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Naked Yoga: Where Are Your Middle-Aged Clothes Anyway?
by Marjorie Dorfman

What is naked yoga and why is it so drafty? Does it differ from standard yoga and if so, how? Read on for some truths, naked mostly, but some otherwise clothed.

The ancient Indian practice of yoga as a path to spiritual growth is as old as the hills. Naked yoga, however, is a whole other smoke (or hill, if you will). The practice of performing yoga without clothes is gaining in popularity as people learn to multi-task, which translates into doing dirty laundry while getting fit without worrying about what to wear in those "off" times.

No one can say for sure exactly when naked yoga was first practiced. This is perhaps due to the fact that nudity is generally a private affair, despite the growing number of nudists that can be counted among us. (Stand up so we can take a count, but put something on, will ya?) It must be said, however, that naked yoga is becoming more and more popular, and is not likely a fad that will go away. This latest trend is economically appealing as it requires even less equipment than the original art form does, namely a mat on which to do exercises and loose-fitting clothes.

Other yoga fads that have either come and gone, or that have at least sat down to rest by the riverside for a while might include: aqua yoga (has nothing to do with the color; it’s performed in a pool), disco yoga (for those who wish to yoga-go-go) and boga yoga, which is done with boxing gloves and may or may not concern its sparring partner, the bogey man.

The practice of naked yoga has been in effect in the western world at least since the 1960s and was depicted in several movies of the era including the 1968 film, "Bob & Carol & Ted and Alice". Back in 1998, in New York City where things are known to happen, an American man named Jayadev began a group called "Midnight Yoga For Men" where participants practiced "naked before the infinite." Considered the founder of Naked Yoga, Meredith Medland is credited along with her husband, Ted McElwee, for having made the concept of Naked Yoga world famous. Her specific concept involves hands on healing energy and sensuality, which is incorporated to create "a sacred space where groups of people experienced…their multi-dimensional energies." One fan of naked yoga says: "I like the sheer vulnerability of having no clothing and letting everything hang. There’s no concealing anything anymore. There’s no place to hide." Another supporter said that being naked helped him to "concentrate on keeping mind body and spirit together which is the essential purpose of yoga."

Well, there certainly isn’t any place to hide while doing naked yoga unless you can practice in a dark closet away from the rest of the class. Most supporters claim that being naked provides a freedom that must be experienced in order to be understood. It’s freedom of movement, body positioning and even external thought. Even though most might think that being naked would prove more distracting for obvious reasons, devotees claim that the effect on one’s psyche is just the opposite; namely, that it becomes a completely internal experience. Those who have been doing naked yoga for extended periods of time have said that they could not go back to doing it with clothes on (that is, if they could find their clothes).

Sunday mornings at the One Taste Urban Retreat on Folsom Street in San Francisco are naked yoga days devoted to the challenge of accepting and revering one’s own body. According to Rob Kandall, the center’s business manager, "It’s a heart-opening experience." In addition to transforming experiences, this retreat also features dance classes and massage, an art gallery and a small café. So come one, come all, if this sounds like your bag.

Other naked events seem to be catching on as well, causing drafts wherever they appear. The Third Annual Naked Gardening Day, scheduled for May of 2007, is expected to encourage people all over globe tend to their portion of the cosmic garden clothed as nature intended. In June of 2006 the World Naked Bike Ride was held in Seattle, Washington. At Madrona Park, the riders held a brief yoga program, which incorporated the use of the riders’ bikes in a mid-ride stretch. (It is not known how the bikes felt afterwards.) It does seem clear, however, that a visit to this park or the Urban Retreat may well mean that you will leave more than just your heart in San Francisco, as the old song says.


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Copyright 2007