One of the great things about studying at university is that you are free to convey your thoughts and ideas in your chosen field. I am a PhD student and know how empowering it is to have that freedom of expression, but at the same time, I can often feel very stressed trying to achieve it.
I am also a naturist. Naturism is also about freedom — the freedom to be yourself. But unlike studying, naturism leads to a freedom that relieves stress and tension. I would like to explain how the naturist philosophy and lifestyle helps me when times become difficult, both in my study and in my personal life.
I am a member of Pineglades Naturist Club in Christchurch, one of the twenty naturist clubs scattered throughout New Zealand. I was introduced to naturism 35 years ago (yes, I am a mature student), by friends who belonged to the Bay of Plenty Sun Club. They invited me to a ‘free beach’ day at a remote coastal area near Whakatane. I wasn’t keen, having been brought up in a family that insisted on total modesty when it came to exposing your body. But not being one to knock something until I try it, I went along. Sitting on my towel in my bikini, while others roamed free: free of clothing that restricted their movement, free to have nature’s elements against their body, free of wet, clammy togs and free of the statement that clothes convey about a person, it made me understand what they were all about. Being the only one with small parts of my body covered, I decided to join the rest of them and ‘bare it all’.
Wow! I had never experienced the exhilaration of feeling the ocean breeze and the cool salt water on my naked body before. It was amazing. It was as if the tension just drained out of me. I felt really free. It seemed that I had finally stripped myself of all my pent-up stresses and inhibitions. There is nothing that can describe the naturist experience until you have tried it for yourself.
The thing I like most about naturism is that it brings everyone down to one level. When naked, any social status that clothes denote is gone. Whether you are a doctor, solicitor, street sweeper, housewife, bus driver or stressed-out student, everyone is the same underneath the clothes. Naturist clubs are places where you can practice social naturism amongst like-minded people in a safe environment. Although naturism itself is mainly a summer activity, naturist clubs are open all year round. They have great facilities for camping, with clubhouses, swimming pools, spas, saunas, sports courts and, for stressed-out students, quiet areas amongst landscaped bush or gardens, an ideal place to study. I find that I can absorb more information when I am relaxed, so I often wander down to the arboretum (a garden planted with trees and native shrubs) at Pineglades Naturist Club, with a book to do some reading, au naturel. The warmth of the sun on my body is so exhilarating and, to me ‘mind-activating’, that I can forget about everything else and concentrate so much better on my study.
Of course, naturists are well aware of the dangers of the sun and although we expose all of our skin to the elements, naturism is more of a lifestyle choice. We are more about being able to live life without the restriction of clothes rather than ‘sun baking’. We practice ‘slip-slop-slap’ and always wear a hat. If the elements are not conducive to being naked, we cover up, just like anyone else. Children are completely safe in a naturist club, and those from naturist families grow up with a healthy attitude and accept the physical nature of both sexes naturally. Some people feel apprehensive when appearing naked in front of others for the first time, so prospective members are allowed several visits to see if the lifestyle suits them. But after your first naturist experience, I am sure you will want more.
Once you belong to a club in New Zealand, you receive an International Naturist Federation passport and can visit naturist clubs anywhere in the world. Of course, this also includes New Zealand, where clubs have many social events planned throughout the year. You can also attend the annual NZ Naturist Federation rally, which is held at a different club each year over the New Year period. This year it is at the Auckland Outdoor Naturist Club in Ranui, near Auckland, where naturists from all over the country and some from overseas will gather for a fun-filled week of socialising and sport.
So why not try naturism for yourself? Clubs throughout New Zealand are organizing events for ‘Go Natural Week’ from 21-29 October. This would be a good time to contact a club for a visit, although enquiries regarding membership can be made at any time. More information about naturism in New Zealand and overseas, can be found at www.gonatural.co.nz. Go on. ‘Just do it, get it all off’ and learn for yourself how naturism can relieve stress and help you study, free.