Naked yoga

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For the 1974 film, see Naked Yoga (film).
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.


Naked yoga have probably an Indian history since ancient times. Bhagavata Purana writes:

”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]

One of the Indian sects called Naga Sadhus made nudity a part of their spiritual practice, but naga have been misunderstood as "nagna". Naga means "who represents Power". The word Naga had came from NAG (snake) which signifies power in Hindu philosophy. And the word sadhu had came from Sadhan (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.

The word "gymnosophists" (naked philosophers), is used in ancient Greek writings as the designation of wise men (yogis) in India, maybe the naga sadhus.

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 has some roots 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.

In the West since the 1960s, naked yoga practice has been incorporated in the hippie movement[5] 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 practice yoga exercises naked in a movie, I Am Curious (Yellow), from 1967. Organized naked yoga existed after 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.[6] 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,[7] though often not intentionally. One Taste Urban Retreat Center popularized naked yoga after it was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

Shakti,[11] a divine feminine cosmic energy, was 2003 attributed to naked yoga in a well-designed photo book Shakti: The Feminine Power of Yoga, where a yoga teacher, Shiva Rea, wrote:

Here you see the many aspects of the feminine force - strong as a live oak, fluid as the sea, soft and still as the fertile earth, changing like the moon - sister, daughter, mother, lover, leader, dancer. You are invited to join and enjoy the celebration.[12]

From 2013 naked yoga became more noticed in media,[13][14][15][16] in particular co-ed yoga classes.[17][18]


Motivations are the acceptance of one's own body with all its imperfections and to open one's heart.[19] 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.[20]

Apart from that, nude yoga multiplies the medical effects of other yoga types and is a great way of preventing heart disease, digestion problems; reducing stress and anxiety, improving the endocrine system and immunity.


Naked yoga is criticized for challenging social norms, especially in cases when classes are open for both genders. The supporters of naked yoga argue that this particular type of yoga is the best way to achieve the ultimate goals of yoga practice. Although people practicing naked yoga for the first time often find it hard to concentrate and focus, the problem often disappears after 15 minutes giving way to a new experience. One of the serious concerns is the risk of catching an infection in places where used mats and other gear are offered. This problem can be solved by bringing personal equipment.

San Francisco courts found that naturist and libertarian George Monty Davis (aka "Naked Yoga Guy") did not commit a crime by practicing naked yoga in a public place,[21] but rather a variant of public nudity.

See also[edit]


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]