Naked yoga (Sanskrit nagna yoga or vivastra yoga) is the practice of yoga without clothes. While many practice naked yoga at home and in nature, there are a growing number of participants in group classes. The practice is gaining popularity, notably in western societies that have more familiarity with social nudity.
Naked yoga should be considered in relation to the dress code at yoga courses, varying from different times and yoga directions.
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Yoga has been practiced naked since ancient times. In the Bhagavata Purana it says:
- âA person in the renounced order of life may try to avoid even a dress to cover himself. If he wears anything at all, it should be only a loincloth, and when there is no necessity, a sannyÄsÄ« should not even accept a daá¹á¸a. A sannyÄsÄ« should avoid carrying anything but a daá¹á¸a and kamaá¹á¸alu.â
The practice of spiritual nudity is common among Digambara Jains, Aghori sadhus, and other ascetic groups in the dharmic religions. A notable example is the order of sadhus known as the Nagas who use nudity as a part of their spiritual practice of renunciation. The word NÄga comes from NAG (snake) which signifies power in Hindu philosophy. The word sadhu derives from sadhana meaning spiritual practice. Members of the sect considered nudity a way of rejecting the material side of life. Celibacy and disregard of the harsh outside conditions were among the key ideas of their philosophy. They practiced naked yoga to tame their desires, identify with their physical bodies and to break the attachment with everything physical, sensual and material.
The word "gymnosophists" (naked philosophers), is used in ancient Greek writings as the designation of wise men (yogis) in India, maybe the naga sadhus.
Alexander the Great reached India in the 4th century BC. Along with his army, he took Greek academics with him who later wrote memoirs about geography, people and customs they saw. One of Alexander's companion was Onesicritus, quoted in Book 15, Sections 63-65 by Strabo, who describes yogins of India. Onesicritus claims those Indian yogins (Mandanis ) practiced aloofness and "different postures â" standing or sitting or lying naked â" and motionless".
Modern naked yoga is practiced in Germany and Switzerland through a movement called Lebensreform. The movement had since the end of the 19th century highlighted yoga and nudity. In the early 20th century, the term gymnosophy was appropriated by several groups who practiced nudity, asceticism and meditation. Blanche de Vries Bernard combined a popularity of Oriental dancing with yoga. In 1914 she was put in charge of a yoga school for women in New York City. Five years later, she opened an institute for women, teaching ââYoga Gymnosophyâââ" a name that conveys the blending of yoga and nudism. She taught until 1982.
In the West since the 1960s, naked yoga practice has been incorporated in the hippie movement and for instance in progressive settings for well-being, such as at the Esalen Institute in California, as depicted in the 1968 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Other films with notable segments include The Harrad Experiment and Naked Yoga (1974).
Actress Lena Nyman practices naked yoga exercises in the 1967 film, I Am Curious (Yellow). Organized naked yoga is known to have existed since the mid eighties, mainly among naturists, particularly in Central Europe.
In New York City in 1998, an American going by the name Jayadev started a group called "Midnight Yoga for Men" where participants practiced "naked before the infinite" in the style of the sadhus.
Another person famous for the promotion of naked yoga in the West is Aaron Star, owner of Hot Nude Yoga. He began his version of nude yoga in April 2001 becoming an instant "underground sensation" as quoted by Time Out New York. The practiced yoga combined elements of Ashtanga, Kundalini, and Contact Yoga with elements of Tantra. Because of the success of Hot Nude Yoga, nude yoga groups began to blossom all over the world, from London, Moscow, Madrid to Sydney. Many of these male-only naked yoga groups have been associated with the gay community, though often not intentionally. One Taste Urban Retreat Center popularized naked yoga after it was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle. Nowadays, there are also specific naked yoga clubs for homosexuals that are not simple yoga classes, but rather communities for keeping fit and sharing sexuality. Aaron Star says that many people, especially in cities like New York and Los Angeles, don't have ways to express closeness and intimacy without having sex, and that his practice affords that.
Shakti, a divine feminine cosmic energy, was 2003 attributed to naked yoga in a well-designed photo book Shakti: The Feminine Power of Yoga, where a yoga teacher, Shiva Rea, wrote:
- Here you see the many aspects of the feminine force - strong as a live oak, fluid as the sea, soft and still as the fertile earth, changing like the moon - sister, daughter, mother, lover, leader, dancer. You are invited to join and enjoy the celebration.
While Naked Yoga had mainly been the domain of male only groups, in 2011 Naked Yoga London was founded in London, offering Naked Yoga Courses to all genders. From 2014 Bold and Naked in New York also started offering co-ed classes. From 2013 naked yoga became more noticed in media, in particular co-ed yoga classes.
Motivations are the acceptance of one's own body with all its imperfections and to open one's heart. Naked yoga often symbolizes separation from worldly possessions and helps those who practice it to calm their active mind, which is one of the main aims of yoga practice and is often hard to achieve.
San Francisco courts found that naturist and libertarian George Monty Davis (aka "Naked Yoga Guy") did not commit a crime in 2004 by practicing naked yoga in a public place, but rather a variant of public nudity. In 2012, Scott Wiener proposed and had passed a San Francisco municipal code (SF Police Code Â§ 154. (under Article 2: Disorderly Conduct) that outlaws public nudity in that city without a parade permit.
- Nudity in religion
- Naked Yoga, by Yen Chu and George Monty Davis (1st printing had no ISBN).
- A Book of Yoga: The Body Temple, by Jo Ann Weinrib and David Weinrib, 1974, ISBNÂ 0-8129-0494-X.
- Nude & Natural magazine, "Naked Yoga: A Sanctuary and Source of Strength", by Kevin Brett. Issue 25.3, Spring 2006.
- Shakti: The Feminine Power of Yoga (Hardcover) by Shiva Rea (Foreword), Victoria Davis, ISBNÂ 0-9715581-1-6. Photographs of yoginis in the nude.
- R.A.W. Nude Yoga: Celebrating The Human Body Temple by Katrina "Rainsong" Messenger, Photos by Michel F. Sarda. 2013, ISBNÂ 978-0-927015-48-6. Nude yogis and yoginis, essays, poetry, meditations and inspirational quotes.
- Naked Yoga Alliance Interviews naked yoga teacher Anya from New Jersey
- The Boston Phoenix AU NATUREL Yoga buffs By Nina Willdorf, Issue Date: April 26 - May 3, 2001
- China Daily 23 September 2004 Naked yoga OK in San Francisco
- Naturist UK Fact File page on yoga and naturism
- Striking a pose, stark naked by Charlotte Maitre