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

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    (Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

    Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principle Geotechnical Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Day In a Page

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup