I had only ever been to a yoga class once. And I had never been to a “cuddle pile” in my life. So, walking into Pawed NYC’s Bear Yoga and Bear Cuddle Pile events on a Wednesday evening, I didn’t know what to expect. It had already been a slightly stressful day, and the ride over on a subway train with no air conditioning didn’t make it much better. But I was there, and I was getting ready to stretch my limbs and then cuddle some guys I had never met before in my life. Yay!
When I walked into the door, I was greeted by Jon Fischer, personal health coach and one of the co-founders of Pawed NYC – a health and wellness group geared towards bears, cubs and fuzzy types. The first thing I thought was that the studio smelled amazing. It was some sort of mint aroma, I believe. I’m not sure of the exact scent, but whatever it was immediately began to relax me.
Jon was friendly and welcoming, and his demeanor really helped to set the tone for the evening – friendly and chill. After a few minutes, myself and a group of about 8 other guys were welcomed into the main room where the yoga was to take place. We were greeted by Nirmal – our yoga instructor for the evening. As I said before, I was just a little nervous about participating in a yoga class, since I had only been to one other yoga event in my life.
As all the guys began to introduce themselves, I was relieved to find out that I wasn’t the only one who was experiencing a bit of anxiety. However, as we began the poses, Nirmal explained to us that extending ourselves too far in order to achieve the perfect pose was not necessary to experience the benefits. He also demonstrated ways to modify some of the stretches for larger body types. When a person with a belly leans forward, there’s a certain way they must do it in order to leave room for said belly. I appreciated this, since yoga can be quite intimidating for people with larger bodies.
We spent an hour learning some basic yoga poses, including the Crescent Moon pose, the Cat/Side Cat, the Cobra, the Superman, and the Tree Pose. We also learned the benefits of these poses, and whether the purpose of the pose was to move the spine, strengthen the back, stretch the back, or practice balance. I was very relaxed at the end, and also encouraged to come back and learn more techniques!
We took a ten minute break after yoga, as the room was being prepared for the cuddle pile. For me, this was going to be the most interesting part of the evening. Now that I had met the other guys and done a bit of yoga with them, the idea of cuddling with them wasn’t so bad – the added bonus being that this was definitely not an unattractive group of guys.
We were invited back into the room by Jon and Nirmal, where mats and blankets had been laid out on the floor. Incense was burning and the lights were dim, which definitely set the mood for some cuddling. Jon welcomed us again, and did a few warm-ups in order get us even more acquainted and comfortable with one another.
After the warm-up activities, Jon addressed the no sex policy of the cuddle pile, and we all respectfully agreed to respect each other’s boundaries and privacy inside and outside of the space. We did a few practice cuddles before going into our first 15 minute cuddle session, as Nirmal played the cello.
We did about three cuddle sessions, all of them 15 to 20 minutes in length. Nirmal’s cello was extremely soothing. All of the elements – music, dim lighting, incense- totally helped the guys and I to just sort of relax into one another even more, no pun intended.
After a while, I literally began to feel like we had all melted over each other like candle wax. I began to notice small things, like someone’s breath lightly tickling the hairs on my neck or legs, the sound of various breathing patterns, the rhythm of heart beats, and someone’s fingertips lightly brushing across my arms.
It was completely sensual, but not explicitly sexual. Yes, there is a possibility of arousal in these situations; Who wouldn’t be aroused by a group of very good looking bears cuddling and touching them? But, as Jon expressed to us before we began, it would be much more fulfilling to not allow things to go beyond those boundaries. He was absolutely right.
In today’s society, I think something like this is needed – especially in a city like New York. We’re always rushing around and brushing past one another. We touch, but in a completely different way; one that is unintentional and void of any real human contact or intimacy. In gay hook up culture, the lack of intimacy is even more apparent, since you can literally have sex with a stranger – an act that is inately passionate and intimate – and still never quite actually or fully connect and be intimate with them.
The idea of completely disconnecting yourself from others is definitely a thing, and the importance of passion and intimacy sometimes gets muddled or ignored in our current culture. A person just cannot take it all in everyday and still be mentally present enough to take care of themselves. But the opportunity to counter this, and be completely connected and vulnerable with complete strangers in a way that is not sexual is such a rewarding, relaxing and beneficial experience. I will definitely be back!
For more information about Pawed events, please visit www.meetup.com/Gay-Bears-Cubs-Wellness-Fun-Club. For more information on Jon Fischer, please visit bkhealthcoach.com. For more information on Nirmal Chandraratna, pleases visit nirmalc.com.