New York’s hottest new yoga trend kicks off Monday and is taking the practice to a whole new, more revealing and steamy level. Hey, this may be the closest thing to an orgy most New Yorkers ever get.
What with the new “Masters of Sex” TV show and naked painting parties heating up the pop culture scene, the yoga world was sure to follow suit, with students now saying “Namaste” in the nude. If you thought heavy breathing was distracting during a yoga class, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, honeys.
Anyone who’s done hot yoga before knows the sensation of being surrounded by sweat-dripping bodies, peeling layer after layer of clothing off during a series of grunt-prompting stretches in a heated, sauna-like room. Before long, everyone’s left wearing only some semblance of a bathing suit or underwear-looking, patch-covering swatch or two of fabric. Well, you can now say so long to those last remaining strips of nudity-preventing sheaths at one New York vinyasa-based yoga studio.
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It’s a whole new year, and a whole, hot new yoga trend is taking flight at Bold & Naked Yoga on West 23rd Street in Chelsea. Formerly known as Le Male Yoga, which catered to a testosterone-only naked clientele, the progressive yoga studio is expanding its offerings starting Monday, Jan. 13 to include, in addition to the all-male naked yoga sessions, naked yoga classes for the older, seasoned male set (55+), as well as naked females-only sessions, and — wait for it — co-ed naked yoga. See the full Bold & Naked Yoga class schedule here. I caught up with the founders, Monika Werner and Joschi Schwarz, from their yoga retreat in Costa Rica to find out all about this hot, new yoga trend taking off next week.
The idea is for yoga practitioners to become more confident in their own skins, to accept their bodies, and the bodies of the community of nude yogis around them, with tenderness and compassion. “We started with men and the response was phenomenal,” says Schwarz. “We wanted to expand that sense of liberation to women and older people.” Why now? Well, the founders say New York was always ready and the feedback from their first two years of guys-only classes just reaffirmed that.
What’s the Big Idea?
If visions of hot, steamy orgies come to mind, think again. The company makes clear on its website, “If you are looking for an orgasm, you are in the wrong place.” Naked yoga is about comfort in just being ourselves, connection with other real people, and building confidence. Yes, of course the founders are European (no conflicted, quasi-puritanical American would dare invent this). “We’re both European, and being nude is just easier there,” says Schwarz. Werner, whose celebrity clients (for clothed yoga) include Emma Stone and Tyra Banks, will be guiding the ladies-only classes, which will place a strong emphasis on counteracting the typical messages women receive about their bodies (you know, that we have to conform to some not-possible, twisted perfection).
How does letting it all hang out translate to a deeper spirituality? Well, in a time of constant noise and screwy messages from society, media and social networks about the impossibly surreal and svelte ways our bodies should look, naked yoga is all about accepting your body, and by extension, yourself and neighbor, as is. “We want to bring a community of real women together to build compassion and self-esteem for our bodies and selves,” says Werner. “It’s all about freedom and release from these unrealistic expectations.”
What to Expect
No hiding, no holds barred. Come exactly as you are. Sounds cool, but, uh, are there any landscaping ground rules? Or, uh, any particularly, how shall we say, compromising poses (yep, we’re talking Downward Dog and Happy Baby) stricken from the repertoire? Nope. So don’t be shocked if the guy next to you seems a little happy to see everyone in the community. Hard-ons are just part of the territory, says Schwarz, and if/when these occur we should be happy that the reproductive system is working, he adds. “We hope you also will look. We are human and curious and allowed to look. That’s what it is — eye candy,” says Schwarz. Yet the instructor also knows the reality of the yoga practice, which is that once you surrender to the mat, you should be, and most yogis are, focused on your practice and development. After all, as one of my favorite yoga teachers said, “Yoga is a loving conversation with yourself.”
Same Poses and Setup?
Yep, mostly. Poses will be mostly the same as you’d expect in a vinyasa series (vinayasa is a physical type of yoga where poses flow into one another), with pranayama (Hindu meaning the regulation of breath through technique and breathing) folded in. Expect mats to be placed in the typical spots, not in a face-to-face circle or U-shape. It’s about taking off the masks, not hiding behind them. “In reality, when you’re doing Downward Dog, you’re looking at your own belly, not at your neighbor.” There will not be any jumping, though, assures Schwarz. This is not hot yoga in that the room is heated to a toasty 90-plus degrees, but the rooms will be comfortable, set around 70 to 80 degrees. Naked sessions run $19 per class or $145 for a month of unlimited classes.
Is It Safe?
No need to fret, say the founders. Not just any boner-seeking schmo can wander into your class off the street or enroll. New clients who want to go all in (as in Full Monty) for the naked, coed beginner series called Naked Yoga and Tea will first be required to complete a questionnaire. New practitioners are also required to present their identification card when registering. The questions are geared at identifying the yoga students’ true intentions for enrolling in coed naked classes, explains Werner. No one is allowed to remain clothed in a naked class — you’re in or you’re out. And if there ever was any funny business, says Werner, “We will not hesitate to ask someone to leave.”
New year, new adventures. You know what I say? Why the Om not. If it gets people to the gym, good. As Schwarz emphasizes, “Yoga has nothing to do with sexuality. It has to do with sensuality.” Whether nervous, excited or embarrassed, whatever your thoughts on nudity, says Schwarz, “It’s really all about feeling free and getting rid of the masks you generally have to wear. This is about real-life spirituality, that you can walk out and apply to daily life.”