nude yoga girls: an exploration of yoga & porn

Yoga girls getting naked (image via justsexportal.com)

A recent post on elephantjournal.com has got me thinking about the precarious relationship between yoga, nudity and sexuality. In the post, yoga teacher Dashama Konah reflects on a Facebook backlash to some “risqué” photos that she posted of herself doing yoga in a bikini in Mexico, and then poses some questions about the spirituality of doing yoga in the buff (note: the above photo is *not* Dashama). It’s a pretty interesting discussion, though what’s missing for me is the “why.” What was her intention? Why would a teacher post pictures of herself practicing yoga in a bikini on the beach?

In the context of how our culture perceives and presents women’s bodies, and in comparison to things like the naked yoga phenomenon, Dashama’s photos are fairly innocuous. But coming back to intention, what does it mean when the basic premise of photos of naked women doing yoga is to titillate, to turn someone on? Enter Nude Yoga Girls (warning: graphic content), a series of photos and videos by Abby Winters (see one of the photos above). These pics have been on the internet for a few years, but a friend recently brought them to my attention.

Abby Winters is an Australian website of women-produced amateur porn, which features models without surgical implants or make-up and in their own clothes. The site has received praise for “portraying a more realistic depiction of sex than most pornography.” And interestingly enough, these women (with their natural, flawed bodies and imperfect poses) practicing yoga might even be a more realistic depiction of yoga than the airbrushed, enhanced images that we see in many yoga magazines.

And then this morning, a link to 25 Hot Yoga Babes landed in my inbox, via Holy Taco (the post described them as “the DVD box cover to some kind of athletic themed porno”). Fake boobs and provocative poses galore! There are even some familiar faces, like our friend Sara Jean Underwood of Playboy Yoga fame and Britney Spears doing some poolside stretching.

My feelings about all this are complicated and difficult to articulate. Those who regularly read it’s all yoga, baby know that I am a lover of burlesque and interested in pushing beyond standard representations of women’s bodies. Whether it’s in yoga, advertising, dance, or film ~ I like to see anything that pushes boundaries and challenges convention. Yet I  have different and complex reactions to all three of these examples. The teacher and her “controversy” exasperates me; the hot yoga babes make me feel depressed; and the nude yoga girls… I find them to be subversive and vulnerable and actually pretty sexy. What are your reactions? How do you navigate the sensitive relationship between yoga and sexuality?

  1. I’m fairly new to yoga and also pretty liberal. While I won’t be signing up for a naked yoga class, I think that an important part of yoga is working towards being comfortable with your body and confident. If you feel comfortable doing yoga minus clothes and that brings your practice to a new level, then go for it!

  2. I have to admit that is hard to not be turned on by a beautiful woman doing yoga, and nude on top of that.

    I don’t know why, and even if I am a yogi I also consider myself a pervert, there is something that blends nudity and sacredness so beautifully. I have seen quite attractive statue of naked goddesses and there was a physical attraction to the image. What is that energy of the naked goddess that attract the yogi on the path. The beautiful Dakini from Milarepa’s tale, or even one of Milarepa’s tale where he had to sustain an erection and a mudra to move trough a sacred passage (the title of the song is not coming to my mind right now).

    I think because of our western fear of nudity – and to a certain extent our fear of beauty – it’s hard to conceive that spiritual can be sensual or even erotic, or that erotic can be spiritual ~

    I find it interesting that I was introduce to yoga because I was really attracted to a girl I met few time while working in a corner store. She was presenting her first movie in a center for street kids and at-risk youth (http://danslarue.org/en/about) – which I attended (more to see her than the movie). In that center I met my first yoga teacher (Joan Ruvinsky http://pathlessyoga.com/#about_pathless_yoga ) – if it wasn’t for the attraction to that young woman, I would have discover yoga only many years later!

    Yoga and beauty 😉

  3. I agree with you taraSG, seeking liberalism/freedom in both mind and body in whatever form you see fit (even if that means sans tops and bottoms- whatever floats your boat). However, my guts start to churn and I feel a pangs of disappointment and sadness when I see such a beautiful tradition sucked in, chewed up and spit out by Playboy Magazine. I find it kind of heart breaking and not at all subversive as the author of the above article suggests; but in fact just the opposite, over simplified and lazy is more like it. The last time I checked Yoga was about much more than a well toned ass and silicon implants.

    • hi SLK ~ just to clarify, i do *not* find “playboy yoga” (meaning a branded and trademarked practice endorsed by playboy magazine) to be subversive. you’ll see that i find Abby Winters’ work, which features women with no silicon implants and “regular” body types, to subvert the traditions of porn.

      but i also wouldn’t dismiss “playboy yoga” as oversimplified and lazy, either. it’s actually very clever marketing. the “playboy yoga” products are most likely playboy’s attempts to cash in on the yoga boom…

  4. Who cares. Yoga is a personal practice; many people practice it for many different reasons, and if it’s someone’s choice to show off more skin than others, let them be…The human form is a beautiful thing, and I honestly feel that the more yoga I do, the more anatomically-focused I get. So when I see a naked body doing yoga, I”m looking more at the form than the pronounced and hidden bodyparts. Brahmacharya is 1 of the Yamas. Do your own practice, practice your own restrain, freedom, and balance, and still the pond that’s your mind so you can see it clearly. Yoga Sutra 1.2 – Yoga chitta vritti nirodah.

  5. Yogis are not immune from the idea that the naked human body is something to fear; and that female nudity equals sex. I don’t know any women who practice naked yoga. I, and some male yogis I know practice naked because it’s more comfortable.

  6. I, for one, consider it highly unfortunate that no one seems to have any interest in seeing videos of me practicing yoga naked…and, though I wear nothing but boxer shorts when practicing at home, find that, when going completely buff, certain *ahem* things can kinda get in the way….

    That said, the 25 yoga babes thingy just looks bogus–which I mean not in the sense of calling yoga invalid if it’s practiced by people dressed or undressed in a certain way, but in the sense that, in the couple of pictures I saw there, I didn’t get the impression that anybody involved cares about yoga any more than those involved in a “naked babes in uniform” thing care about national defense.

    As for pictures of practicing yoga in bikinis, I actually know a couple of teachers who run retreats in the tropics who have what I think are perfectly tasteful pictures of themselves like that on their websites, with no Sports Illustrated-style salaciousness…and where, I think, the idea really has more to do with the beautiful locations, and practicing right at the water’s edge, making a bathing suit really the most sensible clothing option. Might some people find it titillating? No doubt, but, then, if we’re really concerned about that possibility, everybody should start practicing in burkas…

  7. I’m not really up to checking out the various sites, but my first question in the spiritual purity vs porn question is, are they selling anything? If so, I think that pretty much answers the question about why naked women are being featured. Filthy lucre, darlings.

  8. The world is changing and yoga today is not what it used to be, fortunately and unfortunately. It’s not just the nude yoga that is, or was, a controversy, see all the new forms of yoga that evolved in the Bay Area and LA in the last 20 years. I have at least 2 yoga teachers friend that came up with their own branch for practicing yoga. If there is a need for anything in this world, it exist.

    Some people are so advanced in their perception of life, body and spirit, that they can get untangled from the heavy duty traditional codes of behavior and connect to themselves and others in a way they did not experience, nor seen before.

    I salute to whom ever is untangled and go beyond the familiar and known, in a sustainable and in a friendly way, of course. I strongly believe that if we will connect more to our sexuality, in an open way, there will not be any need for people to sell their bodies to other who are exploiting and harming souls, every day, every moment.

    We just heard this week about the Vatican and the sex scandal, won’t get into it, but this is just an example of what happens when nudity and sexuality are a taboo.

    Thank you for sharing Roseanne!
    And… since you DO live in the free world, take it to where ever you want and feels good to you!

    Aviad

  9. i just wrote a post about naked yoga… a joke one, but i guess timely 🙂

    http://thejoyofyoga.blogspot.com/2010/02/yoga-poses-that-are-awkward-to-do-naked.html

  10. Yes Nude yoga is something I find disgusting. But i agree that if someone feels comfortable doing yoga in skimpy clothes, no one should object. Afterall, yoga is all about relaxation and being comfortable in your body.

  11. I’m certainly no prude and I’ve danced on a few bars back in the day albeit with my clothes on, and like the old US Supreme Court commentary about “what is porn?”, ya know when ya see it.

    and yes, I did check out a link and just because one adds the word “yoga” into the mix, that doesn’t make it “yoga.” it’s still naked chicks spreading their legs.

    as Brenda said, just another way to make a buck.

  12. I had a similar conversation with a good friend a few weeks ago.. I feel like intention is key.. if your intention is in the right place then that’s fine…. but if nudity is being used to gain attention then the vibration of the practice is lowered… a key element to yoga is transformation.. with or with clothing is not the issue.. staying close to the reason and root of practice is..

  13. I think that there is an erroneous relationship being drawn between being nude and being liberal and free. I sense there are large portion of society running around half clothed or fully nude trying to prove they are free and uninhibited but probably have no idea who they are on the inside.

  14. This is indeed kind of cool and unsettling all at once. As a 3 yr practitioner and a 50 yr old guy it took a good amount of time to gain the trust of the women in my first Yoga classes. I’m sure it was my perception at first but there were some odd looks being cast about. Eventually they understood I wasn’t there for a pick up and we all became good friends. As for the websites, hey I perused ’em and they are quite titillating.

    I suppose that at times we all may have looked around the space we all share while engaged in our class and pondered the possibilities. I’m not sure if nudity will denigrate Yoga at all, at least now anyway. Hell, you have to get folks to show in the first place. It’s what you bring and get from the practice, anyway. If you don’t like what others are doing then for heaven sake don’t look.
    But you know you want to…

  15. Everything is Brahman!

    So is Nudity – full stop!

    How about the Naga Baba’s of India, spending a life of full devotion, NAKED!

    the stone images of Khajuraho, nudity even sex poses on many south Indian temples, Angkor Wat – pervert, porn?

    It is how we perceive the world around us, our conditioning, our very own judgment which decides that things are ugly, pervert, degenerated, things simply are as they are!

    I live in the tropics too and find it very comfortable to do my practice almost naked, just cover up what could be in “the way”… if Playboy decides tomorrow to have some cover shot’s in yoga poses they will do… nothing wrong with it, won’t harm anyone ,except very high strung conservative points of view!

    Nothing can harm the idea, the concept of Yoga through a couple of nude photos, after all it’s the way we ALL arrived here and since, we hide under these clothes, of which the labels have become by now more important then what they are hiding or not..

    besides the shot for Toesox is aesthetic and expresses a lot of beauty, there is (in my opinion) nothing vulgar…

    namastasje and shanti, shanti, shanti-he!

  16. The “exploration of yoga & porn” will eventually lead us to the situation where we find ourselves looking down the barrel of a gun and being held to ransome by our own curiosity where we are given only two, (unsatisfactory) outcomes.

    1) Lots of tension from unrequited sexual forces
    2) A sticky mess

    But this is a false dilemma – the key is to “put the gun down and move away from the internet”.

    Know that there are only two real alternatives – the best depends on your own nature:-

    1) to explore and resolve our sexual power within a loving, intimate relationship between two consenting adults that are committed to each other (does not have to be a lifetime commitment but often is) or
    2) live a celibate, reclusive life

    All the rest is just speculation surrounding hedonism.

  17. Nude yoga girls, hot yoga babes – really, this is NOT “pushing beyond standard representations of women’s bodies”, and frankly not pushing any boundaries whatsoever (though maybe pushing a few buttons).

    It is status quo: women, “sex” and bodies as entertainment. They just happen to be doing what appears to be yoga, but those who practice know this is not the practice – and most certainly not when it is posted on-line for public viewing.
    By providing direct links to such sites, there’s an indirect encouragement of this type of confusion and this type of imagery.

    It’s not ALL yoga, baby. Practice satya, be honest about what the practice is. Practice ahimsa – don’t contribute to harming by what is distributed in the name of yoga.

  18. Yoga is about balance and finding away to be with you as you balancing your attractions and aversions. It’s not about drawing things you like towards you and pushing and resisting things you don’t like. When we like something it is natural to want more and when we have it it is not the right person/thing etc. or we want more. As such yoga teaches us to be with us as us and even practice desirelessness and let things be as they are go their own way. Pretty women are, node or not, like flowers… let them be and move on… be with yourself. We are our own best fan and friend.

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