Naked yoga: the bare truth - it's already big in the US, and has now landed here

Downward-facing dog in the buff? Sun salutations au naturel? Doing poses in the altogether – in mixed classes. Chelsea Jane Moore finds out if it's all a bit of a stretch

Being naked in front of a classroom is something most of us will only ever experience in our worst nightmares. Yet here I am about to embark on a Naked Yoga class with people who have paid good money to bare it all in a room full of strangers.

In a dimly lit studio in south-west London, we undress in the shadows before practising a couple of hours of meditative yoga in silence with eyes mercifully closed, before we slink back into our clothes and leave without uttering a word.

A big element of naked yoga, I'm told, is getting over body hang-ups and increasing confidence. Speaking to people who teach it and practise it, it sounds like an intensive form of psychotherapy.

Naked yoga is a critique of consumerism, which says that when we strip down, we're all the same. Designer yoga gym shorts won't save you. Here, your body – or perhaps your soul – is the only currency that counts.

"There have been women that have come that have had body issues, problems with their weight, who have felt like they have benefited from coming to the classes in a big way," says Annette, yoga instructor at Naked Yoga London, who also teaches the class naked.

"It's that thing of overcoming one of your greatest fears and being OK with it, and being, like, 'It's not there anymore, that thing that was holding me back. I've gone beyond it now. I've triumphed over it.'"

The practice of naked yoga, or "nagna" yoga, has been around since ancient times and is still practised by religious figures in India. In the 1960s, it became popular among followers of the hippie movement in the US. And now it's making a splash due to mixed-gender classes becoming popular in cities such as New York and LA.

In London, it's still very much a man's club, with all-male classes run by YogaNu and Altogether Yoga in London. Annette's mixed-gender class at Naked Yoga London is the only one of its kind in the whole of the UK.

Nudity isn't essential at Naked Yoga London, unlike at some other centres, but Annette recommends it because it expands the basic principles of yoga by encouraging a deep acceptance, or "aparigraha", of ourselves and others. The more squeamish are encouraged to strip down to a sarong until they feel comfortable taking it off. Mine stayed firmly in place all night.

I'm trying to get to the bottom of why a woman would want to bare it all, when Grace Lenhart, 21, a regular at Naked Yoga London, explains that she does it as part of a New Year's Resolution to "love herself more".

"I feel stronger as a person when I'm doing naked yoga because I'm doing an extra thing of being naked, which is vulnerability, but once you push through it then it's a strength," says the religious studies student from Wisconsin.

It's not always a confidence-building exercise. Some claim that they find naked yoga relaxing. After experiencing it myself, there really is no better way to explain it, but I imagine it was very much like this in the womb. Soft red lighting and candles emanate warmth, while a comforting smell of incense, mixed with meditation music, trails the air. Someone, somewhere, starts to snore. Annette's soothing voice lifts and falls as she guides us through the postures.

Grown adults, naked as the day they were born, curl up on their towel-covered yoga mats into the "Balsana" or child's pose. It's like a return to a childlike state, when nudity is just a natural state of being.

The Dynamic Yoga Method practised at Naked Yoga London is a very individual experience of seeing but not touching.

Not true in the all-male camp, says Richard George, instructor at all-male naked yoga centre YogaNu in London. "There is almost always an element of touch involved. I think that's quite interesting in itself, because people crave touch, a lot of people. Whether that's from childhood or just the fact that they're single people, I'm not sure."

Meanwhile, on an emotional level, he says: "I've had people emailing me saying, 'I've built up the courage to come to class', then they get there, they get all the way to the door and then have just gone home because they're too scared. That's how deep the hang-up is within some people. That's why it's like a therapy."

My naked yoga class seems to be over when it's only just begun, ending with a 15-minute long "Savasana", or wind-down phase, in which Annette circles the room covering everyone up with blankets unless – like nudity-challenged moi – you're still wearing your cover-up.

Throwing off shackles of consumerism in a flash of naked yoga therapy might be liberating for some. As admirable as it sounds, it proved a step too far for me.

A course of four, 1 hour 45 minute sessions at Naked Yoga London costs £75 and is suitable for all levels.

nakedyogalondon.co.uk

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

    £70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all