“The World,” a program from Public Radio International (PRI), strives to bring its listeners “global perspectives for an American audience.” It airs on my local public radio station in the evenings during my commute, and when I listen to it, I always feel just a little closer to (and more knowledgeable about) cultures outside my small sphere in Texas.
Today on “The World,” one story caught my attention: The show’s London producer, Alex Collins, recently decided to try out London’s latest fitness trend — nude yoga. He explains of the origins: “We Londoners can thank America, not India for this new yoga practice.” Nude yoga began as an underground trend in New York in the late 1990′s; however, it’s been slow to reach the UK — a fact that Ryan, the leader of the all-male class Alex chose to attend, believes can be attributed to cultural differences. Ryan explains, “I attended a class in New York, and I thought we needed something like it here in London. We’re quite inhibited here in London, not like Americans. I thought it would be a good thing to do in the right way.”
Ryan says a strong motivation for many of the classes regular attendees is that it allows participants to develop a greater acceptance of their bodies while getting “closer to their own true consciousness.”
The story got me wondering whether the nude yoga trend was still alive and thriving in the U.S., and I came across a recent article from Time Out Chicago, celebrating the fifth anniversary of one of the city’s renowned nude yoga studios, led by instructor Per Erez. Per and his students seem to echo many of the same sentiments as the UK participants: Nude yoga as a way to strip free of the burdens of clothes and preoccupation with image in order to become completely focused on the practice and finding inner solace. Time Out talked with Tony Holmes, a participant (also a yoga instructor himself) of Erez’s class:
“It’s the same principle as going to a clothing-optional beach. There’s no status and no pretense. By taking away some of those outside influences, there’s an intimacy that is fostered and that can be very powerful.”
Erez also moderates a Nude Yoga discussion Group on Meetup.com, which includes topics such as overcoming body image issues in order for participants to feel completely safe and comfortable and to benefit as much as possible from the practice.