A group of Edmonton yoga practitioners are getting their pants in a bunch over an increasingly popular class. As in literally. And then tossing them in the corner.
Because as CTV News reports, droves of yogis have been signing up to take Chris McBain’s mens-only naked yoga class since the instructor started offering the Wednesday night no-clothing option a year ago.
"It keeps drawing people, over and over, every class is always full," McBain, who teaches at Shanti Yoga Studios, tells the news network. “I’m really still flabbergasted by the experience.”
The idea of performing a sun salutation in the altogether may not appeal to everyone, but naked yoga has been around for centuries, starting with the ancient Naga Sadhus of India, who believed all the way back in the 8 BCE that shedding all clothing was a way to reject materialism.
Since yoga became part of the fitness and well-being lexicon here in North America, naked yoga classes have been slowly popping up -- at first in more niche studios and then in the mainstream sector.
McBain’s is one of several known naked yoga classes offered in Canada. A few studios in Toronto and B.C. have already been established for years. In fact, there’s even an official Vancouver Naked Yoga Club, billed as “Men sharing their yoga practice in an atmosphere of body acceptance.”
And for the students who flock to McBain’s class, body acceptance is a big part of the draw.
"I'm a little overweight, working on it, but I’m here,” says participant Adam Morison, who tells CTV the class is helping him become more comfortable with his body.
“People are getting back to their natural state. Yoga for me was always about body, love revolution, coming to accept my body the way it was and I think men and women both need that desperately in our society,” McBain adds.
McBain’s class is also a woman-free zone, as he feels it’s more comfortable to be instructed by someone of one’s own gender, although he admits a number of female clients have requested a co-ed class.
Among other benefits, say practitioners, is the sense of freedom they feel without any cotton or spandex-based encumbrances, and the ability to more easily correct any postures. “[Y]ou can see the lines there's no clothing in the way,” explains Morison.
But as this is North America, even the idea of nudity is enough to stir up the hive.
Critics have blasted naked yoga for being little more than a forum for exhibitionists at best and for at least one purist, a complete bastardization of the practice.
“Naked yoga isn't yoga - it's furthering the bodily identification illusion and those fond of naked yoga aren't interested in self-realization - they're interested in sex with a gimmick,” writes don-2002 on the Globe and Mail’s commenting board.
The story has also brought out the predictable cracks about female body objectification (as in – why aren’t there any in this video?) and a heinous smattering of homophobia.
Thankfully, one reader appeared to get it.
“I didn't see the part in the article that said EVERYONE must now do naked yoga,” writes jeterbug on the CTV page. “So what if they want to do naked yoga? If they enjoy it and benefit from it - good for them. No one is forcing anyone to be there and if you find the thought disgusting or wrong - you don't need to go.”
Ten thousand gratitude asanas (clothing optional) for jeterbug.