Yoga In The Nude
Digambara is a Sanskrit term which may be translated as ‘clad only in the quarters of the sky’. To those speaking English, that may mean ‘naked’, but there is a very interesting difference between the two concepts. Digambara doesn’t mean ‘naked’; it means you are wearing the environment. That is a really powerful idea. Instead of closing off one’s self with clothing, defining one’s self with name brands or cultural iconography, digambaras are clad in infinity, defined by nothing save limitless possibility.
In our culture, people are trained to be ashamed of their bodies (and unconsciously destroy the environment). In fact, it is actually illegal to be without clothing covering certain percentages of the form relative to gender in public. That is a very oppressive concept weighing down upon people all the time. It sort of reinforces the Judeo-Christian concept of original sin, that just by being born; you are automatically sinful, just being here in your body.
My class, Digambara: Skyclad Yoga for Men, is an opportunity to defy such widely held beliefs and not only strip down to the bare essentials, but also learn to grow and stretch and become powerful in your body. In yoga philosophy, human beings are Divinity manifesting in a finite form. Your body and mind are temples inhabited by Divinity (who you really are). Instead of feel shame for our condition, it is distinguished as a unique chance to experience all of reality from a single point in time and space. Yoga is the art and science of reclaiming our identity as Divinity while celebrating our bodies.
I was not raised with yoga. Neither of my parents or any relatives taught it to me, nor did I really ever see it in my life as a child. It was only as I began to finish high school and reach out for myself was I drawn to the practice, and between YMCA classes and the Internet, I quickly began to feel the amazing benefits the practice had on not only my body, but my mind and spirit as well. I would continue to intensify my studies and practice in college while I was pursuing my BFA in Illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, mentoring with Ellen Farrell who taught me about the importance of posture and alignment in the body and also the great power held within the breath and the flow of energy through the environment.
After finishing my collegiate studies I moved to San Francisco. It was here that I found a studio which had a nude yoga class for men, and I attended each Sunday with excitement. The teacher, Darren Main, was very supportive and encouraging, and after a workshop by visiting teacher Aaron Star of Hot Nude Yoga based in New York City, I began as a substitute teacher for the class when Darren was off to Hawaii to teach a retreat. I had been practicing yoga for over four years at that point and was excited and nervous to share with the class. That excitement only grew greater when Aaron gave me a call some months later to invite me to his teacher’s training retreat in Costa Rica.
Words cannot really capture that experience fully, but I will sketch a picture for you to imagine… 40 men living in huts in a tropical rainforest just next to the beach, practicing yoga for ten hours a day, with monkeys, parrots, sloths and lizards that can run over water. Yeah, it was fairly close to my version of paradise. Practicing yoga like that, no clothes, no electricity, barely any cars, just with nature and your fellow yogis, made me wonder why you would ever leave such a place. My teacher reminded me, ‘to take that Light back out to the world so full of darkness.’
And so it has been. Yoga has so much to offer us in these times of great uncertainty. When so much seems to be going wrong in the world, the best thing we can do for ourselves and each other, is just slow down, close your eyes, and breathe. When we are calm and flexible, there is very little that can get you bent out of shape. Just go with the flow. Realize you are the flow, shoot, you’re the whole Ocean. When we center ourselves in such a way, we are able to make better choices from a place of peace and when everyone is operating from a place of peace, so there is peace. Where there is peace, there is happiness.
Digambara: Skyclad Yoga for Men is an offering I make to the men of Richmond and its surrounding areas. It is a chance to take an hour to just focus on your breath and body, and celebrate it for all it holds. We all have our own unique bodies, our own minds, our own life stories and challenges and skills, but in the end, we are all in this together. The more we can embrace this truth, the more we can move to a place of happiness, safety, health and freedom for all.
Digambara: Skyclad Yoga for Men meets every Saturday from 5-6pm at the Illumination: Khalima Dance Studio and Workshop which is within the Dogtown Dance Theater at 109 West 15th Street in Manchester, just south of the river on 15th and Bainbridge (I would teach outside in nature, but it is a little chilly out here and the police tend not to appreciate a group of guys with no clothes on ;) ). Anyone interested in attending a class should make sure they bring a yoga mat with them, which is essentially a slip-proof pad to keep you up off the hardwood floors. You may also wish to bring drinking water and a towel if you are prone to sweating. During the class, we will begin with gentle warm ups to get the body and mind ready, then explore the athletic warmth of sun salutations and other power yoga sequences before working through other asanas and kriyas to stretch our limitations and empower our selves, finally settling down for relaxation and meditation.
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