Last week, New York City's Le Male Yoga, which has been offering all-male naked yoga classes in Chelsea for more than seven years, announced it was turning over a new leaf. (And not the kind that covers that area.)
The studio is now called Bold & Naked Yoga and will offer a full schedule of no-clothes classes in 2014, including men's, women's, and co-ed. And lest you imagine an in-person, more to-the-point version of Tinder, the duo says that doing sun salutations in the buff next to other sweaty naked strangers has tons of benefits, none of which are hooking up—like building your confidence, boosting your sex life...and leaving more dough in your bank account for body scrubs.
"The first thing that comes to mind is you save a lot of money—you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on Lululemon," jokes Joschi Schwarz, who owns the studio with partner Monika Werner. "We are both European, so we are pretty liberal to begin with. I was a little bit scared [of New Yorker's reactions], but New York is coming with us. I hope they will realize how cool and freeing and liberating it can really be."
Will they? We caught up with the duo to find out more:
You've been teaching all-male naked classes for so long. What prompted this expansion? Schwarz: I’m teaching for over 20 years, and my interest was always in how can I take a subject and translate this into the now, and I mean really into the now, and not just use some kind of quotes and sayings you hear in a regular yoga class that they read from a piece of paper. There are things which are maybe interesting to know and to hear but they can not take this and put this into their daily life. Real life spirituality is the concept. Real. Life. Spirituality. So you walk out and go to your meeting or home to your relationship or whatever the circumstances, and you're inspired to handle the situation a little better and think a little bit differently about it.
Okay, I get the idea, but how does group nakedness lead to that kind of real life spirituality? Schwarz: I think social connection, respect, trust, all of these things are very important. And it starts with every individual in class. Being naked has a few factors, and one is to get more confidence and to learn to trust yourself, other people, and the situations and circumstances you're in. You sit naked in the class and create confidence, and then you go to your next meeting, and of course you’re not naked in the next meeting, but you go with more confidence, that's a given. You get to know yourself a little better, and it just goes into all of the situations. That’s just one of those big things. Why not start with yourself?
So far you've only taught classes that were all men. Are you sure women's classes, and especially the co-ed version, will work? Schwarz: I can't talk about co-ed classes yet, but I think my personality is strong enough that I can lead it. Werner: For women's classes, I think the most important thing is that nudity is still an issue and a social taboo, and we want to work against that because there’s nothing more natural than being in the nude. Women get held to such high standards about what they look like by magazines and Photoshopped images, and to sit and see that everybody has some issues with their bodies and be okay with it—it'll create positive body image. With clothes, you can hide, and when you’re naked, you can let it all out. And just to have a group of women together that support each other and to not care about what other people think. When you have more confidence in a naked body, you have more confidence in your clothed body.
Alright, I get distracted when the person next to me coughs or breathes weird in yoga. Isn't it hard to get centered when your neighbor's bare butt is in your face or your own parts are dangling every which way? Schwarz: Once you start being in the class, the teachers, us, we're professionals, and we create this atmosphere where you feel safe and secure, and once you start moving, your mind comes to the mat. The reality is when you’re on the mat, you’re on the mat... And guys, if you get a hard-on, and that’s just what’s happening with your body. I would say just be happy that your reproductive system works. It won’t last forever. You won't see a man with an erection going throughout the whole class, though, it’s physically not possible.
Um, good to know. On that note, how do make sure there aren't creeps coming just to be creepy? Schwarz: I know people will come just out of curiosity, so the first class costs more. We want to achieve that there are not people just coming here to see naked people. We have people go a few times to get the feeling for it and the idea of what the whole thing is about.
It's true: they require potential clients fill out a questionnaire before they sign up for a class and offer a co-ed beginner series "Naked Yoga & Tea" for newbies to get comfy with each other. For that visual, I say, you're welcome. —Lisa Elaine Held
For more information, visit www.boldnaked.com
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