Naked Yoga (English) de Ashanti

A Sacred and Highly Beneficial Practice

My name is Ashanti Garcia, popularly known as “Airbender” and I am Belize’s first and only naked yoga teacher. I am also a content creator and dancer.

A great portion of our population has heard of yoga; however, very few people can give an accurate definition of what the practice, which in its essence is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, is. Typically, persons who are not deeply familiar with yoga will either mentally conjure one of two images when they hear the term. On one end, a picture of slim and flexible women contorting herself in seemingly humanly impossible positions will arise in the minds of some. The other imagery is thinking of people sitting crossed legged with backs perfectly straight and eyes closed chanting strange sounds. However, yoga is a practice that is perhaps as diverse as the world of dance when it comes to its variety of “flavors”. Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and Hatha are a few of the more “traditional” styles of yoga. On the other hand, some styles of yoga exist that may make you chuckle, feel puzzled, or inclined to question the legitimacy of the style as an authentic form of yoga based on the name: Beer Yoga, Goat Yoga and even Naked Yoga.

Naked Yoga is exactly what it sounds like: doing yoga in your birthday suit. When I first heard of naked yoga years ago, I was utterly shocked! I thought to myself, “why would anyone in the world practice yoga naked?” I was so put off with just the thought of the practice that I couldn’t even bring myself to read the first article on it in my Google search. In fact, if anyone would have told me that years later, I would be teaching naked yoga, I probably would have laughed in their faces and said, “never!” Lo and behold, I have now gained over one year’s worth of experience teaching the sacred practice of naked yoga live online to people all over the globe including the United States, Canada, Honduras, the UK, and Australia.

A brief look at the roots of naked yoga reveals its ancient history and sanctity. This stye of yoga was mentioned as early as the 4th century by Greek geographer Strabo. Known as nagna or vivastra yoga in Sanskrit (the original language of yoga), naked yoga is cited in one of Hinduism’s eighteen great texts called Puranas, written between the 7th-10th century. Back then, nudity was utilized as a part of the spiritual practice of renunciation by several groups of people, including those who practiced Jainism and other ascetics of Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

In modern times (since the end of the 19th century), naked yoga was practiced in Germany and Switzerland through a movement called Lebensreform, which is a German generic term for various social reform movements that criticized industrialism and materialism. By the early 20thcentury, the term gymnosophy was appropriated by several groups who practiced nudity, asceticism and meditation. This explains why Blanche de Vries coined the term “yoga gymnosophy” to describe her blending of yoga and nudity that she taught at her women-only institute in 1919 in New York City. In 1938, Marguerite Agniel wrote a piece for an American magazine called The Nudist, where it portrayed women practicing naked yoga. From the 1960s onwards, in the west, naked yoga was incorporated in the hippie movement. Male only-groups were popularized world-wide after the success of Hot Nude Yoga, founded by Aaron Star, in April 2011. However, that same year, courses were offered in Britain and the United States to all genders. Five years later, naked yoga became even more popularized.

The unique benefits one can experience by practicing this style of yoga compared to clothed styles may explain the reason for its increasing popularity.

1. Increases Courage:
Naked yoga indubitably requires a high level of courage to do, particularly in a group setting, especially be people who are “textile-ists” – non-nudists/non-naturists. This is primarily because of a great number of people feeling self-conscious, ashamed, or shy about their naked bodies due to cultural reasons. One must agree and make a firm decision on being vulnerable to participate in a naked yoga class and being vulnerable is generally quite daunting. However, a pleasurable experience of vulnerability usually leads to increased personal/self-growth.

2. Eliminates Distractions:
Countless times clothing distracts people in yoga through adjustments. The pulling down of a shirt or blouse that bundled up from a previous pose or transition, the pulling up of a bra strap or handle that fell off the shoulder, and many others completely take practitioners out of the yogic experience, even if it’s just for a moment. Having to do such distracting adjustments several times during a class that takes you out of the present is like an oxymoron, especially considering that yoga is basically the practice that was created specifically for eliminating mental distractions. Naked yoga eliminates these distractions so you can focus on truly uniting your body, mind, and spirit into a wholesome, highly functioning entity.

3. Levels the Playing Field:
Due to the world of yoga transforming into multi-billion- dollar industry, it seems like the practice, perhaps more so in the West, has become more of a fashion statement than a spiritual practice, particularly among the upper class. Wealthy women may sport a $178.00 pair of Lululemon leggings. Others may sport the $490.00 Fendi strip yoga pants. That is the amount that some people spend on an entire year’s worth of gym membership! With naked yoga, the playing field is level as someone’s status cannot be indicated through nudity alone.

4. Promotes Body Positivity, Self-Acceptance & Self-Love:
Contrary to what textile-ists may think, you do not need to look a certain way to do naked yoga. People of a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors, fitness levels, etc. practice this style of yoga – promoting body positivity. This is a much-needed social movement in this day and age where many people deceive others through social media with their looks. On Instagram, most people, especially influencers, appear to be “perfect” naturally. What many may fail to realize is the heavy editing that most creators undergo before sharing content. The use of filters, photoshop, and other tools to give the appearance of physical perfection on social media makes a vast majority of the population feel as though something is wrong with them for not looking that way. Naked yoga removes all ability for you to hide or change anything about your natural body through a screen. By seeing different bodies nude, especially one that looks similar to yours, it assists you in developing a greater sense of body, self-acceptance, and self-love. You begin to see your “flaws” as a normal part of being human and not something that you need to change to feel beautiful.

5. Liberation/Freedom:
Most people want to experience freedom and liberty in life, yet the idea of being naked in a yoga class scares them so much that they swear by never having the courage to try it. If only these people knew that the very thing they fear is precisely the same thing that can give them one of the greatest experiences of liberation. You become such a force to be reckoned with when you no longer have any worries or concerns about what other people think about your nude body. In fact, such thoughts no longer circulate in the mind after consistent practice. Such a high level of comfort in yourself means that you no longer compare or need validation from others to know who you are, what your worth is, and what you bring to the table. In fact, many of my clients have transformed from a timid individual to feeling totally free by the end of one seventy-five-minute session. This alone speaks volumes of the tremendous power of the ancient art and spiritual science of naked yoga.