Feeling like your yoga class has turned into more of a fashion show than a spiritual practice? Maybe it’s time to strip the clothes away and start posing in the nude.
Naked yoga is a niche fitness trend attracting growing interest in the exercise community, but Jennifer Kries’s new Yoga Undressed DVD series allows you to practice in the buff in the privacy of your own home. With shades drawn. And doors locked.
But before you judge it, Kries, a well-known fitness pro who produced, directed and narrated the series (which includes beginner, intermediate, advanced and duet DVDs), tells us you should know it’s really not about sex.
“I was a serious yogi, I had a real practice, I was a talented ballet dancer, and before I did naked yoga, I really competed when I was in a yoga class with other people,” Kries says. “[In traditional classes] people are wearing the latest Lulus and their Athleta—it was about what you looked like. Even though people don’t want to acknowledge it, yoga has grown so far from its spiritual components because there‘s such an emphasis on the aesthetics. And when you’re naked, that all goes away and you really return to why yoga evolved.”
We recently spoke with Kries about how naked yoga differs from more traditional yoga, how it helped her accept and love her body and why the naked yoga shown on a recent Kourtney & Kim Take New York episode was “a travesty.” An edited version of the interview follows.
MORE: What makes naked yoga different from regular yoga—besides the obvious no-clothing part?
Jennifer Kries: It’s a fusion of Kundalini and Hatha yoga. Kundalini yoga is not a very popular yoga, in that it's not taught often, because, I think, teachers find it challenging to teach. But the technique is incredibly powerful and people really enjoy it once they try it. Essentially, it helps to unleash the life-force, which is your primal energy in your body . . . It brings a kind of balance and a kind of radiance to the body that most people are not accustomed to experiencing. And then you take that Kundalini and you segue to the really flowing, graceful Hatha practice, which is more widely known—that’s what you know as Vinyasa. It’s the combination of the two that’s really potent. There’s no other practice that I’ve seen that’s been done this way.
MORE: So how does practicing in the nude come into play?
JK: The fact that it’s done nude is really incredibly liberating. I am very conservative as a person, and I’m not talking about the conservative right, I’m talking about as a person. I’m very respectful and, if anything, shy in a certain way. But I am an artist and I am a performer, so I really created this series in an autobiographical spirit. Because I was a professional dancer for most of my life and I was a really serious athlete, and I used to treat my body like it was a machine . . . I never felt appreciative of myself and I certainly never took good care of myself, in that I just didn’t love myself. I really wasn’t very nice to my body.
The thing is, that all of us, when we were children, before we were introduced to the idea of being ashamed of our bodies, were actually very free and very joyful. When I was a kid in rural Pennsylvania, we had a pond on our property and myself and some of the neighborhood kids used to go swimming in the summer without bathing suits on, and it was incredibly wonderful. It was really innocent and pure, and I think there’s no better feeling. I think as we get older we learn to feel flaws, we learn to sight our flaws and feel really bad about them . . . As a rule, people feel a sense of shame or discomfort with the body. We were all born naked. Sculptors throughout history did not sculpt the human body with clothing on, they sculpted nude bodies because they’re so exquisitely beautiful.