Naked Yoga?


Embarrassing title. Yet the thing is real. People go to it. And I am all for people trying whatever brings them closer to their truths. However.

Naked Yoga pushes my buttons, it is THE one place where I hear myself come all out and with enormous self-righteous entitlement scream "that is NOT yoga". Why?  There is no lineage behind it. Uh oh, lame excuse.

OK, then because it seems based on "freedom" that is not freedom at all but rather an opportunity to explore sexuality in a place where it is not meant to. I am probably wrong, or not.

I am fascinated by accounts of people, especially women (as the case below article here), venturing into such enterprise as a naked yoga class. I would never do it mostly because I already found a lineage to follow and feel contented with the inward gazing produced by my practice.

I perhaps notice how long it took me to focus the mind inwards while practicing asana, and it was not a short time. And that was with full clothes. So when I read articles like this, I cannot but wonder:

Can the awkwardness of being naked force someone into focus?


"The Instructor was so specific in her instructions that I was too busy concentrating to think about anything except following the steps. For the first time, I successfully synced my breath with my movements. She was that easy to follow. I felt calm, balanced, aware..."

So that is it then? the intensity drew her in, the awkwardness?

Could that be sustained? how long till the fire of our eyes can't help but wonder  and throwing any chance at concentration out the window.  Worst, perhaps fueling a desire to be liked, loved, and an unnoticed love or sex addition.  I could be wrong, true, but I know for a fact it would not take that long for someone like me to lose focus, I am very human.

Later on after the class is over and they are sipping tea, still wearing their just-born-suites,  she says:

When we emerged from our collective daze, the man who'd checked me in brought out a pitcher of tea. We drank it sitting naked on our mats. I was tempted to treat mine like a shot and to get out of there before anything could spoil my positive experience

Patanjali's Yoga has 8 Limbs
The analogy of the "shot" already suggests a certain state of mind, a need for escapism, a desire to forget things, to get that shot in and fast. Why run away from a positive experience?

Frankly I find the path of the eight limbs very hard as it is, I cannot see how being naked in class could help, regardless of the graduate-level amount of concentration anyone could muster. But that is my understanding of yoga. Clearly not everyone's.

Educate me:  Can people find liberation on this path? Can being naked while practicing asana bring anyone closer to their truth? and if so how? what is the path? What is the philosophy behind it?

Found picture here
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27 comments:

  1. Dear Claudia
    It's still yoga. And the teachers can be enlightened. But you only find it offered in big cities like NY, SF, LA, Ft.L, you know, the ones with names that can be condensed to acronyms. I have a good ashtangi friend for whom this was his first path to a dedicated practice. This is hard to write about so that is all I will say.
    Cheers,
    Arturo

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  2. some people are nudists. that's a simple fact. why are we so shameful about what god gave all of us-a body? i don't wear my contacts/glasses in class anyhow so i doubt it would bother me.
    to each his/her own. they aren't hurting anyone. so who cares?

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  3. I went to art school and so find nudity beautiful, however I do NOT want to be staring into someone's sweaty, upturned crotch while they are in down dog in front of me! I never even practice in shorts for God's sake. For one thing it'd be impractical for the arm balances of advanced - no traction. But I have to say I wouldn't wear them even if that wasn't an issue. I'd get involved in self critiquing.

    I guess I"m too uptight to consider nude yoga :)

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  4. I think people who are attracted to naked yoga are the type that would be attracted to nudist camps/movements in the first place. I've even heard of nudist vacations where passengers get to be naked on the plane. I think the liberation comes from being allowed to not wear clothes. I don't think it helps deepen their yoga practice. I personally would find it impractical, even if I were practicing on my own at home. It would be like doing yoga without having my hair tied back, which would annoy and distract me a lot.

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  5. Hi Arturo, I have no doubt that the strangest path can lead to yoga. It is indeed quite an interesting thing that they only happen in the big cities.. I appreciate your input

    Bindy, you are right, they are not hurting anyone, God bless them... I just cannot help to get a reaction, but that is something I need to take with the cushion ;-)

    B, I do wear shorts, and find them great cause I get so hot sometimes and long pants would bother me, but as I was going through practice today I was noticing what you say, certain poses are just, well, I think it would be uncomfortable. I dont want to judge, maybe it works for others, guess just not for me.

    YYogini, nudity in planes? seriously? wow. I liked your analogy of the hair not tied back, it would also feel uncomfortable to me...

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  6. It is easier to strip one's clothes but it is very difficult to strip one's false conditioning and false beliefs .That is where real yoga lies i.e the path of vichara or path of self investigation .
    To know more about this , kindly go through this excellent interview with Rajesh Dalal , a close associate of J .Krishnamurti .The title of the interview itself is "we are afraid to be stripped" :
    http://www.lifepositive.com/Spirit/J.Krishnamurti/We_are_afraid22010.asp

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  7. Krishna, those are very wise words... although I still would not find it easy to strip my clothes for asana, but still, I get your point, very true, will put this on my reading list, thank you

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  8. Thanks Claudia , Hope u got my point . There is a PDF version of that interview on that link , download it and if possible take a print out and read it very very slowly .It is not like a regular interview with a method and technique and result but rather questioning "our motives" behind why we do certain things and asking us to be honest in the same and the author says most of us are unwilling to do that as we are afraid to strip ourselves mentally , emotionally .That is why I said it is easier to strip one's clothes but not easy to strip one's hidden ,false motives and beliefs . That is what I consider real naked yoga and not the one where people strip naked and do yoga .

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  9. Interesting post, Claudia. I've posted a response to your post on my blog.

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  10. Krishna I think I totally get your point. I agree too, stripping ourselves naked in the sense of seeing what our real intentions are is BIG work. Will read.

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  11. Nobel, of couse, I would have not expected otherwise, will read your post, of course ;-)

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  12. No heritage of naked yogis in India? Oh yes, plenty. Having no possessions, not even clothes is a way of the serious ascetic.

    Especially within the Jain tradition there are many naked spiritual seekers. They have been around for centuries and are also easily seen this day. Here some basics including photos: http://hubpages.com/hub/Jaina_nude_saints and another picture here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fred_isdead/142086323/

    Also the naga babas are famous for not having any material bonding, including bonding to clothes, and hence run around naked, both when doing asana and when not. Read more at http://www.deccanherald.com/content/65680/bare-facts.html.

    Or see a photo of a naga baba doing dwipada sirsasana in the nude here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/52652450@N00/381983423

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  13. Roselil, this is very interesting.

    After I published I remembered the naked wondering yogis of the kumbamela, it is interesting you send links about it now.

    I wonder if these schools or even meetups that get together for this type of yoga here follow the tradition. Perhaps there is more to it.

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  14. @Krishna
    So, I read the article and it leaves me with more questions than answers, wonder if it is material for another article... I heard accounts that Krishnamurthy was enlightened from day one, that some people had trouble relating to him because of it. I don't know, I could be totally wrong, but what his disciple says makes me cringe, and I am probably wrong, then again, "not having a practice", "not necessary", "wrong"... we can just see it right now, all that matters is now... Maybe i am less evolved, I seem to need a practice, then again, I am not that smart.

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  15. Claudia
    It is good that the article has stimulated your thinking . J Krishnamurti(JK) has been terribly been misunderstood as he never gave any methods , techniques , 5 steps /8 steps etc and he wants people to question the "the very motive" behind any act and that is where we refuse to do so as all our false masks will peel of . By the way JK was himself a great yoga practitioner till the end of his life and in fact one of the reasons why I came to yoga was due to JK .But JK practiced yoga purely for the functional well being of the body and was not against anything that improves one physically and mentally at "the functional level" and not for "psycological security " .Wearing good and decent clothes is fine according to JK but are u doing this to show ur status or attract others towards u ? This is the vichara he has given . Investigate the "motives" behind what you are doing and when u start investigating , you will be shocked to see that many of your desires / beliefs are nothing but "psycological crutches" or they are there to seek "love ,approval and appreciation, security" from others .I will write in detail about this in my blog post but this is the substance of his teaching - "investigate the motive " behind why u do anything and as a starting point you can start with "why do people go to Mysore for practicing Ashtanga?" .Is it purely only for practice at the traditional place or is the hidden motive to get certification from Sharath /Pattabhi Joise (in the past ) or to go back and write in your Yoga Bio data that you have practiced Ashtanga in Mysore under Sharath and hence indirectly pointing out that you are some one special . There is no right / wrong answer to this question , it is enough each individual investigate deeply his/her motives behind the same and the same technique applies to other things in life .More later in my blog post .Keep reading that interview from Rajesh Dalal from time to time slowly and u will get deeper insights every time u read .

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  16. Namaste, Devi.

    Well, there's naked YOGA and there's NAKED yoga. The former is just yoga without clothing. I started doing my home practice that way because I was tired of sweat soaked clothes. It was uncomfortable, at first. But it felt better to have sweat on my mat instead of on me. Yes, some asanas challenge certain parts of the male anatomy--but I adapted. I can move a little faster and go a little deeper.

    However, I have no desire to take a class naked. Which leads me to NAKED yoga. I guess I'm just shallow--but I don't see being a naked as a metaphor for stripping away pretensions and/or tantric energy, or whatever. I get the feeling that what's called naked yoga (right now) is more about the naked and less about the yoga.

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  17. Krishna, yes, you point to something that is very true, I first heard about this questioning through Swami Radha of British Columbia, disciple of Sivananda, this "investigating why" we do anything, what is the REAL motive, for example, as you well point out, we go to Mysore.

    Love that very particular question... thought provoking, almost cheecky, great question!

    Seen in that light I am all for it. Perhaps what was disturbing to me was the other guy in the interview, saying you do not need a practice because by God I know I do... but then again, even then I could be wrong... and only time and further investigation, asking those though questions, will tell. Look forward to your blog.

    @Jh00mer just came accross your blog which had escaped me, will be reading... I like your way of writting, I agree with you.

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  18. While I haven't been to nude yoga, it sounds interesting. I have gone to nudist groups before, and you don't realize how much you judge people based on what they wear. Are they sloppy, shirts wrinkled, clothes that don't fit? Clothes with right (or wrong) label? Clothes that are more than slightly worn... you get the picture. It's a great equalizer. Maybe even meeting and talking with people you may have avoided in the past because they weren't 'like you.'

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  19. That is an interesting way to look at it Anon, I normally do not judge people on what they were unless I am unconscious, which could happen from time to time... matter of fact I dont wear "yoga labels" at all, so I do not even notice, on the other hand I wonder if seeing someone the way they came to the world could potentially make my mind more prone to compare, see what is different from what I thought it was or what not. Then again, this is all speculation. I find your point of view thought provoking.

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  21. I really enjoy practicing nude yoga. I do it on the beach in the summer time. During the winter time I practice naked yoga at home and in the sauna. Some critics of nude yoga are saying that it is sexual and it's impossible to concentrate on asanas. I would tell that it the best way to relax and meditate and sometimes the first path to a dedicated practice.
    Unfortunately we don't have nude yoga classes in my city, so I practice yoga in fitness classes as everybody else wearing clothes. But I always follow the rule: the less clothes I have the better meditation I can achive.
    Everybody should remember that first Indians who actually introduced yoga were practicing it just without any clothes.

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  22. Andrey, yes, there are many Indians even today practicing yoga just the way they were born... I agree with you in one thing, when I practice at home I also like to have few clothes on unless I am videotaping for a post or something, I happen to prefer being light.

    I am glad this type works for you, I am a firm believer that there is a type of yoga for everyone, and you seem to have found yours! I don't know about the beach though... that sounds like it would attract maybe some unwanted attention, unless of course you practice in your own private beach, which could be nice...

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  23. I find it difficult to believe that these schools are following the traditions of Naga Baba's. I think you are being cheeky with that LOL as you know the answer to your question.

    I spent a lot of time with Sadhu's and saw several Naga Baba's when I was in the Himalayas years ago. There is a vast difference between reclusive ascetics and nude yoga in New York or San Fran. I don't think a sadhu would even have a reference point to comprehend it.

    The post will likely draw a number of hits to your page but nude yoga however exciting right now will likely fizzle out just like the excitemnent some might get from looking up at someones dangling tackle in the middle of a vinyassa.

    To each their own.

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  24. Richard, thanks for your comment. I agree with you, there is probably nothing in common between the Saddhus and the naked yoga offered in NYC or San Francisco.

    I tried finding where I or anyone said LOL, but I could not. I never say LOL, mostly because I think the three letters to be silly, I prefer to say "hee hee", that is more my style, but there was nothing "hee hee" about this post. I was seriously wondering how come it works for some people as I cannot understand it.

    Will it fizzle out, that is something we will find out...

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  25. Oh, and one more thing Richard, I just noticed you are about to put up a blog, let me know when you do, I would like to check it out :-)

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  26. I would like to try it actually. I am goiing for a yoga retreat in a few weeks but it not naked. do you know any naked yoga retreat in St Lucia?

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  27. Hi Maria, sounds nice, St Lucia! I actually have no idea about naked yoga studios anywhere... I do not follow it that much so unfortuntatelly cannot help on that area...

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