Understanding Nude Yoga
Naked Yoga Practice and Benefits
Nude yoga, in it’s true sense, is a very legitimate and effective yoga practice and let me tell you something, it’s real purpose has very little to do with sex and eroticism. As I now see that nude yoga has made it’s way to the West, I would like to present this article to help shed some light and clear any misunderstandings on this radical, but valid yoga technique.
Naked yoga in general belongs to a particular sect of Yogis, who have practiced this method for many thousands of years now in India. They are called Naga Sadhus and this title describes well the philosophy and thinking that is central to their approach to yoga and spirituality. The word Naga means naked, and the word Sadhu implied one who has renounced the world completely. Here is then what is means to walk the path of a Naga Sadhu and practice nude yoga.
Naga Sadhus essentially roam the county naked, traveling from holy place to holy place or spend time at ashrams, where they devote themselves to the discovery of their True Divine Nature. The nude yoga they practice can primarily be understood at 2 levels. First, I will explore the "ordinary" meaning behind their naked ways and the benefits this bestows, and then I will go into the more esoteric and symbolic meaning behind what is means to be a naked yogi.
Benefits of Nude Yoga:
The nudity is a symbol of renunciation of all things material on the part of the Sadhus. By renouncing even clothes, they are demonstrating this agreement they have made during their initiation. Of course, real renunciation has to do with renouncing ambition, but even so, this ancient tradition uses material renunciation as a stepping stone towards this final end.
2. Body Awareness:
Nude yoga promotes greater awareness of the body and a greater sense of freedom when practicing yoga asanas (positions). Seeing and feeling the body as you stretch and move from one posture to the next, inspires more mindful practice. The nakedness also removes any sense of restriction that clothing subtly promotes and thus, a greater sense of freedom can be experienced when doing the yoga poses.
3. Psychological Freedom:
Above I mentioned that nude yoga can promote a greater sense of physical freedom, but the real freedom that the sadhus are seeking from their nakedness, is freedom from inhibitions, the opinions of others and any sense of shame about their body. Initially, a naked yogi will certainly feel the judgmental eyes and opinions of others, but in time these concerns evaporate and a care free attitude emerges. Nude yoga is about cultivating this level of psychological freedom.
4. Detachment from the Body:
Even though yoga, nude or otherwise, helps create a vibrant, energetic and powerful body, the objective though is actually detachment from the body. Nude sadhus of the Naga sect renounce sex and embrace celibacy, and learn to face the harsh elements without concern for physical comfort or security, including the freezing cold of the Himalayas where many reside. Both these acts are designed to help break the attachment one has with the physical body and sense organs.
Here I would like to point out that there are other sects which practice nude yoga and embrace the life of a naked yogi as well, but do not necessarily belong to the Naga order per se. An example of these are the Aghoris. They don’t practice celibacy and they often use non-traditional and radical approaches to speed up their path to enlightenment, but although their approach is different, their objectives with the practice of nude yoga are the same as above.
True Meaning of Nude Yoga practice:
Above I explored some of the important benefits of nakedness and nude yoga, but the real symbolic meaning behind nudity is something far deeper. The clothes that a yogi is really looking to free himself of, are the coverings of the 3 Gunas, and true naked yoga means to be free of these 3 sheaths.
The 3 Gunas are a core concept in Vedic and Yoga Philosophy and require significant discussion to understand deeply, but I will provide a brief overview here, in the context of nude yoga, to get you started.
The 3 gunas are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. For simplicity, you can consider Sattva to be the force of positivity, love and light, Rajas to be the force of activity and change, while Tamas to be the force of negativity and darkness. All manifestation is a play of these 3 attributes. The purpose of yoga is to finally be free of the play of these manifestations and encounter the unmanifested eternal Self. Thus, a true naked yogi is one who has shed these coverings and resides in his pure untouched, infinite nature.
Summary of Nude Yoga Practice
I hope the above gives a more clear picture of what nude yoga is all about and what purpose nakedness serves in spiritual practice. From the point of view of yoga morality, it’s best to keep things simple. That which further attaches you to the body and senses can be considered bad, as it works to imprison you further in the petty world of the ego and time, while that which helps you detach and connect with your higher consciousness helps set you free, and thus can be considered good. Nude yoga, if used for voyeurism and sensual pleasure, will work to bind you more, if though, it’s used as described above, this unusual approach can be an effective vehicle for your spiritual evolution.
For more information on nude yoga and tantra, you can check out the Sex and Tantra Articles Category.