December 9, 2013

Practicing & Teaching “Naked Yoga.”

It may come as a surprise to many, but I practice and teach naked yoga.

This may be especially surprising to anyone who has even been a student in one of my classes because everyone in the room-myself included-is clothed. However, it is naked or at least that is the goal: to strip away the ego, to be open and vulnerable and more importantly, to let go of my overwhelming need for control.

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, when I first started practicing yoga in earnest, I thought I had found the perfect fit for my Type A personality. It’s no coincidence that I was drawn to Ashtanga with its rigorous set series of poses. I also spent more time than I care to admit worrying about how I looked both to myself and others while I was on the mat.

However, that changed especially when I decided to undergo teacher training. In a nutshell, any illusions or delusions I had about being above my ego were shattered. It’s no understatement when I say that that period of my life was one of the most vulnerable I had ever been in my entire adult life. It was both frightening and thrilling at the same time.

Once I started to teach, I decided that I wanted to offer the sort of classes where people could be vulnerable, explore, and even be silly while still feeling safe. I’m the first to admit it was a lofty goal, and one I am still working towards.

It’s also the best example I can of when I hear the term “naked yoga.”

However, when many people hear that, they think of it literally. There are no shortage of DVDs, books, and even classes in large urban areas of people doing yoga in the buff. The debate over naked yoga is one of those debates that always generates a lot of buzz. (Indeed, it’s probably no surprise that one of elephant journal’s most viewed articles of all times features video footage of Playboy model doing yoga in the nude.)

As someone who once worked as a nude artist’s model, I am probably more relaxed about nudity than most. Even though doing asana in the buff holds no personal appeal to me-honestly, I don’t even want to imagine what mat burn must be like after having accidentally experienced it on my foot in bound angle pose-I have no problems if people want to practice in the nude.

However, I do wonder how many of those naked practitioner—especially the ones who put out DVDs, books, etc.—are truly motivated by yoga or something else besides that like attention, money, etc. Even though I don’t consider myself a model type by any stretch of the imagination, I have doubts that I could greatly increase attendance in my classes if I offered clothing optional ones.

Ironically, being naked and surrounded by naked practitioners would not allow me to be as vulnerable as I am clothed nor would enable me to strip away at my ego. Indeed, knowing my tendency to compare myself to others, I think my ego or at least my overall self-awareness would actually increase.

For that reason alone, that is why I am choosing to keep my clothing on and practice and teach my own style of naked yoga.

In the meantime, I encourage everyone to practice naked yoga both on and off the mat whether they chose to have their clothing on or being as nude as the day they were born.

However, like most things in life, it’s important to keep in mind that there are different roads to the same path and for many, we can practice naked yoga without ever having to physically remove our clothes.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Jade Beall

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