Yoga offers many different styles of practice. Some like it fast (Ashtanga), some like it slow (Restorative), some like it exacting (Iyengar), some like it fused (a little yoga with Pilates/boxing/dance), some like it hot (Bikram), and some like it … nude. Nude yoga – yes, yoga without any clothes on.
Nude yoga has been around since, you guessed it, since the ‘60s. At the Esalen Institute in California, naked yoga practice has been incorporated for well-being. More recently, naked yoga made headlines in San Francisco when the courts found that George Monty Davis (aka “Naked Yoga Guy") was not committing a crime by practicing naked yoga in a public place, but rather, simply a variant of public nudity.
In Vancouver, Ron Stewart, 44, professional dancer and yoga instructor at Skyclad yoga, is teaching two nude yoga classes/week. His classes are for men. In a special interview with the Vancouver Sun, he insists that his classes are not designed for exhibitionists and narcissists. In the nude, he explains, the spiritual aspects of yoga are much more central to the practice. “You drop your ego immediately, which is what yoga is all about. It's about the mind and body, developing the intellectual as well as the physical. Once the class gets going, it's the same as any other class," he says. "It doesn't feel like the nudity provides a distraction."
The class is about the challenge of yoga, and about the challenge of accepting -- and even revering -- one's own body. The manager of the One Taste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco said to the San Francisco Chronicle, “It's not a sexual experience, it's a heart-opening experience.” After the Sunday class at the Urban Retreat Center, participants explained the appeal.
A 36-year-old computer programmer said he liked the sheer vulnerability of having no clothing and letting everything hang. He said, "there's no concealing anything anymore. There's no place to hide." A 60-year-old real estate investor said being naked helped him to concentrate on bringing the mind, body and spirit together -- the essential purpose of yoga.
He said, "I've been doing yoga for 14 years and working two times a week with a private instructor, but my problem is monkey mind,'' he said. "I want to be present in the moment, and my mind wanders.” He said that being naked helped him to keep his focus on himself. It helped him to stay in the present.
Another person said that she “wanted to approach yoga from a nonphysical, nonsuperficial way, because a lot of it is about cute outfits and competitiveness,'' she said. "Doing it nude, I thought there wouldn't be any of that. It would be internal, about me.”
Whatever the appeal seems to be for individuals, the general purpose held by the instructor is for liberation. Naked yoga is suppose to encourage a new appreciation for the physical, mental, and spiritual being in your self. It helps you to feel at home with your body and free yourself from ego centric debilitations.
Well, I’m of the school of Jerry Sienfeld. In one Sienfeld episode, Jerry is telling George that his new girlfriend walks around his apartment nude all the time. George thinks this is great and congratulates Jerry on finding his new friend. Jerry responds to George’s enthusiasm by saying, “Well George, there are just some things that you don’t do when you’re naked.”
I’m all for liberation. I work with people to help them free themselves from their physical limitations and the mental barriers that keep them physically limited. The tools of yoga definitely facilitates that because its slow, controlled, mindful and personal. Liberation and self acceptance comes from the inside, not the outside. Personal liberation comes from self discovery. Yoga is premised on the self discovery that leads to self acceptance. The road to self acceptance is paved with reflection, thoughtfulness, awareness, a supportive social network, internal fortitude, ethical choices, and integrity to personal values. And wonderfully enough, all of this can be done with your clothes on.
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