Why yoga without clothes?

Why Naked Yoga?  An interview by Antonio Capurro

Monday, October 12, 2009
Click here to read 1st part of an interview done by internationally renowned internet blogger Antonio Capurro. Click here for part 2. I discuss with Antonio the amazingly liberating but often misunderstood practice of naked yoga.
The entire interview is below:


Times are fast and people is living always running, but why not to stop in our day routine with all the stress and anxiety that we carry on our backs and try to find a way to heal our bodies and have a good time taking a Naked Yoga Class? This is a new tecnique you can try on and feel much better. I took just one naked yoga class with Ken and all I can say is that he has great skills to enpower you to succed. Certainly I don't live in San Francisco but I am ready to take Naked Yoga for my life. As Ken said maybe I could be a Yogi like him one day, but what I really know is that Ken is such a competitive and genuine Yogi always ready to help you and guide you. Here he answers some of the questions we always wanted to know about naked yoga, health, life but about his own feelings and experience. I learnt about a man with a deep sensibility and beautiful human being.


Nude yoga is being popular, from your experience like a YOGI Professor, how it can change people's life and make them feel better? I have been teaching men’s naked yoga for almost 3 years and been practicing Hatha yoga (with clothes on) for over 10 years. I find that all styles of yoga are transformative and that particularly NAKED YOGA for MEN is a wonderfully safe and sacred practice where men get to explore their bodies, overcome body image issues, grow stronger in their practice, and build community all in one. The men that gather in the class that I led often tell me that practicing without clothes on is like getting to let go of all kinds of labels that society puts on us. Who were are in relationship to others, in our work, within subcultures such as gay, straight, etc. and that it is an incredibly liberating experience. I have been truly honored to be part of a group number of classes in San Francisco that offer a space for men to practice naked yoga. And the number of male yogis who come to our classes continues to grow. This also seems to be true for other cities and countries as well. Of course, the clothing industry might not be so happy about this trend of more and more naked yogis though. Lol so this is my description of my naked yoga class that appears at the yoga studio's website (although it is now on Tues and not Wed). The parents of the newborn infant announced that their child was born with a ballcap, a gold necklace, a t-shirt with a silly print on, a pair of khakis, with light brown loafers. What an interesting parallel universe in which this tale would take place! So, why is it that our culture strongly encourages each of us to cover our bodies with cloth, synthetics, and even other creature's skin shortly after we are born when we are born into this life; our body is free from clothing, our mind open to limitless possibilities, and our spirit joyfully liberated and pure. What if we were to create a safe, fun and intimate setting to deepen our connection with true Self without the extra layer of material confining our bodies? There is a new and exciting Wednesday night Naked Men's Yoga class.


The Yoga practice comes from India and they learnt to put focus on their bodies and minds with spirituality, do you feel that fraternity and sacred practice floating in your classes? Yoga migrated to the West in the past century and within the past 50 years it has continued to quickly evolve. I am sure that the first yoga practice looked quite different than it does in yoga studios in the US. And the more things change; I believe the more things stay the same. Our naked yoga for men’s group focuses on the poses, the breath work and building strength, flexibility and balance. I integrate some Acroyoga-inspired partner work and group work into the class so while the practice is about deepening one's connection to his TRUE SELF, there is also a supportive community feels to the class as well. Further, I think of the Buddhist term SANGHA which refers to the sanctuary where people gather to meditate. My intention is to allow each person to have their own unique experience in their mind/body/spirit connection WITHIN the context of a group of likeminded men gathering together. And because there are regulars who come to the class, they often socialize before and after the class, sometimes grabbing some food after an intense practice. Since January of this year, I began to offer a NAKED YOGA SOCIAL once a month where we come together for a 75 minute yoga practice and then stay in the studio and fraternize/socialize. This group has been very popular and I am joining with another yoga teacher to take a group of men to Hawaii in Dec/Jan for a Naked Yoga retreat and lots of chances to socialize and build community. My answer to the erection question: an erection is just another way the body expresses a smile and practicing healthy non attachment.


Our times are a wild run trying to find the great body or the great shape we can see all around us throwing us images to our faces, but there is a lose about to make a better human being, Nude Yoga Men doesn't care the way of the body, what is for nude yoga a healthy state of mind and body? Well, Pema Chordron is a Buddhist nun who will probably never take my class but I think she says it best with her book titled "START WHERE YOU ARE" and that is the philosophy I channel when I offer a naked yoga class. I think our Mother Culture that promotes images of perceived perfection do us all an injustice when it comes to celebrating our bodies. I also think our Mother Culture of instant gratification and processed foods further complicates the PATH for anyone who is seeking contentment and serenity. The key here is what it is that each of us needs to UNLEARN and what is it that we need to LEARN. While respecting that each of us has our own journey and life lessons, i hope that the naked yoga class is a place where men can come and do some self-reflection, self-acceptance, and self-celebration. You brought up a great point about the pictures on our website that you only see lean guys in the pix. I would say that our classes do require a certain amount of endurance but we make modifications for anyone that is 'medically cleared' by his doctor to exercise. All abilities, ages, sizes, shapes of men come to the class and they are welcome. I hope that any one who is struggling with body image issues can see this as a safe place to move into more self-appreciation for whom they are AND set an intention to be the best person they possibly can be. Here is a quote from another woman who might never get to take our class of naked yoga “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Edith Wharton quote. I think practicing in a community of men is a beautiful thing because we get to shine out our own beauty and reflect back others. Sure, from time to time our ego (yikes, our MALE ego even) pops up in the practice and that is what we get to work with. That’s why we have the breath to LET IT GO when it arises!


How do you work with a man that come to your classes with a lot of personal issues about not only his body if not his personal life like low self esteem or depression or anxiety, do you have get in psychology way or with therapy? Well, not to apply labels but my 'day job' is that of a psychotherapist or LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and I have been doing that work longer than I have been practicing yoga. so, while I do not think of the naked yoga classes as a place to do therapy, i do find the space to be very healing and supportive. The yoga practice compliments TALK therapy in that it lets us try to be NONATTACHED to our stories. So there is a time to talk about things and that can sometimes happen before and after class for instance, with the economy as bad as it is, lots of guys come and talk about the stress of finding a new job, etc. And since we are a donation based group I encourage folks to come even if then can only donate a few dollars yoga allows for us to give our minds, our bodies, our spirits a 90 minute self-imposed TIME OUT from the rest of our lives and sometimes that is just what we need to deal with the world that is waiting for us once we step off the mat, the great part is somehow our perspective, our energy has changed over the course of the practice and as a result our world has changed. I am a true believer in holistic health and yoga gives us a chance to tend to all aspects of our being.


Certainly to make naked yoga can make a lot men happy and less worried about things, after how many classes do you see a change in your group? How many classes does it take to see a change? Holistic = WHOLE. I would say that there is a shift in every group every time. Sometimes I sense that the group is really wiped out and low energy so there can be a bit of frustration with the challenging poses and other times I can feel the group's energy increase and a nonverbal request for more challenging poses and towards the end when we move into reclined poses and some restorative poses, the energy turns further inward and there is a sense of a collective peacefulness that is reflecting the individual's inner serenity. In reference to a physical change, of course it varies from person to person. Sometimes people report sleeping better after their first class and the more they practice the more they feel the effects and reap the benefits of increased energy, stamina, happier mood, improved sleep, etc.


What is a challenging, restorative and restorative poses? In the classes’ people talk or most of the time they listen and follow your instructions? I think the most challenging part of restorative poses is that we hold the asanas for up to 10 minutes and that allows the body's healing systems (parasympathetic nervous system) to turn on and the fight/flight systems to turn off during that time in a restorative class, the students are silent and in meditative states but not talking. That could be challenging for some since in our busy daily lives we seldom sit in stillness, let me define the terms when I said challenging, I was referring to most of the poses in a HATHA or VINYASA flow class. So the standing, seated poses along with the poses we do while lying on our stomachs and our backs. These can also include balancing poses and inversions (when we are on our heads such as a headstand or handstand), restorative poses are those, like I said earlier, that are held for long periods of time usually with extra blankets, blocks, straps, or bolsters to support the body, also hosting a retreat at Aaron Starr's center in Costa Rica in Feb. called sacred elixir.


You said the benefits to make nude yoga can make an improvement in men's sexual life making focus on what they want and need? Do you give classes to gay couples? I think the men that take the naked yoga class experience benefits in many ways. If one is more in touch with themselves, it makes sense that they are also able to be more emotionally and sexually available for another. I know of a few gay couples that come to the class and it is so inspiring to see them practice together. I know of a couple who also met in the naked yoga classes and continue to deepen their relationship by practicing together. I do offer private yoga sessions to couples in their homes and those couples have said it has helped them nature their relationship, ultimately if we are able to see, understand and experience ONENESS then the rest will fall into place.


How is a private yoga session with couples? How it works? Is there non sexual tension in the couple? The couples I have worked with have said that sex was great after the session but I didn’t get the sense that they were either holding back their feeling or being overtly sexual during the practice. I think it’s great when we tap into that tantric energy that is present all the time and go with it. My partner and I jokingly have referred to our experience of intense togetherness while in a public setting as 'brain sex' which certainly doesn’t fully define the experience but I do feel that we can explore a ONENESS with our partner without having to be 'getting it on' or having contact with one another that would be considered sexual.


Do you have any special anecdote can share with us when teaching yoga to your group and private gay couples? During my group with partners, I have them do lots of assisting one another stretch, exploring their strengths, their vulnerabilities, their similarities and differences. For instance, there is a couple that I have worked with over the past 3 yrs and one is short and stocky, the other is tall and lean. It is like magic watching them learn how to support one another's bodies in some of the partner poses. Over the years they have developed a home practice and tell me that they do some of the poses every night as a way of connecting with one another and distressing from the day.


When and why did you decided become a YOGI? I am not a personal trainer. I have practiced yoga for about 10 years and became a Registered Yoga Teacher in 2006. In hindsight, I recall always enjoying doing handstands and finding fun and exciting ways to move my body. I had wanted to do gymnastics but my small town in rural Pennsylvania didn't have a gymnastic team let alone a yoga studio. I first started practicing yoga at my gym and found many benefits after just the first few sessions. I had less stress and tension held in my body. My muscles seemed to bounce back more quickly after an intense weight training workout. I definitely had less aches and pains that a 'thirtysomething' body sometimes experiences. And I found that some of the strength poses I could do rather quickly while the flexibility was and continues to be an area where I am challenged on the yoga mat. The reason I decided to train to be a yoga teacher is because I was working as a therapist at a high school and one of my students was very responsive to the basic yoga exercises and mindfulness breathwork I was teaching him to deal with his stress and somatization issues. I realized that I needed to learn more about yoga if I was seeing my life and my client's life transform. So I signed up for a 6 month intensive training program and my life has never been the same.


How men can connect spiritually without to get into sexual tension? As with anything, the answer is 'PRACTICE.' For many beginners, this is a concern and a reason to avoid taking a naked yoga class. My response is twofold. First of all, if a man gets aroused and happens to get an erection in class, it is just another way for the body to express happiness. No need to get all worked up over it or fixated on it. Second, as one practice naked with other men, there is a great opportunity to shift from objectifying another male body or feel objectified by others to a more unconditional acceptance and appreciation for self and others. I find that if we let our minds spin stories and wander around long enough; we are able to fantasize, idolize, vilify, or do a million other things about someone standing next to us, acknowledging that our minds have that ability is one step in the right direction. To focus on the breath and let the mind observe the breath is how we move past all of that. It sounds simple, but it does take practice.


http://www.nakedyogasf.com/faq.html

PART TWO
en and I continue with the interview and now talking about his life, health, sex and much more. For the ones didn't know, Ken is a Yogi instructor in San Francisco Area and he teaches naked yoga, an experience that you can get or start why not with a group of friends. I recommend to you search more about Ken's classes without a doubt. I only hope he can comes one day to Peru and teach us. You always can ask Ken and e mail him or be his friend on Facebook. Namaste!


From your experience what is to have a healthy sexual life and a healthy relationship? The first four letters of healthy are H-E-A-L. If we have any wounds or injuries on a physical, emotional, or spiritual level, then I believe we must develop ways to let them heal. That may take years or it may take lifetimes. One of the most powerful healing techniques I can imagine is to be in the present moment. If two (or more) people can incorporate that into their connection, the relationship has a better chance of succeeding and, of course, the sex can also be incredible.


People are always trying to make things better and push themselves. Is yoga a way to have control in our sexuality and make it powerful or just to put our emotions in a freer atmosphere? I feel that we have definitely created a "Mother Culture" that encourages us to push us past our limits in many ways. We work hard, we play hard. I recall reading in a book from Paulo Coelho these words about our human condition: "We are in such a hurry to grow up, and hen we long for our lost childhood. We make ourselves ill earning money, and then spend all of our money on getting well again. We think so much about the future that we neglect the present, and thus experience neither the present nor the future. We live as if we were never going to die, and die as if we had never lived." I found that to be a very profound observation. I do believe that yoga can bring balance and discipline into our lives. Both Buddha and Goldilocks (from "the 3 Bears" fable) figured out that there is a 'middle path' and that finding a happy medium is indeed the most liberating and freeing experience imaginable. My sense is that the men that take naked yoga on a regular basis also experience a form of liberation through the exercise, the meditation and the sense of community our classes have to offer.


You are not only a Yoga Instructor if not a social worker/therapist for a nonprofit in Oakland. What do you like about social work and how to make it work together both careers? As I mentioned above, it was through my work as a social worker/therapist that I realized just how powerfully transformative yoga could be for others. I continue to work as both a yoga instructor and social worker/therapist in a variety of different settings and they seem to fit very well. Last year, I joined the International Association of Yoga Therapists that is made up of a growing number of mental health providers who also believe that modern psychotherapy and yoga compliment each other. I have figured out that my life work is to be that of service. Both yoga and counseling allow me to do just that.


How to educate people and society to be inclusive and accept others in the diversity and intolerance? More and more people are catching on. There is a natural evolution towards an Understanding that we are all in this together. Long before we had Western Civilization, the humans realized this Oneness. Each ancient civilization that I have read about had common themes in their belief systems: to live in harmony with Nature, to take from the Earth only what we need, to treat everyone and everything with respect. Pretty simple, yet somehow we have lost touch with those values. At this point, I think it just takes those of us who 'get it' to keep repeating it until the rest of the world catches on. If you have the space, please include the lyrics of Dar Williams' "The Christians and The Pagans" and Black Eyed Peas' "Where is the Love?" I think there are ALOT of messages out there that are helping turn the tide.


Tell us more about you and your coming out process, how was it in your case? As a teen, I was pretty insecure and anxious. I had tried to take my life once at age 15. For whatever reason, the bottle of aspirin I had ingested didn't kill me nor did I ever let anyone in my family know that I had done so. I somehow made it through high school with a strong determination to move away to 'discover the world' (which actually meant, to figure out who the hell was I). I was a bit of a late bloomer as far as telling family and friends about my sexual orientation. I was 19 and when I did come out, I did it somewhat dramatically. I wrote a letter for a local newspaper in defense of a LGBTQ awareness event that was held on my college campus. The letter was published and everyone soon knew that I was out of the closet. The next 10 years or so, I was fairly radical in my approach to educating those around me about being gay. For some time I lived in Japan where I entered speech contests, appeared in the news and even on a nationally broadcast TV show about 'coming out.' I organized a community social support group for LGBTQ as well. I even entered my Masters of Social Work graduate school program with the intention of focusing most of my clinical work serving queer youth. As I entered my 30s, I think the commitment and intensity remains, but my approach has gotten a bit more mainstream. I think I have reached a new level of acceptance of myself and realized that much of my earlier work was not only about speaking up for those that might not be able to but also for me to overcome some of the internalized homophobia that resided within myself. In the words of Soren Kierkegaard: "Life can only be understood looking backward. It must be lived forward."


Yoga is about to heal your body and your spirit but gay men most of the time have behind a certain amount of angry and pain because hiding who they really are, for some gay men is not a difficult process but for some it is, how to make gay men happier? Some social science research shows that gay men acknowledge feeling 'different' from others starting around age 5. That's a very young age to start building protective walls or creating various masks to hide our 'true selves' from others. If we begin that process that early and society starts to tell us that it’s NOT OK to be true to ourselves, imagine how much emotional and spiritual pain and trauma most of us have experienced. The healing and growing that we do before and after we come out are amazing. I have so much respect for every man that comes to the naked yoga class. They have the courage to shed layers of clothes and societal labels so they can continue to deepen their connection with their true being. It is my most sincere hope that the naked yoga class offers each person a safe, non judgemental space to celebrate who they are and to be part of a healthy community that continues to grow.


How many years have you been teaching YOGA? I have become a Registered Yoga Teacher in 2006.  


Can make YOGA to transport you to an orgasmic experience but non sexual? I am going to leave this question for Aaron Starr. :-) Certainly, yoga enhances every experience if you are present enough to enjoy it. The more one practices it, the more rich and fulfilling the experience. For some basic information on tantric yoga, I encourage folks to check out: http://healing.about.com/od/sexualhealing/a/tantricsex.htm If anyone is interested in learning more about yoga and how it can enhances one's sensual experiences, consider joining Joe Weston and I in Costa Rica this February for SACRED ELIXIR, a unique retreat blending the expertise of Body Electric educators with the ancient art of yogic healing. http://www.thebodyelectricschool.com/sacred_elixir_yoga_erotic.html


How does it work the Transgender support? I set an intention that the naked yoga for men class will be a safe space for anyone who self-identifies as being male can come and practice. A transgendered man who comes to my class regularly shared these kind words on Yelp: He's kind, he's encouraging and he knows what he's doing. Whether you're new to yoga, plateauing in your practice or a professional yogi, Ken's classes will usher in a new level of understanding and connection with your body. The classes I've taken with him are thorough and invigorating with plenty of time for restorative moments and grounding towards the end of class. He guides newcomers and gently adjusts experienced students. What I like best about Ken's classes are his reminders that wherever you are right now, is exactly where you should be. He has classes in SF and Oakland. (Ken's naked yoga classes are a safe space for trans-men.) My hope is that someday we can have a co-ed group that allows anyone and everyone to practice together. Someday.


We are living times when for gay men is easy to be in contact with others and interact looking for many things online most of it sex and more young people is living a kind of desperate hook up culture, do you think that nude yoga could be a way to give young gay people a more healthy and responsible sexuality? My experience here in San Francisco is that gay men move from all over the country and all over the world to connect with other men. And along the way in our life journey, there is also this interesting duality of fears that gay men sometimes experience. Are we more afraid of being alone or more afraid of being truly intimate with another man? I enjoy doing outreach at the gay bars and clubs and online. I find many guys are initially stating that they want to have sex and are surprised when I invite them to a nonsexual naked yoga group. I am the one who has been pleasantly surprised when many of them do come and check it out. Never once have I had an uncomfortable experience with someone acting inappropriately in the naked yoga group. Men want to connect and we are learning how to do that in a genuine way. I truly have found many men are able to experience more healthy connections as a result of joining our naked yoga community.


You are a gay man that practice naked yoga and for sure before to go classes you look at yourself in the mirror, what is the part of your body you like more and which one less? You ask the best and most challenging questions don't you. I used to be very self conscious and shy about showing my body. I have come to look in the mirror and appreciate my body for what it is. I still deal with some amount of body acceptance and know that I have days when I like what I see in the mirror and other days when I do not. I see this as part of my practice of letting go of my ego.


With the blogs and micro blogs, twitter, Facebook and MySpace people is interacting about their ideas, interests, sharing information and making easy to be in touch, yoga see the practical in a holistic way and not separate, why gay community can't see in that way sometimes? Technology and all of its bells and whistles are simply reflections of our species' strong desire to connect with one another. Thanks to Facebook, I am now in touch with elementary school classmates and long lost cousins. I can now email all of my contacts to announce where I am, what I am eating and when my next retreat will be. I can view photos of my friend's newborn baby minutes after she was born. I can cruise over 1,000 local gay men who are online and chat with a dozen at a time. So, the age old question of QUANTITY vs. QUALITY needs to be explored here. I think it is great that the options for all of these ways of staying connected with one another are available for us. I can imagine that in this modern 'advanced' era, some individuals meet and encounter more people in a day than someone living 200 years ago would meet in a life time. In this fast-paced society, we all still search for ways to foster intimate relationships with others and all of this leads me to believe that's why so many people turn to yoga and other community-oriented spaces to connect.


What do you recommend people to make or how to live when you are a single gay man? The longest 'long term relationship' anyone has is with SELF. Cultivating a genuine ability to be present with oneself is the most precious experience one can have. Along with it, comes the opportunity to experience true intimacy with another. Without a solid connection with oneself, even with the most desired, attractive, attentive boyfriend, one will not feel contentment. So, if you are a single man, practice taking yourself out to dinner or to the movie. Celebrate all the wonderful qualities that you have to offer. Build on your strengths but do it for yourself, not for the 'ideal boyfriend.' It’s much like the wisdom of "The Secret,” two things that seem to be true is that what we resist will indeed persist, and the universe can not decipher negative from positive intentions. Simply put, if we are stuck in a fear of being ALONE, that fear will manifest. If we enjoy the present moment and are open to possibilities, then good things are more likely to come our way.


What food should we avoid and how to eat healthy? I am not a nutritionist so I do not feel that I am the one to answer this question but I will say that if one practices mindfulness and applies it to eating, it will become clear what the body needs and what the ego desires.
We want to know what your routine exercise is because we know you have a great body. I also grew up on a farm where we did a lot of hard work. I have been lifting weights and doing cardio routines for over 15 years before I started doing yoga. There is some practicality tied to that first statement and some vanity to the second. Because of the years of lifting, I have lost much of the flexibility that I once had. I enjoy the challenge of yoga because it helps me regain that flexibility. I am 40 years old and feel I am fortunate to have had relatively good health and I do not take it for granted.


From your own experience how to make a good and keep a long time relationship, Some tips? I am certainly no expert on relationships just because I have had several that are a year or longer. Based on my current relationship of almost 2 years with Tim, I would say that I have a better understanding of my Grandmother's wisdom: "Relationships are a lot of work but in the end, it's worth it." Constantly putting time and energy into connecting with one another is crucial. Learning and knowing the other person's heart without ever making assumptions or taking him for granted is important. Working towards a common language and maintaining a sense of humor is the key. I could go on, but I guess I would encourage folks to check out Dr. Henry Grayson's "Mindful Loving" for more tips and lessons in developing relationships.


GAY LIKE YOU invite you to visit PERU and start one day a Naked Yoga Retreat, it would be great so maybe we can start to organize ideas and make it happens. I would love to host a retreat in Peru. Hook me up, Antonio and I will be there! In the meantime, I encourage your readers to check out the two upcoming retreats I will be co-hosting. I will be at the Kalani Oceanside Retreat Center from Dec 28th through Jan 3 for a Naked Men’s Yoga retreat. And I will be part of a wonderful Body Electric retreat titled Sacred Elixir. See www.kenbreniman.com or email me at kjbreniman@gmail.com for more details.


Do you know about PERU?
I know a little but with my new friend Antonio, I am sure to know more!


What would be your message for our readers? Invite people to join to naked yoga. If you are ever in the San Francisco Bay Area, please check out our Naked Yoga classes! Seewww.nakedyogasf.com for more details or email me at kjbreniman@gmail.comThe first class is FREE and it’s a donation based class for any time after that. I promise to take great care of you! And the other teachers are fabulous. We have classes almost every day of the week in both Oakland and San Francisco.


http://www.facebook.com/kjbreniman#/kjbreniman?v=wall


Ken is ready to teach us to the ones that are far awar from USA like me and you then maybe we can start our own group:

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