Naked yoga

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Naga Sadhus in India 2013
Sculpture of Hindu yogi, Delhi
Nigamananda Paramahansa, yogi and Hindu leader, India, 1904.

Naked yoga (Sanskrit nagna yoga or vivastra yoga) is the practice of yoga without clothes. While many practice naked yoga at home and in nature, there are a growing number of participants in group classes; the practice is gaining popularity, notably in western societies that have more familiarity with social nudity.

Naked yoga should be considered in relation to the dress code at yoga courses, varying from different times and yoga directions.


Yoga has been practiced naked since ancient times. In the Bhagavata Purana it says:

”A person in the renounced order of life may try to avoid even a dress to cover himself. If he wears anything at all, it should be only a loincloth, and when there is no necessity, a sannyāsī should not even accept a daṇḍa. A sannyāsī should avoid carrying anything but a daṇḍa and kamaṇḍalu.” [1]

The practice of spiritual nudity is common among Digambara Jains, Aghori sadhus, and other ascetic groups in the dharmic religions. A notable example is the order of Naga Sadhus who use nudity as a part of their spiritual practice of renunciation; the word Nāga means snake, which signifies power in Hindu philosophy. The word sadhu derives from sadhana meaning spiritual practice. Members of the sect considered nudity a way of rejecting the material side of life. Celibacy and disregard of the harsh outside conditions were among the key ideas of their philosophy, they practiced naked yoga to tame their desires, identify with their physical bodies and to break the attachment with everything physical, sensual and material.

Alexander the Great reached India in the 4th century BC. Along with his army, he took Greek academics with him who later wrote memoirs about geography, people and customs they saw. One of Alexander's companion was Onesicritus, quoted in Book 15, Sections 63-65 by Strabo, who describes yogins of India.[2] Onesicritus claims those Indian yogins (Mandanis ) practiced aloofness and "different postures – standing or sitting or lying naked – and motionless".[3]

Modern naked yoga is practiced in Germany and Switzerland through a movement called Lebensreform; the movement had since the end of the 19th century highlighted yoga and nudity.[4] In the early 20th century, the term gymnosophy was appropriated by several groups who practiced nudity, asceticism and meditation. Blanche de Vries Bernard combined a popularity of Oriental dancing with yoga. In 1914 she was put in charge of a yoga school for women in New York City. Five years later, she opened an institute for women, teaching Yoga Gymnosophy — a name that conveys the blending of yoga and nudism, she taught until 1982.[5][6][7]

In the West since the 1960s, naked yoga practice has been incorporated in the hippie movement[8] and for instance in progressive settings for well-being, such as at the Esalen Institute in California, as depicted in the 1968 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Other films with notable segments include The Harrad Experiment and Naked Yoga (1974).

Actress Lena Nyman practices naked yoga exercises in the 1967 film, I Am Curious (Yellow). Organized naked yoga has existed since the mid eighties, mainly among naturists, particularly in Central Europe.

In New York City in 1998, an American going by the name Jayadev started a group called "Midnight Yoga for Men" where participants practiced "naked before the infinite" in the style of the sadhus.

Another person famous for the promotion of naked yoga in the West is Aaron Star, owner of Hot Nude Yoga, he began his version of nude yoga in April 2001 becoming an instant "underground sensation" as quoted by Time Out New York. The practiced yoga combined elements of Ashtanga, Kundalini, and Contact Yoga with elements of Tantra;[9] because of the success of Hot Nude Yoga, nude yoga groups began to blossom all over the world, from London, Moscow, Madrid to Sydney. Many of these male-only naked yoga groups have been associated with the gay community,[10] though often not intentionally. One Taste Urban Retreat Center popularized naked yoga after it was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.[11] Nowadays, there are also specific naked yoga clubs for homosexuals that are not simple yoga classes, but rather communities for keeping fit and sharing sexuality.[12] Aaron Star says that many people, especially in cities like New York and Los Angeles, don't have ways to express closeness and intimacy without having sex, and that his practice affords that.[13]

While Naked Yoga had mainly been the domain of male only groups, in 2011 Naked Yoga London[14] was founded in London, offering Naked Yoga Courses to all genders. From 2014 Bold and Naked in New York also started offering co-ed classes. From 2013 naked yoga became more noticed in media,[15][16][17][18] in particular co-ed yoga classes.[19][20][21]


Motivations are the acceptance of one's own body with all its imperfections and to open one's heart.[22] Naked yoga often symbolizes separation from worldly possessions and helps those who practice it to calm their active mind, which is one of the main aims of yoga practice and is often hard to achieve.[23]


San Francisco courts found that naturist and libertarian George Monty Davis (aka "Naked Yoga Guy") did not commit a crime in 2004 by practicing naked yoga in a public place,[24] but rather a variant of public nudity. In 2012, Scott Wiener proposed and had passed a San Francisco municipal code (SF Police Code § 154. (under Article 2: Disorderly Conduct) that outlaws public nudity in that city without a parade permit.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.13.2 Archived October 19, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, Bhaktivedanta VedaBase
  2. ^ Charles R Lanman, The Hindu Yoga System Archived April 12, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Harvard Theological Review, Volume XI, Number 4, Harvard University Press, pages 355-359
  3. ^ Strabo, Geography Book XV, Chapter 1, see Sections 63-65, Loeb Classical Library edition, Harvard University Press, Translator: HL Jones, Archived by: University of Chicago
  4. ^ Kalifornication, Frieze magazine, 9, 2013 Archived July 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Eric Shaw, A Short History of Women in Yoga in the West, Feb 2011.
  6. ^ Stefanie Syman, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, 2010.
  7. ^ Rebecca Anne D'Orsogna, Yoga in America: History, Community Formation, and Consumerism, University of Texas, 2013.
  8. ^ Hippie Roots & The Perennial Subculture, 2003. Archived October 24, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Aaron Star - Hot Nude Yoga Founder Archived 2014-12-16 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Naked Yoga for men - Gay Naturists International (GNI)". Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  11. ^ Carolyne Zinko, Doing it in the altogether is what makes this yoga practice altogether free from distractions Archived 2011-10-18 at the Wayback Machine SF Chronicle, May 24, 2005
  12. ^ Homosensuality Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Yoga's Naked Commercialism Archived July 7, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Naked Yoga London - A 4 week journey of enquiry into the self, open to all". Naked Yoga London. Retrieved 2017-10-23.
  15. ^ Confessions of a Naked Yogini: Liz Arch. Archived May 21, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Enlightenment: Photographs of Rachel Brathen, 2013 by Anais Benoudiz. Archived March 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ ELLE Culture, Secrets of a Naked Yoga Model, feb 4, 2014. Archived March 17, 2017, at
  18. ^ Top 10 Places to do Naked Yoga, July 08, 2014 Archived November 8, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Naked yoga: it's already big in US, and has now landed here". The Independent. 2014-04-15. Retrieved 2017-10-23.
  20. ^ Daily Mail, 21 March, 2014. Archived March 24, 2014, at
  21. ^ Guide to Naked Yoga Classes in NYC. Archived October 16, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "Naked Yoga and its Psychological Benefits".
  23. ^ Getting to Know About Naked Yoga Archived January 14, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Au naturel is natural for Naked Yoga Guy Archived 2012-05-23 at the Wayback Machine, San Francisco Chronicle, September 22, 2004
  25. ^ "§ 154. Prohibiting public nudity". Retrieved August 10, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Naked Yoga, by Yen Chu and George Monty Davis (1st printing had no ISBN).
  • A Book of Yoga: The Body Temple, by Jo Ann Weinrib and David Weinrib, 1974, ISBN 0-8129-0494-X.
  • Nude & Natural magazine, "Naked Yoga: A Sanctuary and Source of Strength", by Kevin Brett. Issue 25.3, Spring 2006.
  • Shakti: The Feminine Power of Yoga (Hardcover) by Shiva Rea (Foreword), Victoria Davis, ISBN 0-9715581-1-6. Photographs of yoginis in the nude.
  • R.A.W. Nude Yoga: Celebrating The Human Body Temple by Katrina "Rainsong" Messenger, Photos by Michel F. Sarda. 2013, ISBN 978-0-927015-48-6. Nude yogis and yoginis, essays, poetry, meditations and inspirational quotes.

External links[edit]