Tag Archives: Healing

Naked Yoga: A Path to Self-Acceptance

nakedyoga classjpgIn working on the Naked Yoga Book,  I presented a series of contemplative questions and writing prompts that I listed on my website for individuals to ponder over who were interested in telling their story.  Last night I received this beautiful and vulnerable email from a lovely Pakistani man.  I was moved so much by his response, I wanted to share.

Tell me the story of your body.

I use to be overweight prior to high school. I would be bullied for being a fat, nerdy paki.

I remember holding my chest from bouncing around the pool during school trips in the summer.

During my stay in Pakistan I lost a lot of weight and came back to Canada. People I knew couldn’t recognize me after I had lost all that weight.

I started to workout and liked the attention I was getting. My cousin dared me by saying “Pakis can’t get a six pack” so I began working out 6 days a week and became a fitness model.

I thought I looked great and felt like crap because I was dehydrating myself to look more ripped for photoshoots and casting events.

Now I have gained some weight and am not so obsessed with the GQ look. I am a yogi and I love my body as it is the perfect gift for me from my Maker!

Why did your soul choose this body?

Because it knew it was the perfect shape, size and color to allow me to experience all that I intended in this lifetime.

What is yoga to you?  How has naked yoga transformed your life?

Yoga is life to me. Yoga means union and to me life is about looking past illusions to remember our oneness with all that is. 

Naked yoga gave me a venue to express my love for the body I have while daring myself not to look to impress anyone with an image that I adopted from some magazine.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from your body over the years?

I am perfect.

What struggles have you faced being an embodied soul in your particular body?

Being overweight

Eating out of depression

Starving my body to look good

Severe allergies and hives

Car accident leading to 6 herniated disks

Getting better through love and yoga

 – Ali

Guest Blog on the Naked Yoga Trend by Lloyd

GUEST BLOG by Lloyd:

Over the holidays, I stumbled upon a four-year-long discussion on an article on Naked Yoga blogged on the internet in 2007.  The author dismissed it as “too racy” for her.  She asked her readers whether they would try such a thing.  The almost one hundred responses over four years were fascinating.  First the responses were almost universally – and often virulently – negative.  They were also made by people who, like the author had never experienced nude yoga in a group.  Cries of disgust gushed: screaming captials, barking multiple exclamation points, long strings of drawn out “EEEWWWW’ and “YUCK!!!!”

The article and the responses, at least the early ones, were rife with sexual innuendo. Naked yoga is all about sex – especially gay sex – practiced by perverts and leads to sexual abuse and dangerous things. Yoga is pure and spiritual and shouldn’t be sullied with something so base as nudity. Adoration of and pleasure in the human body has no place in yoga. We must hide ourselves (in form-fitting, expensive clothing) so as not to distract others. Especially men, who couldn’t possibly do yoga for any other reason than as a substitute for pornography.

The theme of Downward-facing Dog recurred (sometimes with nauseating detail), and all from people who practice yoga clothed, never nude. Maybe I learned wrong, but isn’t your gaze supposed to be turned toward your center in Down Dog? In my experience with crowded classes, even clothed participants shift politely to avoid face-ass proximity.

So what we have here is a pretext contrived to mask personal phobia. Where does the absurd aversion we as a species have to our own flesh come from? Children are not born with it. Other societies live in comfort with nudity. This phenomenon must come from our culture.

It isn’t hard to see what anchors our exaggerated disgust for ourselves – our ancient sky religion. And Christianity doesn’t hold the monopoly. The Islamic world, if anything, exceeds us in body hatred. (This would be a tempting place to digress about the parallel development of animal husbandry, slavery and marriage as a contract between two men to buy a daughter. And about fear of all things feminine. I know the fear of rape and the drive to attract a mate affect women in ways they don’t affect men, but we men also suffer the consequences. I’m hurt when a woman behaves in such a way as to indicate she thinks me dangerous or shallow.)

I found myself wondering about why grown adults feel obligated to display disgust for all things pelvic? And fear the imagined judgment of others? And neurotically resort to buying expensive, sexy clothing to both hide and entice at the same time.

As often happens in life, insight came through a small child. During breaks from my laptop, I did a few asanas, Downward-facing Dog among them. My almost-two-year-old grandson, running about diaper-free, attempted an imitation to the delight of my wife and three adult daughters. He had no qualms about pointing his bare bottom up in the air. None of us found it disgusting in the least. But at some point, that child with his cute little butt in the air will become the image that disgusts so many self-admitted devotees to yoga. He will not only become disgusting to others, he will develop an arresting self-consciousness and desperately cover himself. When does that happen? At ten? Fifteen? Certainly before adulthood.

When do we stop being the Child? When do we stop seeing the Child?

Long before I entered the practice of medicine, I was a massage therapist. One client changed my outlook forever. He was an old man, brought in by his elderly wife. I’d say they were in their eighties. He had a slow, shuffling gate, fixed gaze, and expressionless face which I took for early Parkinsonism. Most strikingly, his body was covered with lesions of at least five distinct kinds. He hadn’t been washed properly in days, maybe weeks.

I was apprenticing in the practice of a kindly old Norwegian therapist, Connie Haldorson. She was getting on in years and needed someone to help. I did most of the massage while she sat at the feet of her clients doing reflexology. Connie was also an herbalist.

She had prepared special lotion just for this man. (I wish I had paid more attention, but I remember it had comfrey and aloe vera in it.) I massaged the goo into his tough, leathery skin from head to toe and rubbed it off with a rough towel. Several towels, actually. Dead layers of skin and crusty lesions came off in scoops. What emerged was pink, new, clean skin – still tough, but softer. When he got off the table, he felt renewed. Most importantly, he no longer felt filthy and disgusting. We dressed him in clean clothes. He came out of the room to greet his wife with a little hop and a “Come on, Ma! Let’s go dancin’!” I had to excuse myself to weep.

I have never looked at a person the same way since. Underneath all that disgusts us – the hair, the fat, the sweat, the filth – lies that child, that cute little kid with his bottom in the air.

Herbs can do wonders in knowledgeable hands. But the miracle that day was due to nothing more than Connie’s motherly compassion for a child. An eighty-year-old child. (Excuse me. Did I just modify the most powerful force in the universe – motherly love – with the words “nothing more than?”)

If naked yoga means anything to me, it means motherly love – that compassionate protection of the child in each of us. It means seeing each other the way mothers view children. And wouldn’t that be a nice change from seeing people as objects of lust or disgust.

Naked Yoga – A Love Letter

A much deserved ‘repost’ from the 2009 Phoenix Temple Days.  I continue to remain inspired by this practice and am currently working on a photographic essay documenting stories of individuals in their naked yoga practice.  I am still seeking individuals who would like to be interviewed and photographed in their practice.  

Isis Phoenix

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I’ve been perusing my computer today, moving through old photo shoots of when I first began Naked Yoga and dared to bare my asana on high-rise buildings, on Sandy-Hook Beach, on a third story roof in the meat-packing district, all in the name of freedom, celebration and love. As I sifted through over three years of old photos, I was shocked at my very visceral response to them. Some, quite literally took my breath away. I remember at one time, being afraid to look at the photos of me doing yoga naked, hiding them deep in the belly of the hard drive on my computer. But today, something made me look and when I did, I saw such unmistakable beauty present in this practice which I had been previously unavailable to fully witness.

Naked yoga has been one of the most beautiful and self-healing and self-sustaining practices I have encountered. As a woman holding space for this practice, naked yoga, more than anything else, has assisted me in moving through the body-image bullshit that has accumulated throughout my life. This practice drops me into one-ness with my body, releasing the bully of the mind the and the judgment of the ego. The naked yoga practice has been a constant in my life for the past three and a half years, a flowering perennial that continues to bloom, sustain and resurrect itself each year. Of course when I began my movement in NYC, I was sure I was the first to trail blaze such an extraordinary feat.  But sadly, I’m reminded there is no true original creation.  To my surprise, there were already a few naked yoga circles going in New York City. One was a men’s group Hot Nude Yoga in Chelsea catering to primarily gay and bisexual men, another was in Brooklyn, male run and male attended but allowed women, and then there was a group already led by a woman, Britt, who had taken over naked yoga classes from a woman named Wendy. I collaborated with Britt for a short time until she left the practice entirely to pursue writing and shortly after that I birthed Phoenix Temple to hold ongoing classes for Naked Yoga.

Not only has this practice helped heal the shame I’ve felt over my body, but it’s made me more at ease in the world. I find there are so many more layers I have to work through when I attend a clothed yoga class – not just layers of clothing but also of karma keeping me both separate from the experience, the group and the yoga.

This practice has been so dear to me and the press has been forth coming and also, surprisingly filled with grace. I am amazed at how this practice transforms lives. Over the past three and a half years, there has been a shocking lack of ill-intentioned people showing up in my Temple Space and to the practice. Most are earnest, nervous, with a desire and longing to continue to unravel their own societal shame conditioning, reaching for a moment of stillness and freedom in the galloping pace of New York City. Each time, I feel myself go into contraction around a pose in class; ‘ oh my god, my ass is in the air, and I think I have a hemorrhoid from this cleanse I’ve been doing’ I Breathe, Release and Surrenders. Ahhh. This practice has been my lifeblood. It is always expanding, changing, growing and I love it.

Gratitude and love to the community who has shown up to this practice, from those who have made up the core of our community, to those teaching it in other communities and those who have previously taught and have passed on the torch to the next generation, to the women who dare to come to class or dare to think about coming to class, to those who simply practice in their living rooms and to those who google naked yoga wanting to see naked chicks in exotic poses and who find this and are transformed, Thank you. Thank you for daring, for loving, for being.