Naked yoga (Sanskrit nagna yoga or vivastra yoga) is the practice of yoga without clothes. It has existed since ancient times as a spiritual practice, and is mentioned in the 7th-10th century Bhagavata Purana and by the Ancient Greek geographer Strabo.
In the 21st century, the practice is gaining popularity, notably in western societies that have more familiarity with social nudity.
Five years or so ago there were only a handful of cities where nude classes were available.
Now groups of (mostly) men keen to strip off and stretch together are growing in many of the European capitals. There are regular sessions in the larger North American and Australian urban centres and outposts in Argentina and Brazil.
There is even a city in Asia where men are breaching rigidly held and enforced cultural norms to get together and share their nude downward-facing dogs and tree poses.
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It would be easy to dismiss this as a manifestation of ever more sexualised gay lives. But the motivations that are driving the blossoming of naked yoga sessions and encouraging ‘skyclad’ men on to their mats on a regular basis appear to have little to do with sex.
It’s noticeable how many naked yoga teachers follow up their sessions with a group visit to a local restaurant, bar or coffee shop. This not only contextualises classes ‘in the real world’ but casts the teacher in the role of community-builder too.
Aaron Star, owner of Hot Nude Yoga, began his version of naked yoga in April 2001. The style combined elements of Ashtanga, Kundalini, and Contact Yoga with elements of Tantra. Because of the success of Hot Nude Yoga, male-only naked yoga groups began to blossom all over the world, from London, Moscow, Madrid to Sydney, often becoming associated with the gay community. 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. Star says that his practice affords men in cities a way to express closeness and intimacy without having sex.
Schrank writes that “the most press” has however gone to Joschi Schwartz and Monika Werner’s Bold and Naked studio in New York. It provides classes in tantric massage as well as both male-only and co-ed naked yoga. She praises its “positive coverage” as helping yogis of all kinds to feel good, but is concerned about the contradictory message that yoga is simultaneously “liberating and sexy”.