism, if not exactly the type I’d readied myself for.

Madeleine White (center), the kink yoga instructor.

While part of her inspiration came from her own experiences in darkrooms, White explained that she’d been specifically inspired to create the class after starting to practice shibari, a type of Japanese rope bondage, at the Berlin sex club KitKat three months ago. She said that the practice can push a person’s limits, and things can go badly wrong—the Daily Beast reported on a shibari accident that led to a woman’s death in 2011.

When shibari goes awry, White explained, untying someone or even cutting the ropes can take a few minutes, which means it’s vital to focus on your breathing and “just relax, otherwise you can suffocate or freak out.”

Kink yoga, for White, is “a lot to do with having control over anxiety. This is why I’m really drawn to yoga, because it calms me, it keeps me grounded. Life sometimes has a way of holding you so tight that you can’t breathe. So does latex.”

For More Stories Like This, Sign Up for Our Newsletter

And perhaps she’s right. The class wasn’t anything like I was expecting—it managed to be both weirder and more intimate. But on squeaking my way home, costume under my jeans and jumper like a real-life Superman, I felt an overpowering sense of calm. Serenity on a weekday? Perhaps that’s the sweetest possible kink of all.