Owning one's self
The practice of yoga has been spreading rapidly around the world since the first yogis began teaching in the West in the late 1800s. At first it spread slowly, but since the 1960s it has spread rapidly.
Within yoga there are many traditions and many practices that are all designed for the personal liberation of the practitioners. So we have many forms of intellectual and physical exercises to give the practitioners the experience that their identity is not confined to their body and mind but rather they are seeking to identify themselves as consciousness, and identity beyond body and mind.
The body the way it is judged and politicised in today's society is a huge problem, therefore naked yoga is a reactive solution to this problem. Naked yoga is unlikely to ever take place in any ashram because there the body is simply seen as an impediment to freedom as the freedom attainable through yoga is beyond body and mind.
Nude or Naked Yoga, Its Practice and Benefits
To be naked is to be in our most natural state and naturalism (going clothes free) is a lifestyle that millions of people participate in. When clothing comes off, the barriers between people lessen and many of the social /sexual games that people play are stopped. Being naked offers a freedom that is rare in today's world.
There are other motivations for nude yoga:
- Clothing is often tight and restricts circulation and flow of energy around the body.
- To experience the depth of asana and real freedom, the sense of contact between the skin and the air is vital as it allows for a greater awareness of energy and a deeper understanding of our being.
Nude yoga classes may be a challenge, but personal practise (temperature permitting) is best done naked.
By Anmol Mehta
Nude yoga, in it's true sense, is a very legitimate and effective yoga practice and let me tell you something, it's real purpose has very little to do with sex and eroticism. As I now see that nude yoga has made it's way to the West, I would like to present this article to help shed some light and clear any misunderstandings on this radical, but valid yoga technique.
Naked yoga in general belongs to a particular sect of Yogis, who have practised this method for many thousands of years now in India. They are called Naga Sadhus and this title describes well the philosophy and thinking that is central to their approach to yoga and spirituality. The word Naga means naked, and the word Sadhu implied one who has renounced the world completely. Here is then what is means to walk the path of a Naga Sadhu and practice nude yoga.
Naga Sadhus essentially roam the county naked, traveling from holy place to holy place or spend time at ashrams, where they devote themselves to the discovery of their True Divine Nature. The nude yoga they practice can primarily be understood at 2 levels. First, I will explore the "ordinary" meaning behind their naked ways and the benefits this bestows, and then I will go into the more esoteric and symbolic meaning behind what is means to be a naked yogi.
Benefits of Nude Yoga:
The nudity is a symbol of renunciation of all things material on the part of the Sadhus. By renouncing even clothes, they are demonstrating this agreement they have made during their initiation. Of course, real renunciation has to do with renouncing ambition, but even so, this ancient tradition uses material renunciation as a stepping stone towards this final end.
- Body Awareness:
Nude yoga promotes greater awareness of the body and a greater sense of freedom when practising yoga asanas (positions). Seeing and feeling the body as youstretch and move from one posture to the next, inspires more mindful practice.The nakedness also removes any sense of restriction that clothing subtly promotes and thus, a greater sense of freedom can be experienced when doing the yoga poses.
- Psychological Freedom
Above I mentioned that nude yoga can promote a greater sense of physical freedom, but the real freedom that the sadhus are seeking from their nakedness,is freedom from inhibitions, the opinions of others and any sense of shame about their body. Initially, a naked yogi will certainly feel the judgemental eyes and opinions of others, but in time these concerns evaporate and a care free attitude emerges. Nude yoga is about cultivating this level of psychological freedom.
- Detachment from the Body:
Even though yoga, nude or otherwise, helps create a vibrant, energetic and powerful body, the objective though is actually detachment from the body. Nude sadhus of the Naga sect renounce sex and embrace celibacy, and learn to face the harsh elements without concern for physical comfort or security, including the freezing cold of the Himalayas where many reside. Both these acts are designed to help break the attachment one has with the physical body and sense organs.
Here I would like to point out that there are other sects which practice nude yoga and embrace the life of a naked yogi as well, but do not necessarily belong to the Naga order per se. An example of these are the Aghoris. They don't practice celibacy and they often use non-traditional and radical approaches to speed up their path to enlightenment, but although their approach is different,their objectives with the practice of nude yoga are the same as above.
True Meaning of Nude Yoga practice:
Above I explored some of the important benefits of nakedness and nude yoga, but the real symbolic meaning behind nudity is something far deeper. The clothes that a yogi is really looking to free himself of, are the coverings of the 3 Gunas, and true naked yoga means to be free of these 3 sheaths.
The 3 Gunas are a core concept in Vedic and Yoga Philosophy and require significant discussion to understand deeply, but I will provide a brief over view here, in the context of nude yoga, to get you started.
The 3 gunas are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. For simplicity, you can consider Sattva to be the force of positivity, love and light, Rajas to be the force of activity and change, while Tamas to be the force of negativity and darkness. All manifestation is a play of these 3 attributes. The purpose of yoga is to finally be free of the play of these manifestations and encounter the unmanifested eternal Self. Thus, a true naked yogi is one who has shed these coverings and resides in his pure untouched, infinite nature.
Summary of Nude Yoga Practice
I hope the above gives a more clear picture of what nude yoga is all about and what purpose nakedness serves in spiritual practice. From the point of view of yoga morality, it's best to keep things simple. That which further attaches you to the body and senses can be considered bad, as it works to imprison you further in the petty world of the ego and time, while that which helps you detach and connect with your higher consciousness helps set you free, and thus can be considered good. Nude yoga, if used for voyeurism and sensual pleasure,will work to bind you more, if though, it's used as described above, this unusual approach can be an effective vehicle for your spiritual evolution.
Anmol Mehta has a substantial website with articles, blogs and a lot of interesting yoga and meditation resources
By Kristen Kancler
In the ether and over the top of my cubicle today I hear: “Naked Yoga?!”
“What is that? Why do yoga naked?” and just as soon as my ears perked up, my curious co-workers (I won't name any names) dropped by to ask me about it. What is the purpose of naked yoga? I had to chuckle to myself. Who else gets to talk about things like naked yoga when they’re at work? “Hmmmm, is this a tantra class?” I asked. Apparently not. A few quick clicks and I'm at Sensual Shaman reading more about this phenomenon.
Naked Yoga removes the clothes and identities we put upon ourselves when we wear them. There is very little movement of the mind when you're naked in the asana. Everything is till. Aware. Exposed. You stay in the pose longer. You go deeper. You're not there making a grocery list in your head. You're present. Alert. Awake. You're naked. N-A-K-E-D. There's no place to hide. This practice strips you down.Literally and figuratively. Naked yoga is meant to be transforming not titillating. It is not used for the erotic thrill so much as it is a way of getting to know the self more intimately through the asana practice.
Wikipedia and Common Ground talk more about Naked Yoga and classes are offered in NYC and San Francisco. I like the idea of going straight to the core and removing all barriers to truth but I don't know if I'm brave enough to explore yoga in the buff with others. It does sound like a pretty interesting experience. For any who have been bold enough to ventured here, do tell…
The ABC of Yoga
"Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful. And although you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain," says Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet. If Gibran were alive today, he would have made a strong case for Nude Aerobics Yoga, which has been practised to the chagrin of many critics.
Nude Yoga basically entails what the term implies: performing Yoga Postures and exercises with no clothes on. This form of Yoga allows for more flexibility in movement. But more than this, having no clothing to hide in helps to bring the mind more "into the present" when doing Yoga. This state of mind is an important element in Yoga.
Nude Yoga is an appealing and meaningful way to do Yoga but admittedly, this form of Yoga may not be practised to the same extent across different cultures and societies.
Some consider clothing as an art form both in general and in Yoga. The clothes one wears therefore is an extension and expression of one's mind and personality. Practitioners who belong to this paradigm make conscious choices on what to wear when they do Yoga. But more than this, nudity, particularly nudity in the company of others is simply considered as a violation of codes of propriety in many cultures, even a taboo in some.
On the other end of the spectrum are cultures and societies who view the naked body itself as art. The body should be allowed to express itself outwardly, not kept under wraps and folds of fabric, which after all may be inhibiting bodily functions and aid in the growth of harmful bacteria on the skin. Clearly, Kahlil Gibran belongs to this paradigm.
An experience in the nude
For those who are already practising Nude Aerobics Yoga, it can prove to be ast and out experience. Carolyne Zinko of the San Francisco Chronicle observed five women and four men during a nude Yoga session.One man said after the session that he liked the "vulnerability of having no clothing on" while doing the exercises. A woman said that she liked doing Yoga in the nude because there wouldn't be any distractions caused by cute outfits and competition among the group. "It would be internal, about me," she said. Another man said that being naked helped him to concentrate on bringing the mind, body and spirit together. This in fact is among the primary objectives of Yoga.
While these reactions bear on the deeper aspects of Yoga, others commented on the physical aspects of nude Yoga. They liked being able to see the proper body positioning more easily, enabling them to adjust quickly.
Not everyone may have the same frame of mind regarding Nude Yoga. But like other forms of Yoga, it can unite the mind and the body towards transcendence as well as stripping away the fluff of life.
Practising Yoga is altogether a liberating experience. Yoga is a philosophy in life that helps in the overall development of your body and mind. In fact Yoga helps you take your soul beyond your mind and body. Among the most liberating techniques in Yoga, Naked Yoga or Nude Yoga has been given immense importance.
Benefits of Naked Yoga:
As the name suggests, Naked Yoga is a yoga technique practised without any clothes on your body.
The initial feeling attached to this concept of shedding your clothes and being naked might be very unappealing and also offensive. But when practised, this opens up new liberating horizons for you. It teaches you that there is nothing uncomfortable about your naked body. In other words, it liberates you by making you feel ‘at home with your body’.
Naked yoga may prove a hard task to grasp in the initial days. This is because nudity can be very distracting and may be a challenge to your concentration. But, with regular practice and with the help of your Yoga instructor, you can win over these distractions. The major objective during the sessions of naked yoga is to enable you to feel free in your body and eliminate concerns about your physical imperfections. This technique can help you win over the discomfort about your body and self-consciousness.
Nudity is usually discussed as a socially unaccepted practice in both eastern and western continents; because of which naked yoga has been taking a back seat in all continents. But the positive motive of this yoga has been converting many Yogis to become ardent proponents of naked yoga.
In a nut shell, naked yoga encourages a new appreciation for the physical,mental, and spiritual being in your self.
Of course if you read back into history, in the original Olympic games events most competitors were were naked, so perhaps we are just re-learning to appreciate the human body in it's natural state, are you getting naked?
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