Why Naked Yoga? An interview by Antonio Capurro
Click here to read 1st part of an interview done by internationally renowned internet blogger Antonio Capurro.
Click here for part 2. I discuss with Antonio the amazingly liberating but often misunderstood practice of naked yoga.
Times are fast and people is living always running, but why not to stop in our day routine with all the stress and anxiety that we carry on our backs and try to find a way to heal our bodies and have a good time taking a Naked Yoga Class? This is a new tecnique you can try on and feel much better. I took just one naked yoga class with Ken and all I can say is that he has great skills to enpower you to succed. Certainly I don’t live in San Francisco but I am ready to take Naked Yoga for my life. As Ken said maybe I could be a Yogi like him one day, but what I really know is that Ken is such a competitive and genuine Yogi always ready to help you and guide you. Here he answers some of the questions we always wanted to know about naked yoga, health, life but about his own feelings and experience. I learnt about a man with a deep sensibility and beautiful human being.
Nude yoga is being popular, from your experience like a YOGI Professor, how it can change people’s life and make them feel better?
I have been teaching men’s naked yoga for almost 3 years and been practicing Hatha yoga (with clothes on) for over 10 years. I find that all styles of yoga are transformative and that particularly NAKED YOGA for MEN is a wonderfully safe and sacred practice where men get to explore their bodies, overcome body image issues, grow stronger in their practice, and build community all in one. The men that gather in the class that I led often tell me that practicing without clothes on is like getting to let go of all kinds of labels that society puts on us. Who were are in relationship to others, in our work, within subcultures such as gay, straight, etc. and that it is an incredibly liberating experience. I have been truly honored to be part of a group number of classes in San Francisco that offer a space for men to practice naked yoga. And the number of male yogis who come to our classes continues to grow. This also seems to be true for other cities and countries as well. Of course, the clothing industry might not be so happy about this trend of more and more naked yogis though. Lol so this is my description of my naked yoga class that appears at the yoga studio’s website (although it is now on Tues and not Wed). The parents of the newborn infant announced that their child was born with a ballcap, a gold necklace, a t-shirt with a silly print on, a pair of khakis, with light brown loafers. What an interesting parallel universe in which this tale would take place! So, why is it that our culture strongly encourages each of us to cover our bodies with cloth, synthetics, and even other creature’s skin shortly after we are born when we are born into this life; our body is free from clothing, our mind open to limitless possibilities, and our spirit joyfully liberated and pure. What if we were to create a safe, fun and intimate setting to deepen our connection with true Self without the extra layer of material confining our bodies? There is a new and exciting Wednesday night Naked Men’s Yoga class.
The Yoga practice comes from India and they learnt to put focus on their bodies and minds with spirituality, do you feel that fraternity and sacred practice floating in your classes?
Yoga migrated to the West in the past century and within the past 50 years it has continued to quickly evolve. I am sure that the first yoga practice looked quite different than it does in yoga studios in the US. And the more things change; I believe the more things stay the same. Our naked yoga for men’s group focuses on the poses, the breath work and building strength, flexibility and balance. I integrate some Acroyoga-inspired partner work and group work into the class so while the practice is about deepening one’s connection to his TRUE SELF, there is also a supportive community feels to the class as well. Further, I think of the Buddhist term SANGHA which refers to the sanctuary where people gather to meditate. My intention is to allow each person to have their own unique experience in their mind/body/spirit connection WITHIN the context of a group of likeminded men gathering together. And because there are regulars who come to the class, they often socialize before and after the class, sometimes grabbing some food after an intense practice. Since January of this year, I began to offer a NAKED YOGA SOCIAL once a month where we come together for a 75 minute yoga practice and then stay in the studio and fraternize/socialize. This group has been very popular and I am joining with another yoga teacher to take a group of men to Hawaii in Dec/Jan for a Naked Yoga retreat and lots of chances to socialize and build community. My answer to the erection question: an erection is just another way the body expresses a smile and practicing healthy non attachment.
Our times are a wild run trying to find the great body or the great shape we can see all around us throwing us images to our faces, but there is a lose about to make a better human being, Nude Yoga Men doesn’t care the way of the body, what is for nude yoga a healthy state of mind and body?
Well, Pema Chordron is a Buddhist nun who will probably never take my class but I think she says it best with her book titled “START WHERE YOU ARE” and that is the philosophy I channel when I offer a naked yoga class. I think our Mother Culture that promotes images of perceived perfection do us all an injustice when it comes to celebrating our bodies. I also think our Mother Culture of instant gratification and processed foods further complicates the PATH for anyone who is seeking contentment and serenity. The key here is what it is that each of us needs to UNLEARN and what is it that we need to LEARN. While respecting that each of us has our own journey and life lessons, i hope that the naked yoga class is a place where men can come and do some self-reflection, self-acceptance, and self-celebration. You brought up a great point about the pictures on our website that you only see lean guys in the pix. I would say that our classes do require a certain amount of endurance but we make modifications for anyone that is ‘medically cleared’ by his doctor to exercise. All abilities, ages, sizes, shapes of men come to the class and they are welcome. I hope that any one who is struggling with body image issues can see this as a safe place to move into more self-appreciation for whom they are AND set an intention to be the best person they possibly can be. Here is a quote from another woman who might never get to take our class of naked yoga “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Edith Wharton quote. I think practicing in a community of men is a beautiful thing because we get to shine out our own beauty and reflect back others. Sure, from time to time our ego (yikes, our MALE ego even) pops up in the practice and that is what we get to work with. That’s why we have the breath to LET IT GO when it arises!
How do you work with a man that come to your classes with a lot of personal issues about not only his body if not his personal life like low self esteem or depression or anxiety, do you have get in psychology way or with therapy?
Well, not to apply labels but my ‘day job’ is that of a psychotherapist or LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and I have been doing that work longer than I have been practicing yoga. so, while I do not think of the naked yoga classes as a place to do therapy, i do find the space to be very healing and supportive. The yoga practice compliments TALK therapy in that it lets us try to be NONATTACHED to our stories. So there is a time to talk about things and that can sometimes happen before and after class for instance, with the economy as bad as it is, lots of guys come and talk about the stress of finding a new job, etc. And since we are a donation based group I encourage folks to come even if then can only donate a few dollars yoga allows for us to give our minds, our bodies, our spirits a 90 minute self-imposed TIME OUT from the rest of our lives and sometimes that is just what we need to deal with the world that is waiting for us once we step off the mat, the great part is somehow our perspective, our energy has changed over the course of the practice and as a result our world has changed. I am a true believer in holistic health and yoga gives us a chance to tend to all aspects of our being.
Certainly to make naked yoga can make a lot men happy and less worried about things, after how many classes do you see a change in your group?
How many classes does it take to see a change? Holistic = WHOLE. I would say that there is a shift in every group every time. Sometimes I sense that the group is really wiped out and low energy so there can be a bit of frustration with the challenging poses and other times I can feel the group’s energy increase and a nonverbal request for more challenging poses and towards the end when we move into reclined poses and some restorative poses, the energy turns further inward and there is a sense of a collective peacefulness that is reflecting the individual’s inner serenity. In reference to a physical change, of course it varies from person to person. Sometimes people report sleeping better after their first class and the more they practice the more they feel the effects and reap the benefits of increased energy, stamina, happier mood, improved sleep, etc.
What is a challenging, restorative and restorative poses? In the classes’ people talk or most of the time they listen and follow your instructions?
I think the most challenging part of restorative poses is that we hold the asanas for up to 10 minutes and that allows the body’s healing systems (parasympathetic nervous system) to turn on and the fight/flight systems to turn off during that time in a restorative class, the students are silent and in meditative states but not talking. That could be challenging for some since in our busy daily lives we seldom sit in stillness, let me define the terms when I said challenging, I was referring to most of the poses in a HATHA or VINYASA flow class. So the standing, seated poses along with the poses we do while lying on our stomachs and our backs. These can also include balancing poses and inversions (when we are on our heads such as a headstand or handstand), restorative poses are those, like I said earlier, that are held for long periods of time usually with extra blankets, blocks, straps, or bolsters to support the body, also hosting a retreat at Aaron Starr’s center in Costa Rica in Feb. called sacred elixir.
You said the benefits to make nude yoga can make an improvement in men’s sexual life making focus on what they want and need? Do you give classes to gay couples?
I think the men that take the naked yoga class experience benefits in many ways. If one is more in touch with themselves, it makes sense that they are also able to be more emotionally and sexually available for another. I know of a few gay couples that come to the class and it is so inspiring to see them practice together. I know of a couple who also met in the naked yoga classes and continue to deepen their relationship by practicing together. I do offer private yoga sessions to couples in their homes and those couples have said it has helped them nature their relationship, ultimately if we are able to see, understand and experience ONENESS then the rest will fall into place.
How is a private yoga session with couples? How it works? Is there non sexual tension in the couple?
The couples I have worked with have said that sex was great after the session but I didn’t get the sense that they were either holding back their feeling or being overtly sexual during the practice. I think it’s great when we tap into that tantric energy that is present all the time and go with it. My partner and I jokingly have referred to our experience of intense togetherness while in a public setting as ‘brain sex’ which certainly doesn’t fully define the experience but I do feel that we can explore a ONENESS with our partner without having to be ‘getting it on’ or having contact with one another that would be considered sexual.
Do you have any special anecdote can share with us when teaching yoga to your group and private gay couples?
During my group with partners, I have them do lots of assisting one another stretch, exploring their strengths, their vulnerabilities, their similarities and differences. For instance, there is a couple that I have worked with over the past 3 yrs and one is short and stocky, the other is tall and lean. It is like magic watching them learn how to support one another’s bodies in some of the partner poses. Over the years they have developed a home practice and tell me that they do some of the poses every night as a way of connecting with one another and distressing from the day.
When and why did you decided become a YOGI?
I am not a personal trainer. I have practiced yoga for about 10 years and became a Registered Yoga Teacher in 2006. In hindsight, I recall always enjoying doing handstands and finding fun and exciting ways to move my body. I had wanted to do gymnastics but my small town in rural Pennsylvania didn’t have a gymnastic team let alone a yoga studio. I first started practicing yoga at my gym and found many benefits after just the first few sessions. I had less stress and tension held in my body. My muscles seemed to bounce back more quickly after an intense weight training workout. I definitely had less aches and pains that a ‘thirtysomething’ body sometimes experiences. And I found that some of the strength poses I could do rather quickly while the flexibility was and continues to be an area where I am challenged on the yoga mat. The reason I decided to train to be a yoga teacher is because I was working as a therapist at a high school and one of my students was very responsive to the basic yoga exercises and mindfulness breathwork I was teaching him to deal with his stress and somatization issues. I realized that I needed to learn more about yoga if I was seeing my life and my client’s life transform. So I signed up for a 6 month intensive training program and my life has never been the same.
How men can connect spiritually without to get into sexual tension?
As with anything, the answer is ‘PRACTICE.’ For many beginners, this is a concern and a reason to avoid taking a naked yoga class. My response is twofold. First of all, if a man gets aroused and happens to get an erection in class, it is just another way for the body to express happiness. No need to get all worked up over it or fixated on it. Second, as one practice naked with other men, there is a great opportunity to shift from objectifying another male body or feel objectified by others to a more unconditional acceptance and appreciation for self and others. I find that if we let our minds spin stories and wander around long enough; we are able to fantasize, idolize, vilify, or do a million other things about someone standing next to us, acknowledging that our minds have that ability is one step in the right direction. To focus on the breath and let the mind observe the breath is how we move past all of that. It sounds simple, but it does take practice.