Why do it naked? Why men only?
Naked seems the most natural way to go. As far as we know, there is nothing in yoga that requires clothing and many reasons why clothing worn during yoga tends to create discomfort. If yoga is practiced clothed in most classes (and shown that way in books) it is at least partly because many people have learned to be ashamed of their bodies and/or believe that any naked activity with other people around must be about sex. Men are generally less inhibited in this way than women.
On the other hand, men are in the minority in most yoga classes. This may be because we tend to be competitive and reluctant to participate in an activity in which we may feel ourselves at a disadvantage to women.
In holding naked classes for men only, we are doing nothing truly original; we are simply reviving (or expanding on) an athletic tradition going back to the Olympics of ancient Greece (competitors nude, spectators all male). In modern times it was customary until about forty years ago for American men and boys to swim naked in YMCA pools; this was before females began to share in the use of such athletic facilities. When I was a freshmen in college (Oberlin, 1967), the men's swimming class was clothing-optional. Sadly enough, today the average American is a Puritan (where social nudity is concerned) compared with most Europeans.Can a class of naked, mostly gay, men really be free of any cruising activity or erotic thought?
We don't have thought police. We do expect everyone to behave respectfully and refrain from any type of deliberate erotic gesture or cruising activity during class. We have generally succeeded in screening out the "tourists" and other unwanted types by making our intentions clear in our introductory material. In our history of more than 200 classes (average attendance around fifteen) we have had to speak to only three men whose behavior we found unacceptable.
We have some regulars who are neither gay nor bisexual; we view their continued participation as confirmation of our success in keeping the class on track in this respect.Is nudity required in your class or is it clothing-optional?
Our official policy is to allow newcomers a maximum of one class in shorts. This decision followed several weeks of email discussion two years ago. We ended up allowing three men to wear shorts in their first class, all in the spring or summer of 2001. Two of them never returned. The third got naked for his second class but then likewise never returned.
When a newcomer brings up this question I strongly encourage him to get naked for his first class. Anyone who wears shorts makes himself conspicuous and is more likely to be viewed as a "tourist" rather than someone with serious intentions. The statistics of our experience bear this out. If we trust you enough to admit you to our naked class you should be able to return the favor by showing us some similar trust. During most of the class we see more of the ceiling or the floor than each other.What sort of men take part in your class?
We welcome men of various shapes and sizes and encourage them to choose the level of challenge that is appropriate for them. We have some men who would benefit by losing twenty pounds; others have gym builds. We have all varieties in between. Ages run from under 30 to over 55 (with most in between). Some enter the class with active yoga practices; others are rusty or have no experience at all. Only a very few older gentlemen, one of whom couldn't even lie comfortably flat on his back, were too handicapped to benefit from the class.
A few have wives. Some of the men have male partners who seldom or never show up. What matters most to us (aside from respectful behavior as mentioned above) is not how anyone looks or what he can do, but that he seriously keeps trying, even if he feels he will never be able to do the most difficult poses.Can I meet men in this class?
(It is important to remember that we don't want tourists, only active participants in class.)
You certainly can. The regulars get to know each other after awhile. There is time before and after class to get acquainted. After class I usually provide a few refreshments and encourage everyone to hang out a few minutes with or without clothes.Who is the instructor?
Clyde Nantais spends most of his time teaching classical ballet and modern dance. He is a former Boston Ballet Co. dancer. He has been with us beginning with our eighth class (November, 2000).What type of yoga?
We spend the first 20 or so minutes in some "joint-loosening" exercises that are not part of yoga, but serve as warmups. Most of the time we are in hatha yoga poses (slow stretching), with a few dance exercises mixed in. Beginning in March 2003 Clyde introduced some more aerobic and/or strengthening poses from the astanga tradition. As a result we are sweating more in class.When and where do you meet? How long does the class last?
We meet Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 6:30 p.m. Sunday classes may be canceled in the summer. Our studio is in Central Square, Cambridge, MA. The specific location is given out only after you have read and agreed to our rules. The class usually runs 90 minutes.How did the class get started?
I happen to be a hard-core naturist. I tend to get naked whenever I can get away with it, including while camping, hiking, swimming and in social situations. I attend numerous organized naturist events each year, of which some are mixed gender and some men only. At one of the latter in August 1999 someone led an informal yoga event. He had taken part in an organized class in New York City called Midnight Yoga for Men. I soon realized that I wanted such an event to happen in the Boston area and that I might be the one to get it off the ground. Our first class was on the last Sunday in January, 2000. Our seventh was in November, 2000. Since that time we have met nearly every week.Miscellaneous
Unlike bodybuilding, yoga is not glamorous. In some poses we look graceful, in others ridiculous.
Some consider yoga trendy or chic, but our class is neither. We have no meditation, chanting or music in our class. We have no philosophical agenda, other than our desire for improved health and respect for each other.Authored by Bob Sparling