Naked yoga

For the 1974 film, see Naked Yoga (film).
Naga Sadhus in India 2013

Naked yoga (Sanskrit nagna yoga or vivastra yoga) is the practice of yoga without clothes. It has existed since ancient times as a spiritual practice, and is mentioned in the 7th-10th century Bhagavata Purana and by the Ancient Greek geographer Strabo.

Early advocates of naked yoga in modern times include the gymnosophists such as Blanche de Vries, and the author Marguerite Agniel.

In the 21st century, the practice is gaining popularity, notably in western societies that have more familiarity with social nudity.


  • 1 Ancient times
  • 2 Spiritual nudity
  • 3 Early 20th century
  • 4 From the 1960s
  • 5 Male-only groups
  • 6 All genders
  • 7 In film
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References
  • 10 Further reading
  • 11 External links

Ancient times[edit]

Yoga has been practiced naked since ancient times. In the Bhagavata Purana (written c. 800–1000 AD) it says:

”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]

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]

Spiritual nudity[edit]

Nigamananda Paramahansa, yogi and Hindu leader, India, 1904.

The practice of spiritual nudity is common among Digambara Jains,[4] Aghori sadhus,[5] and other ascetic groups in the dharmic religions. The order of Naga Sadhus, conspicuous in the processions and bathing ritual at the Kumbh Mela, use nudity as a part of their spiritual practice of renunciation.[6]

Early 20th century[edit]

Modern naked yoga has been practiced in Germany and Switzerland through a movement called Lebensreform. The movement had since the end of the 19th century highlighted yoga and nudity.[7]

In the early 20th century, the term gymnosophy was appropriated by several groups who practiced nudity, asceticism and meditation. Blanche de Vries combined a popularity of Oriental dancing with yoga. In 1914 she was put in charge of a yoga school for women in New York City. Five years later, she opened an institute for women, teaching Yoga Gymnosophy — a name that conveys the blending of yoga and nudism. She taught until 1982.[8][9][10]

Marguerite Agniel, author of the 1931 book The Art of the Body : Rhythmic Exercise for Health and Beauty,[11][12] wrote a piece called “The Mental Element in Our Physical Well-Being” for The Nudist, an American magazine, in 1938; it showed nude women practising yoga, accompanied by a text on attention to the breath. The social historian Sarah Schrank comments that it made perfect sense at this stage of the development of yoga in America to combine nudism and yoga, as “both were exercises in healthful living; both were countercultural and bohemian; both highlighted the body; and both were sensual without being explicitly erotic.”[13][14]

From the 1960s[edit]

In the West since the 1960s, naked yoga practice has been incorporated in the hippie movement[15] and in progressive settings for well-being, such as at the Esalen Institute in California, and at the Elysium nudist colony in the Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles.[13]

Male-only groups[edit]

Since 2001, Aaron Star has taught male-only naked yoga in New York.

Aaron Star, owner of Hot Nude Yoga, began his version of naked yoga in April 2001. The style combined elements of Ashtanga, Kundalini, and Contact Yoga with elements of Tantra.[16]
Because of the success of Hot Nude Yoga, male-only naked yoga groups began to blossom all over the world, from London, Moscow, Madrid to Sydney, often becoming associated with the gay community.[17][18] 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.[19] Star says that his practice affords men in cities a way to express closeness and intimacy without having sex.[20]

Schrank writes that “the most press” has however gone to Joschi Schwartz and Monika Werner’s Bold and Naked studio in New York. It provides classes in tantric massage as well as both male-only and co-ed naked yoga.[13] She praises its “positive coverage” as helping yogis of all kinds to feel good, but is concerned about the contradictory message that yoga is simultaneously “liberating and sexy”.[13]

All genders[edit]

While naked yoga had mainly been the domain of male only groups, from 2011 courses in Britain and the United States were offered to all genders.[21]

Schrank noted the popularity of naked yoga in 2016, with its simultaneous desire to experience one’s own body in freedom, and a “troubling” sexualization of the body in yoga culture. She observed that in the United States, there is a connection between female nudity and slavery, something that has left a racist legacy. Schrank noted also the “uncomfortable” relationship of yoga and sex, not least in scandals of sexual abuse by yoga gurus, and that feminists have written critiques of the “objectification of young, white women and exclusion of women of color.”[13] On the other hand, she praises the naked yoga teacher Katrina “Rainsong” Messenger’s book R.A.W. Nude Yoga: Celebrating the Human Body Temple,[22] featuring monochrome photographs of both men and women, as impressive, tasteful, and sensual but not erotic.[13] Schrank personally tried a naked yoga class in Los Angeles, at first finding it safe and pleasurable because not sexualized, until after two months the experience was spoiled by a class which was sexist and “overtly sexually competitive”.[13]

In film[edit]

Esalen’s naked yoga was depicted in the 1968 comedy film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.[23]
Other film depictions include the 1967 I Am Curious (Yellow) with Lena Nyman,[24] the 1973 The Harrad Experiment[25] and that same year the short documentary Naked Yoga.[26]

See also[edit]

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  • Nudity portal
  • Asana
  • List of yoga hybrids
  • Naturism
  • Nudity
  • Nudity in religion


  • ^ Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 7.13.2 Archived October 19, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, Bhaktivedanta VedaBase
  • ^ Charles R. Lanman, The Hindu Yoga System Archived 12 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Harvard Theological Review, Volume XI, Number 4, Harvard University Press, pages 355-359
  • ^ Strabo, Geography Book XV, Chapter 1, see Sections 63-65, Loeb Classical Library edition, Harvard University Press, Translator: H.L. Jones, Archived by: University of Chicago
  • ^ Dundas, Paul (2002) [1992]. The Jains (2nd ed.). Routledge. p. 45. ISBN cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background-image:url(“//”);background-image:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url(“//”);background-repeat:no-repeat;background-size:9px;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background-image:url(“//”);background-image:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url(“//”);background-repeat:no-repeat;background-size:9px;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background-image:url(“//”);background-image:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url(“//”);background-repeat:no-repeat;background-size:9px;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background-image:url(“//”);background-image:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url(“//”);background-repeat:no-repeat;background-size:12px;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}
  • ^ Haviland, William A.; Prins, Harald E. L.; Walrath, Bunny McBride (2010). Anthropology: The Human Challenge. Cengage Learning. p. 416. ISBN 0-495-81084-3.
  • ^ Reuters (17 January 2019). “Ash-smeared Naga Sadhus a huge draw at Kumbh Mela”. India Today.
  • ^ Kalifornication, Frieze magazine, 9, 2013 Archived July 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  • ^ Eric Shaw, A Short History of Women in Yoga in the West, Feb 2011.
  • ^ Stefanie Syman, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, 2010.
  • ^ Rebecca Anne D’Orsogna, Yoga in America: History, Community Formation, and Consumerism, University of Texas, 2013.
  • ^ Agniel, Marguerite (1931). The Art of the Body : Rhythmic Exercise for Health and Beauty. London: B. T. Batsford. OCLC 1069247718.
  • ^ Routledge, Isobel (28 November 2014). “Meditation and modernity: an image of Marguerite Agniel”. Wellcome Library.
  • ^ a b c d e f g Schrank, Sarah (2016). Berila, Beth; Klein, Melanie; Roberts, Chelsea Jackson (eds.). Naked Yoga and the Sexualization of Asana. Yoga, the Body, and Embodied Social Change: An Intersectional Feminist Analysis. Lexington Books. pp. 155–174. ISBN 978-1-4985-2803-0.
  • ^ Schrank, Sarah (2019). Free and natural : nudity and the American cult of the body. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-5142-5. OCLC 1056781478.
  • ^ Hippie Roots & The Perennial Subculture, 2003. Archived October 24, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  • ^ Aaron Star – Hot Nude Yoga Founder Archived 2014-12-16 at the Wayback Machine
  • ^ “Naked Yoga for men – Gay Naturists International (GNI)”. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
  • ^ Carolyne Zinko, Doing it in the altogether is what makes this yoga practice altogether free from distractions Archived 2011-10-18 at the Wayback Machine SF Chronicle, May 24, 2005
  • ^ Homosensuality Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  • ^ Yoga’s Naked Commercialism Archived July 7, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  • ^ “Naked yoga: it’s already big in US, and has now landed here”. The Independent. 2014-04-15. Retrieved 2017-10-23.
  • ^ Messenger, Katrina “Rainsong”; Sarda, Michel F. (illustrator) (2013). R.A.W. Nude Yoga: Celebrating The Human Body Temple. ISBN 978-0-927015-48-6.
  • ^ Croce, Fernando F. “Reviews: Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”. CinePassion. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  • ^ Kirkpatrick, Rob (2019). 1969: The Year Everything Changed. Skyhorse. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-5107-4314-4.
  • ^ Greenspun, Roger (12 May 1973). “‘The Harrad Experiment’ Opens at Baronet”. The New York Times.
  • ^ “Naked Yoga (1973)”. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  • 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.

    External links[edit]

    • Naked Yoga Alliance Interviews naked yoga teacher Anya from New Jersey
    • The Boston Phoenix AU NATUREL Yoga buffs By Nina Willdorf, Issue Date: April 26 – May 3, 2001
    • China Daily 23 September 2004 Naked yoga OK in San Francisco
    • Naturist UK Fact File page on yoga and naturism
    • Striking a pose, stark naked by Charlotte Maitre


    • 1918 The Yoga Institute
      • Shri Yogendra
      • Hansa Yogendra
    • 1924 Kaivalyadhama
      • Swami Kuvalayananda
    • 1934 Viniyoga
      • Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
      • Yoga Makaranda
      • T. K. V. Desikachar
      • A. G. Mohan
      • Indra Devi
      • Srivatsa Ramaswami
      • Vanda Scaravelli
    • c. 1948 Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
      • K. Pattabhi Jois
      • Mysore style
      • Tim Miller
      • Kino MacGregor
      • Larry Schultz
    • 1959 Sivananda Yoga
      • Sivananda Saraswati
      • Vishnudevananda Saraswati
      • Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga
    • 1963 Bihar School of Yoga
      • Satyananda Saraswati
    • 1965 Ananda Yoga
      • Kriyananda
    • 1966 Integral Yoga
      • Satchidananda Saraswati
    • 1966 Kripalu Yoga
      • Amrit Desai
      • Stephen Cope
    • 1971 Himalayan Institute
      • Swami Rama
    • 1973 Bikram Yoga
      • Bikram Choudhury
    • 1975 Iyengar Yoga
      • B. K. S. Iyengar
      • Light on Yoga
      • Yoga the Iyengar Way
    • 1975 Dharma Mittra
    • c. 1975 Yin Yoga
      • Paulie Zink
      • Paul Grilley
      • Sarah Powers
    • 1982 Forrest Yoga
    • 1984 Jivamukti Yoga
      • Sharon Gannon
    • 1995 Power Yoga
      • Beryl Bender Birch
      • Bryan Kest
    • 1997 Anusara Yoga
      • John Friend
    • 2006 Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga (Sadie Nardini)
    • c. 2007 Restorative Yoga
      • Judith Hanson Lasater


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