A yoga instructor is teaching classes naked to help boost the confidence of women in South-West London.
Doria Gani has been practicing yoga for twelve years since battling cervical cancer, but she had never practiced it naked until 2015. Gani visited Nevada to attend the Burning Man Festival and that’s when she began to embrace nudity in her practices.
Gani asked a person with a camera to take some photos of her doing yoga poses naked, and she felt entirely free of shame. She’s now grown to love and accept her body, and wants to help others do the same. She knows it’s not easy: she had come to terms with the fact that she will never be able to have children, and that there’s a permanent caesarean-type scar on her pubic bone from her cancer surgery.
Back when she grew up in Tuscany, Italy, she spent a long time battling with body demons. She says she never felt slim enough for her 5ft 2in frame, and at the age of 25 she developed bulimia and lost a lot of weight. A year after developing this eating disorder, she recovered, but still had negative thoughts about her body.
When Gani turned 29 she moved to London to improve her English and got a job in Covent Garden. Four years later she noticed she was bleeding after having sex with her then-boyfriend. She told The Sun, “A smear test and biopsy revealed the worst possible news: I had stage 3 cervical cancer. In May 2009, I had surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which pushed me into early menopause. It was devastating to be told I would never be able to have children.”
After months of treatments, she went into a yoga class held by Macmillan Cancer Support. It was a practice she’d never tried before, but after just three classes she “felt happier and stronger.”
In March 2014, Gani decided to take six weeks off work to train as a yoga teacher in India. A year later she attended the Burning Man Festival, and saw a model posing naked under a huge sculpture. She decided to try it.
“Stripping off, I walked up to a guy with a camera and asked him to take pictures of me. I was nervous at first as I started doing yoga poses and he snapped away, but I concentrated on my breathing, lost in the moment,” she said.
When she came back to London, she wanted to share the feeling she’d had by teaching naked yoga, and in April 2016 she started doing one-on-one classes around her HR job.
Since then Gani has started teaching group classes and has said that while some students leave chatting and smiling, others have left crying — which she said happens when you release stress and trauma. She’s left her HR job to go full-time as a teacher, and even operated classes over Zoom during the pandemic.
Yoga has allowed Gani to let go of the past, and stay mentally and physically fit. She says that now, “Helping others to love their bodies has become my life’s work.”