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Naked yoga (Sanskrit nagna 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, including children, in group classes. The practice is gaining popularity, notably in western societies that have more familiarity with social nudity. It is becoming popular in Europe and United States.
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. 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.
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. 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 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).
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. 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, though often not intentionally. One Taste Urban Retreat Center popularized naked yoga after it was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle. 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. 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.
In 2013 Lady Gaga, who worked with bikram yoga for several years, has attracted some attention through a film,The Abramović Method practiced by Lady Gaga. The film has been understood by media as "naked yoga", and is primarily inspired by performance artist Marina Abramović.
Motivations are the acceptance of one's own body with all its imperfections and to open one's heart. 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.
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 often criticized for challenging one of the most important 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, but rather a variant of public nudity.
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