Had a beautiful last swan song of summer weekend with the fun-loving members of Young Naturists of America. Here’s a great article written about those weekend whose hi-lights which featured two naked yoga classes, one taught by Anya Castellano and the other a naked partner yoga class taught by me!
“Hola Isis! I am setting up Naked Yoga classes in D.C. beginning next month and a big question asked is …. is it legal? I don’t believe it is but i wondered if you have an answer you give when this question is asked? Much love and appreciation for sharing!
Hi Surya! I’m so excited you’re spreading the naked love in Washington D.C.
I’ve taught primarily in New York so my knowledge is of New York laws around consensual social nudity. Here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Legal in a Private Location. Basically, naturism in a privately owned or rented space in New York is legal. I taught hundreds of classes in my apartment building in New York and at a few local yoga and dance studios who had supportive building owners and managers. My experience teaching naked yoga has been mostly isolated to New York.
2 Nudity for art’s sake is legal. New York has laws that protect public nudity when it is for the sake of art which is why Andy Golub gets to paint naked bodies in Times Square. Early in my teaching, I rehearsed and filmed for a naked yoga documentary on the top of an art gallery of a three story building. That three story art gallery was right above a high-rise hotel and a rooftop restaurant. We were seen by many who were not part of our class but those who saw were amused or seemed to shrug it off as a “New York Moment” as we never received any complaints that I know of.
- Nudity as part of a religious act is legal as long as there is no mal-intent. There are special cases where nudity is protected because it falls under freedom of worship where being naked and saluting the sun could be a form of religious worship as long as it does not infringe on another’s right to worship. I wouldn’t go saluting the sun in the buff on the steps of someone else’s church.
- Partial nudity is legal and this right is protected for women meaning both men and women have the right to be topless. New York is one of those rare states too that support women’s rights to be topless in public regardless of if they are a nursing mother or someone who is simply sunbathing. In fact in New York there are many topless events that happen publicly like the topless book club that meets in Central Park.
Social nudity is a regular occurrence so tap into your local communities to fill your classes and receive support as well. There are regular nude events in New York that include naked painting events, naked comedy and even naked dinners at New York restaurants and other nude social activities. These are done in private settings or settings where art is a focus. Some public events skirt the issues of legality if they move fast enough to avoid getting arrested such as the naked bike rides that seem to be popping up in different big cities like New York, Boston, Montreal.
Several other states such as Vermont and Oregon that have laws in place that protect people’s rights to be naked socially.
You need to check with the state laws in your area if you are teaching in Maryland. Naturist Action Committee http://naturistaction.org/ breaks down the nudity laws from state to state. I find an interpreter for the legal jargon is good to have on hand. Here’s what a few naturists who are lawyers have shared with me about your situation in Maryland.
My lawyer friend, naked yogi and legal interpreter Eric shares “Yes, from my reading of the statutes, Naked Yoga is legal in D.C. Basically, the act prohibits exposure or actions which are “obscene, indecent or filthy.” According to Supreme Court rulings, prevailing community standards would apply in interpreting these vague (perhaps meaningless) words. Unless sexual activity is involved (which of course it would not be in the type of naked yoga classes with which I am familiar), the practice of naked yoga would not be deemed to be obscene, indecent or “filthy” (god, what a bizarre choice of words, no?). Particularly if it is done in a private setting where only those who choose to do so can witness it. If done publicly, there might indeed be a high risk of prosecution. You should be aware of this case in neighboring Virginia, where a person was prosecuted for being naked in his own home, with his blinds open, and was observed by a passer-by:
Even in that case, though, there is a likelihood that some sexual act would be required for conviction. I believe the judge dismissed this case and the defendant was not convicted.
So, to be on the safe side, the naked yoga class should not be visible to passers-by or members of the public.
In addition, also to be on the safe side, participation should be limited to those 17 years of age and older.
I hope this helps!”
FEDERAL LAWS: If you are teaching in Maryland State you come under state laws but if you are teaching in D.C. that is different and refers to Federal Laws and also Municipal Laws. There is no anti-nudity law in place on the Federal level. Many aren’t even aware of this including certain citation officers that could write you a ticket if you were naked in a state park or by a state monument in D.C. The Municipal laws of D. C. however, state (a) It shall not be lawful for any person or persons to make any obscene or indecent exposure of his or her person, or to make any lewd, obscene, or indecent sexual proposal in the District of Columbia under penalty of not more than $300 fine, or imprisonment of not more than 90 days, or both, for each and every such offense.
What makes something obscene is often how it is perceived. So you would most likely want to choose a private naturist friendly location to hold your classes and right now there are no laws in place that would/could keep you from doing that.
If I could give you two tips they would be below:
Create Alliances: Best to be transparent that your classes include nudity with whoever you rent space from to avoid problems in the future. I find it useful to align with a body positive community perhaps one who is already exploring naturism or an arts community that is body positive. Strangely, the yoga community can be very conservative around nudity, much less so than say a dance or arts community.
Sign Waivers: Have your students sign a waiver too of your choosing of words to protect yourself but something along the lines of that everyone is a consenting adult who for the purpose of this class agree to be naked and that they will be around other naked people and that they are in good health and sound mind and release you of any responsibility for injuries etc.
Here’s some additional arm-chair legal advice from naked yogi Lloyd.
“Two issues that have plagued us in the struggle to advance a body-positive culture are the vagueness of the laws and the reliance on interpretation by the mythical “reasonable person” or “community standards.” It allows the citing officer and the judge to interpret the incident anyway they want. Avoiding trouble and winning in court are two separate issues.
I assume avoiding trouble is the main concern here. Four points come to mind:
1. Maintaining open and cordial communication with the owners of the facilities and the neighbors is crucial. People don’t sue or report their friends to the police.
2. Second, yoga is well established as a popular health discipline free from suspicion as a cover for illegal sexual activity (massage, for example, does not enjoy this freedom). Emphasize the “yoga” over the “naked.”
3. Third, yoga carries religious overtones which offers cover on the basis of freedom of religion. Anything exotic also lends itself to excuse from “community standards” precisely because it is not something commonly found in the local community. Officers are reluctant to cite activity that may be some exotic religious practice than something they’re more familiar with as fronts for prostitution.
4. Finally, nonsexual mixed nude recreation is well established. Naked yoga can be presented as a variation of nudism or naturism by alternatively referring to it as “nudist yoga” or ‘naturist yoga.’ “
This is a clever write-up from AANR American Association of Nude Recreation on the Nudist Bill of Rights. http://www.aanr.com/nudist-bill-of-rights You can add your signature in support.
My final advice would be to reach out to MARNA (Maryland Area Naturists) http://marnacamp.org to let them know about what your plans are they can also inform you of the legalities of your state and district and things to be aware of. They will know all about legalities and nudity on a state level as well as navigating any potential legal problems. They have been around a long time. So glad you’re spreading the love up there.
When I’m in D.C. I’ll totally stop in and take a class.
Hope this helps!
Question From a Father:
“I have a question and am getting a few people opinions. I have a 16 year old daughter and she knows that my girlfriend and I go to nude events and she wants to try it. She wasn’t raised around nudity. Do you think it’s a good idea to let her come with us or wait until she 18?”
Dear Naturist Dad,
Thank you for writing in. What an awesome question. It’s one that puts me on the razor’s edge to answer. It can be a powerful and profound transition for a young woman to step into her power and embrace naturism. I have to say I wish I had grown up with super cool parents who were naturists and shared with me body-positive experiences. Transitioning into a naturist environment in one’s teens, having not previously grown up in a naturist environment is a bit tricky, particularly for parents. First of all I would want to know if there is another parent, your daughter’s biological mother or caregiver who this could be discussed with as well. You definitely want both parents or guardians in the conversation and on board around the decision. If you are a single father, I commend you taking steps to gather more information and writing in about this question and taking on a potentially large and challenging conversation. I am so glad you are asking for support and seeking multiple opinions.
I would also inquire with your daughter why she feels called to explore naturism at this time and what she hopes to get out of the experience. Is it something she and her friends have discussed and there is general interest among her peers? Uncovering the intent for her interest could be helpful for you both. I have an 18 and over policy at my events but certain naturists spaces are family friendly and hold an all inclusive feel. I have taught yoga and facilitated naked church at several of these spaces. A wide range of ages were present and that felt very healing to witness and experience as someone who did not grow up in a naturist environment. At this transitional age of your daughter being a teenager, I would also wonder of your personal boundaries. Are you comfortable with experiencing your daughter in a naturist environment and is your girlfriend comfortable with that as well as I assume she would accompany the two of you. Bridging this environment at such a transitional age and time could be awkward for everyone but that doesn’t mean not to have the conversation about it.
I will also address the elephant in the room too which is that you are a man and this is doubly as challenging for you because it is deemed more psychologically and socially safe for a mother to escort a daughter to a naturist resort than a father. If I were a father, I would either wait until my daughter was eighteen years old allowing her to make her own choices, or ask a trusted female friend who was a naturist to speak with my daughter about naturism and offer to serve as an escort to a family friendly resort. The role of father is the daughter’s protector and transitioning into a naturist lifestyle as a teen comes with too many potentially volatile situations that I myself would not feel capable of handling. I would need to honor my own boundaries as a father and say I wasn’t comfortable with that but support my daughter’s desire to explore naturism when she turns of age.
I would thank my daughter for expressing interest and perhaps speak to her briefly about the healing I had found in the practice of naturism and ask her if she had any questions for me around it.
Here’s a dialogue I explored previously in another blog post around teenage naturism.
~ Isis Phoenix
Yesterday, I received an email from Abigail Ekue who’s been interviewed on this blog and also a huge advocate and supporter of naked yoga. She mentioned to me in an email that her recent photography exhibit got pulled from an art show for show-casing a series photographs of nude men, part of her “Bare Men” series. When I went to view her series online CLICK HERE, I saw only beautiful artistic nude photographs, tasteful and discerning. I read below the reason for them choosing to pull the her work from the show which reminds me still how very far we have come and still have to go in releasing shame and transmuting fear around the human body.
…we must pull your work from the exhibition… We usually have a good mixture of genres of photography in the past, including nudes, but this exhibition has seemed to draw out more simpler and softer genres, and your images will not fit into this particular show.”
Bare Men will be an objet d’art. I continue work on my original plan for this project — a solo print exhibit and a photography book. I will update my website and Tumblr occasionally. http://www.abigailekue.com/Nudes.html
Please feel free to give Abigail a shout out for her beautiful work and also re-post to support naturism and nude art.
Great essay on the transformative practices of naked yoga by Mukunda – courtesy of Abigail Ekue’s Blog Random Musings.
The story of my body is definitely of the ugly duckling turned swan. I was a dancer so I was always very in tune with my body. From the ages of four to fourteen, however, I had the curse of coke bottle glasses. Those glasses were so heavy I practically had to use my hands to hold my head up. I was teased and tortured relentlessly by other kids. Being teased consistently, I developed a deep sensitivity for how people feel. I’m very sensitive to the emotional fluctuations of others around me. When I entered high school, my mother decided it was time for me to have contact lenses. I was not prepared for the change in attention I received. I was a shy introverted young woman who was suddenly considered beautiful and popular. I was not ready for the reverse attention of attraction. I became even more introverted which others took as snobbish and conceited because I was now attractive and shy. I used to get headaches and stomachaches because it was so much to process.
I feel like I’ve always been on a spiritual quest. I’ve gone to every mosque, temple, church or synagogue I could find. Eventually my practice led me to Tantra. I feel like I’m in the best place I’ve ever been with my body. It was a beautiful integration of the spiritual and the physical. There was no demonizing of the body. When different religions told me my body and my sexuality were wrong or dirty there was something in me as an intuitive young woman that knew that my body was holy.
I discovered naturism about twelve years ago at a campground called Brushwood. It’s a clothing optional campground with a community who is interested in creativity and spirituality. Brushwood is my utopia. I started running clothing optional yoga classes and sound healing circles in New York City to recreate the Brushwood experience during the winter months. Doing yoga and meditation nude has made me feel so liberated. Being nude enables me to feel the lifeforce energy within my body as well as the energy surrounding my body on a deeper level and feel the oneness of all beings.
Having children too has played a huge part in grounding me in a loving relationship with my body. I’m raising my children as naturists. I actually think children are born naturists. My kids always want to take their clothes off. I have five of them – 8,10, 13, 16, 22. My older ones, when they hit puberty, went through a phase where they put clothes on to cover up their changing bodies. After that phase was over, they felt more comfortable with being nude outdoors and around others.
The intention I hold for my clothing optional events and classes is that I want people to realize the illusion of separation between people and planet. Everything we do, every word we speak affects ourselves and each other. I want to assist people in increasing their own inner vibrational frequency so we connect with each other lovingly. I envision a time when people stop being hateful towards each other. We are all one operating as vibrations of some form. I want us to awaken.