Victoria woman advocates for equality in yoga studio after being asked to cover up

Jen Frizzley wants to start conversations about ‘desexualizing the body’

A Victoria woman hopes her experience at a local yoga studio will start a conversation about desexualizing nudity.

Jen Frizzley’s second class at Quantum Yoga Club was “significantly hotter” than her first. Laying in the room before class, she says she quickly realized she wasn’t going to enjoy the class in her thick workout top.

READ ALSO: Woman wants Tofino to get a nude beach

When Frizzley looked around she noticed a number of men in the room were already shirtless. So, after checking it was okay with the receptionist and instructor, she decided she too, would go topless. But after the class, the instructor asked her to wear a top next time.

According to Frizzley, the teacher said she noticed a few people were distracted, and that the class needed to focus on their practice.

“I don’t think [the instructor] is in the wrong, per se, she’s just propagating a culture in which it’s okay for men to be shirtless but it’s not okay for women to be shirtless,” Frizzley said.

On its website, Quantum Yoga added an etiquette section that asks yogis to wear “both bottoms and tops” and Yoga Lab Victoria – another local hot yoga studio – has the same policy – asking guests to wear bottoms and tops while in the studio. Skyclad, a Metchosin-based studio, offers clothing-optional Vinyasa – but for men only.

READ ALSO: Gardeners around the world strip down for World Naked Gardening Day

According to Quantum Yoga Lab owner Ken Mayes, the club’s rules are following a North American yoga standard “that women wear tops and are covered up.” He said making sure all clients are comfortable is a top priority, but added for men, the shirt rule is rarely enforced.

“We can’t be all things to all people,” Mayes said. “If someone wants to have a topless class or nude class there’s lots of options, we just don’t offer that.”

“That standard isn’t created by Quantum Yoga, it’s a standard for yoga around North America,” he added.

In B.C., women have the right to go topless on public property, thanks in part to a 2000 Supreme Court decision, which stood behind Maple Ridge woman Linda Meyer, charged with violating a local bylaw for going topless at a city pool.

“I do not find in the evidence support for the view that the parks could not operate in orderly fashion if a female were to bare her breasts in a circumstance that did not offend criminal laws of nudity,” wrote Justice Holmes in the decision, adding the city’s park bylaw appeared to be “more a reaction to a frustration that the criminal law was not supporting the moral standards in regard to females who chose to bare their breasts in public that some Maple Ridge citizens desired.”

READ ALSO: LGBTQ-themed swim at B.C. pool cancelled after online backlash

For Frizzley, the incident brings up questions about sexualization and free will. She’s started a Facebook group called Topfree (topless) Yoga Victoria and is speaking with studios in the city about hosting topless classes for women.

“I think it’s about desexualizing the body and allowing people to be free and make their own independent choices,” she said. “We shouldn’t be forcing people to wear things or take things off.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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