The History of Naked Yoga
The soul, like the moon
is new and always new again
and I have seen the ocean
Since I washed my mind
and my body, I too,
am new, each moment new.
My teacher told me one thing:
Live in the soul.
When that was so,
I began to go naked and dance.
Naked yoga, in it’s true form, has very little to do with sex and eroticism.
Naked yoga originated with the Naga Sadhus, a sect of Yogis in India, dating back to the 8th Century BC. Their name describes the philosophy and thinking that is central to their approach to yoga and spirituality. The word Naga means “naked,” and the word Sadhu, “one who has renounced the world completely.”
Nudity on the part of the Sadhus is a symbol of renunciation of all things material; symbolically, by renouncing their clothes, they renounce ambition and any attachment to objects, emotions or desires. There is a sect of the Sadhus that even renounces sex and embraces celibacy and learns to face the harsh elements without concern for physical comfort or satisfying human desires, including the freezing cold of the Himalayas, where many of them reside. These acts are meant to help break the attachment and identification they have with the physical body and sense organs, and allocate energy and attention towards utilizing the body as a means towards reaching enlightenment.
The real meaning behind nudity in the yoga practice, specifically, the Sacred Tantric Practice in Yoga Undressed, in its purest form, describes the resolution of conflicts between the opposites in life--finding the perfect balance between the deepest and most complete connection to the body, while simultaneously cultivating absolute detachment from it, in order to encounter the eternal soul essence, or the pure energy of creation. The purpose of yoga is to create a vibrant, powerful energetic connection to the body, but not as obvious is the goal of detachment from the body, the recognition of the body as a temporary dwelling place for the soul. A true naked yogi, then is one who has shed his coverings, not only his clothing, but his attachment to the myriad and insidious aspects of all human drama and resides in and embraces his pure, untouched, infinite nature.
Naked yoga removes any sense of restriction from clothing, promoting a greater sense of freedom during asana practice and thus, an enhanced awareness of the body. Seeing and feeling the body as you stretch and move from one posture to the next, inspires a more mindful, connected practice. When we consider the role that clothing has played in society, it seems to be in direct opposition to the spirit of yoga, which speaks to “oneness” and union. By design, clothing reminds us of our differences. It serves as a distraction that leads us away from a central yogic principal, the commonality of all living things which inspires peace and compassion.
Naked yoga creates a sense of total physical freedom, but the real freedom that the Sadhus in particular, are seeking from their nakedness, is freedom from inhibitions, opinions of others and any shame about the body. When you are naked, and start to embrace your nakedness and find comfort in its naturalness, a care-free attitude emerges. You forget your own interests, ambitions, and problems, and you lose yourself to the feeling of bliss that is your true and immortal nature.
One of the greatest proponents of naked yoga Lalla, an empowered, naked female mystic, who lived in Northern India during the 14th Century, achieved fame with her exquisitely powerful poetry that made her one of Kashmir’s favorite poets, esteemed as much as Rumi and Hafiz.
Adorned by only her long dark hair, Lalla became a legendary figure, with her poetry and her tantric outlook on life. In Sanskrit she is called Lalleshwari, the great yogini – a prophetess and practitioner of yoga. She found a freedom that was impervious to praise or blame, bucking convention and bravely asserting her calling to the Tantric Way.
One of the most famous tales about Lalla goes like this: One morning some children were making fun of her nakedness. A cloth merchant scolded them for their disrespect, and Lalla asked him for two strands of cloth equal in weight. She then flung these over either shoulder, and through the day, whenever someone mocked her she tied a knot in one cloth, and whenever someone praised her she tied a knot in the other. At the end of the day she asked the merchant to weigh both, before all of the villagers and their children. Both sides of the cloth weighed the same, and her point was made: praise and blame have no substance. Lalla was so filled with ecstasy from her revelations, her dedication to ritual-- to her practices and philosophies, that she began wandering and dancing naked in a state of ecstatic clarity, inviting others to let go of their attachments, to live from the soul, and to be free ...
Don’t be so quick to condemn my nakedness.
A man is one who trembles in the Presence.
There are very few of those.
Why not go naked?
The ram of experience must be fed
And ripened for the sacrifice.
Then all these customs will disappear like clothing.
There’s only the soul.
The word Tantra literally means expansion. A tantra yogi concentrates on expanding all levels of his or her consciousness to unveil and realize the “Supreme Reality,” Shakti, or the “Cosmic Mother” that resides in each one of us. The Tantric practice, celebrates and honors what is natural, seeking to unite all dualities in one’s own being---shiva and shakti, male and female, cultivating reverence for your highest self in order to awaken the divine.
The origins of Sacred Tantric practice can be traced back at least to the "Indus Valley" civilization that was contemporary with the Sumerian and the Egyptian Old kingdom. The term Tantra first appeared about two thousand years ago, and became prominent in teachings over the past 1,500 years. There are not only Hindu Tantric teachings, but also Jain and Buddhist Tantras. They all have two things in common: teachings for liberation and the celebration and of nature in all forms.
In Tantra, we strive to attune ourselves with Shakti, this dynamic, spiritual energy in order to transform personal limitations and release subconscious blockages. True tantra is a pure path, and treats sexuality as a sacred creative force to be transmuted into higher channels. As humans, our emotions are various cosmic energies limited, broken up and influenced by patterns of attachment, and tantra is the also the alchemy of transmuting human emotions into divine energy, the transformation from sleeping to “wakefulness,” the movement toward true consciousness, one’s acknowledgment of deleterious patterns in order to change them and rise above them.
Tantra yoga inspires us to see the universe as an expression of the “Cosmic Mother,” to experience that all aspects of the universe are parts of our own nature, including not only plants and animals, but inanimate nature and even our own emotions, as forms of Gods and Goddesses or as Divine Powers and presences that command respect. The domain of the Goddess is all forms of beauty, including the world of nature, up to the highest beauty, which is pure consciousness. Nature herself, the flowers, forests, mountain, ocean, and sky is the dance of the goddess. And while sexuality is embodied by The Goddess, it is but one aspect of her power and is meant to be harnessed and transformed into the energy of consciousness; the ultimate purpose of tantra is to awaken and acknowledge the divine feminine, the Goddess of awareness and compassion within ourselves, the feminine qualities of receptivity, loving kindness and compassion, in men and women alike, so that we can experience her ultimate beauty in our own beings and cultivate balance, and love, in turn offering the same to others. The Goddess is literally the bliss of awakening, and being and we can never be content unless we realize this joy within our own hearts so that we can then share it with others-- truly doing our part to make the world a more peaceful, loving place.
Tantra sees the body as a temple for the divine and a mirror of the universe. Engaging in only those activities that are natural and respectful of the body, spirit and mind, we begin to recognize that we are microcosms of the world around us and we start to appreciate and understand it in an entirely new way.
Tantra sees the body as a mystic vessel for our self-discovery. It is our most potent means of gaining experience and enlightenment. Without energy and sensitivity in the body, we cannot go far on the spiritual path. There is a natural intelligence in the body that shows us how to use it productively, and this intelligence, part of the cosmic mind, reveals itself when we no longer use the body to exclusively pursue personal desires, but as an instrument of developing higher awareness. Supreme happiness lies in being who we really are, which is not the body, but what lies within-- pure awareness. Tantra regards the body as a sacred ground for the divine self to manifest, to be realized. In modern terms, Tantra is the search for true balance and non-duality, for oneness, union with oneself, another and the world.
Lalla celebrated this oneness, the true union of opposites within herself and with the world around her, and recognized her own divine nature, timelessly inspiring countless others to do the same ... “I, Lalla, entered the jasmine garden where Shiva and Shakti were making love. I dissolved into them.”
The main goal of Tantra is us to recognize and realize our divinity. The only way to the soul is through the body, used as a sacred vehicle for expression and discovery ... And yet, while we revere and celebrate the body, we are not our bodies, but our immortal soul. And the true immortal essence does not cry or crave for attention to the body, and it needs no adornment.
“Rend the veil, the coverings, both metaphorical and literal and truth, no longer obscured, reveals itself.”
Tantra and Kundalini
Kundalini is actually a form of Tantra, the divine feminine, the Goddess. The Kundalini exercises in The Goddess Series are intended to help you to recognize your true nature and surrender to your own divine essence.
Kundalini, or “coiled snake” in Sanskrit, is a psycho-spiritual energy of consciousness that exists within each one of us. It is the energy of existence. To awaken it is to manifest pure awareness, love and joy. This unrefined, creative energy lies tightly coiled at the base of the spine. In Yoga Undressed, we learn to unleash this “coiled snake” of energy, our Kundalini shakti, channeling it up through the spine, with the powerful, yet accessible warm up series we do at the beginning of each practice.
You will meet your Kundalini shakti, your sacred, sexual energy, your “secret tool,” through the postures and the breath, making you feel more alive, radiant and sensual. Kundalini has the power to transform, manifesting in great health, creativity, and abundance, inspiring you to reach your full potential in every area of your life. Kundalini awakening opens the door-- you have only to walk through it.
Kundalini energy rises up a delicate channel of the spine called the Sushumna, the central channel that runs from the first chakra, the Muladhara, all the way up to the 7th, the Sahasrara. The essence of Tantra itself, it rises up the spine like two snakes intertwined and symbolize the union of the Ida, the feminine energy of the left channel, and Pingala, the masculine energy of the right channel. These are the two subtle pathways of energy that allow the awakened kundalini to ascend from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. One cannot exist without the other and balance cannot exist without both present in the subtle energy body. To achieve self-realization, a yogi must awaken his divine nature, which can only happen if everything in his yoga practice works in concert. Asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing techniques) awaken the chakras. The chakras in turn activate the nadis, an action that causes the chakras to vibrate. The energy generated from the chakras then flows up through the nadis and circulates in the body. As each chakra uncoils, emotions rooted there arise and transform into divine energy.
Within the yogi’s body, Shakti is the Kundalini serpent, which lies asleep at the base of the spine, blocking the door to “final liberation,” or Samadhi. The goal of Tantra yoga is to forcibly awaken Shakti, controlling and directing the cosmic energy, the shakti-prana or life-force, so that she will rise up through the Sushumna channel to the Sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head and unite with Shiva-- the divine masculine. This union represents the reunion of all opposites, the union of spirit and nature--the combination of physical sexuality with mental and spiritual transcendence. And it is this joining of sexuality with the spirit of the divine that ultimately, through practice, produces a state of transcendence and indescribable bliss.
In The Goddess Series, we invite you to celebrate sexuality as a spiritual exercise, a means of attaining oneness and aliveness in the body, mind and spirit-- true union, both mystical and energizing.
Your body is a temple. Come inside and pay homage. Honor yourself with love and gratitude.
Feel the freedom of being naked, the natural grace and ease of being completely unfettered, unencumbered by clothing.
Surrender to your natural, authentic being.
Embrace the beauty and simplicity of who you really are.
Return to innocence, a sanctuary for your spirit where you can cultivate strength, grace, intimacy and reverence for your own sacred self.
Awaken your spirit, nourish your life force, and unleash the fullness of your potential!