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

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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

    Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

    £40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

    Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

    £17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

    Day In a Page

    Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

    ‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

    Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

    ... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
    12 best olive oils

    Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

    Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
    Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

    There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?