Monday, March 14, 2011

Practice report, and some thoughts about doing yoga without any clothes on

First, a little practice report. I did full primary and second up to Ardha Matsyendrasana this morning. At the beginning of practice (during the Suryas), I had a very "faffed" mind: I wasn't faffing physically, but my mind was all over the place. I had a really busy weekend, and a lot of things that happened over the weekend kept coming into my mind. So much so that in a couple of Surya As, I actually forgot to count my breaths in downward dog, and probably ended up holding downdog for way more than five breaths. It was well into standing sequence before I could start to rein in my wondering mind.

The rest of the practice felt really good. My body was a little less flexible after a rest day (my rest day is Sunday); at the same time, however,  it was also rested and felt... new. I always feel this creative tension between relative lack of flexibility and newness especially strongly in the first kapotasana of the week. This morning, for instance, it seemed to take longer to open the front body into kapo (I still got my heels, though :-)). But once I got into the pose, I really felt that the body had received a much needed opening. Very refreshing experience.

I just read with great interest Claudia's most recent post on Naked Yoga. Claudia remarks:

"Naked Yoga pushes my buttons, it is THE one place where I hear myself come all out and with enormous self-righteous entitlement scream "that is NOT yoga". Why?  There is no lineage behind it. Uh oh, lame excuse...

Frankly I find the path of the eight limbs very hard as it is, I cannot see how being naked in class could help, regardless of the graduate-level amount of concentration anyone could muster. But that is my understanding of yoga. Clearly not everyone's."

Very interesting and honest response, Claudia :-) I honestly don't know what to make of Naked Yoga. It is probably true that there is no lineage behind Naked Yoga; although, for all I know, there might very well be sadhus practicing naked by themselves (or maybe in very small groups) somewhere in the Himalayas.

But I suppose that's really not to the point: The whole point of Naked Yoga, as I understand it, is for people to practice naked in front of other people in an otherwise conventional yoga class setting with all the usual yoga postures and instructions. To describe it in purely physical terms, it's basically ordinary yoga minus clothing. At least that's how I understand it; I've never actually been in a Naked Yoga class. If anybody out there knows more about Naked Yoga, please share.

Be that as it may, I have little to offer in the way of answers or useful insights with regard to this phenomenon. But I do have a few thoughts, which I'll share here:

(1) If Naked Yoga is really conventional yoga minus a couple of pieces of clothing, why does the absence of these couple of pieces of clothing make such a powerful emotional statement? After all, many Ashtangis (especially male practitioners) already practice with very little clothing. Why would taking off one or two more pieces of clothing make such a great difference?

(2) One answer to question (1) might be: Well, because removing that last one or two pieces of clothing exposes the genitals, which are "private" in a way that other body parts are not. Which brings up an interesting side question: What makes private parts so private, in the first place? But setting this question aside, one can also go on to argue that being able to see somebody's genitals in class might sexually arouse one in ways that might not happen if these private parts were covered. Maybe this is true, although I personally believe that very often, arousal arises more from what is covered than from what is exposed. In my opinion, the tantalizing factor in skimpy clothing arises more from what they conceal than from what they actually expose. So, if this is correct, then if you expose everything, nothing is then concealed; and since nothing is concealed, the tantalizing factor would no longer arise. At any rate, this is my opinion. I have not done any systematic research on this :-)

(3) Perhaps the idea behind Naked Yoga is to put people in a place where they are pushed out of their comfort zones by being literally stripped of everything they might possibly cling to in order to give themselves some kind of identity in everyday life. I think for many of us, our everyday identities are consciously or unconsciously tied up with the clothes we choose to wear, with the garments we choose to use to cover our bodies. If we take these markers of everyday identity away, we are then forced to focus on what is essential: Our bodies, our minds' reactions to our bodies, and the practice.

(4) Here's one possible reason why Naked Yoga isn't more popular than it actually is: If more people were to do Naked Yoga, wouldn't Lululemon sales seriously take a beating? For all we know, there might be a Lululemon lobby somewhere that actively works to make sure that Yoga Journal and most yoga publications give as little exposure to Naked Yoga as possible. This is just my own little theory, but I just thought I'll include it here for fun :-)

Well, these are some rather ill-formed and preliminary thoughts on Naked Yoga from a yogic prude :-) If you have anything to share, I'll love to hear them.

In other news: I will be attending Kino's workshop in Richmond, Virginia on the first weekend of April (April 1st to 3rd). I will be doing another video interview with her. I'm going to try to make this interview cover more basic questions about yoga philosophy and the methodology of Ashtanga yoga. I'm in the process of putting questions together. If you have any questions you would like to ask Kino, you can email me at siegfried23 at hotmail dot com. I can't promise that I will ask every and any question you want me to ask, but I'll do my best to fit everything in.


  1. HA HA HA "Lululemon lobby", you made my day with that one!, funny! seriously, I am pretty sure there is ;-)

    Congratulations on going to Kino in April, I will be going to Sharath too! also in April... we will have things to blog about :-) If I think of a question I will send.

  2. Im going to Kino here in Vegas April 8 and Sharath in Encinitas in May!

  3. @Claudia, I'm glad you like the idea of the Lululemon lobby :-) It's really cool that you are going to Sharath. I much prefer mysore to led, that's one of the reasons I chose Kino's workshop. Moreover, I'm not gutsy enough to ask Sharath for an interview. Give me a couple of years, maybe...

    @Laura, we will be benefiting from Kino's instruction within a week of each other :-) Gosh, she really has energy, doesn't she, jetting from one end of the country to the other from one weekend to the next?

  4. I went to one of Kino's week long 10 student workshops in Miami at the end of last year. She is amazing! I dont know how she does all that travel. Tim will be teaching with her for the Vegas workshop.

    I will admit that I am a bit scared about Sharath. I havent been to the new Jois shala but my friend goes there and she said it is small, maybe fits 30 people so I wont be able to hide in my bad poses!

  5. Re: #3) I think people go to naked yoga because they want to be among other naked people (for whatever reasons, tantalizing or liberating etc), not because they are challenging themselves to be pushed past of their comfort zones. It may be the case for a few people but I'm pretty certain it's not the majority.

  6. @Laura, I would love to go to one of Kino's week long workshops. I haven't been able to take so much time off so far :-)

    Have fun at the Jois Shala! Maybe you would like to blog about it after you go? If you do not have a blog, you can guest post on my blog too.

    @Yyogini, I think it is definitely true that many people go to Naked Yoga because they want to be among other naked people (possibly for sexually motivated reasons). But I wonder if many such people end up transcending their original motivations and becoming seriously interested in yoga, just as people who go to a conventional yoga class to check out hot chicks often end up becoming serious yogis. I don't know if this happens with Naked Yoga. I just wonder.

  7. I have little to offer re: this phenomenon as well so will sum it up this: as far as I can tell, the only person who can pull this off is one K. Budig. Ha! I am going to Kino and Tim for a week in November and am excited. I will look forward to your video.

    I confess that I have probably served as a one woman lulu fundraising action committee based on the number of pants purchased over a period of years. Oops. But another yoga prude, I have few ways of getting my kicks and buying yoga pants is one of them. I figure it could be worse. Kristen

  8. @Kristen, yes, of course, we forgot about K. Budig :-) It's so cool that you will get to study with Kino and Tim for a week. I look forward to hearing about your experience there. And yes, I suppose there are worse ways to get one's kicks :-)

  9. I dont have a blog but I will let you know how Sharath goes in your blog comment section.

    I look forward to your interview with Kino.

  10. Very cool, Laura. I look forward to hearing about your Sharath workshop experience too.

  11. Naked yoga and covering the genitals reminds me of a funny story I heard a long time ago about a group of tribal people (who didn't wear any clothing) in a small village somewhere in Africa. Sorry I don't remember the details, but basically what happened was that some Christian Missionaries visited this group of people and told them they had to wear clothes if they wanted to worship God.

    So the women covered their breasts and genitals and the men started wearing loin cloths. Within a year, the women were "selling" a peek at their breasts to the men. Prior to clothes, nobody was bothered by exposed breasts or genitals. Covered with clothing, they became a focus of interest - enough so that the men would pay to see them.

    It makes one wonder. . .

  12. Very funny story, Cathrine :-) You should write a post about this. Here's a slightly different spin on the same premise: A long time ago, a salesperson working for a big clothing store came to a small village in Africa where nobody wore any clothes. Within three months, the salesperson succeeded in convincing everybody in the village that having certain garments on one's body is beautiful, because God created our bodies so we could put clothes on them and look good.

    Moral of the story: A good salesman can sell anything to anybody. Probably not as funny as your story, but I just thought I'd share anyway :-)