From nude yoga sessions to naked bike rides, are we Brits finally throwing off our reputation for prudishness? Siobhan Smith reports.
Have you ever been wobbling uncontrollably in a half-formed downward dog, or soaked with sweat in a spin class and thought to yourself, ‘This would be so much better if I was naked?’ No, me neither. But a surprising number of people seemingly have – and some evidence even suggests that it’s not as absurd as it sounds.
While us Brits have a reputation for being a little prudish compared to our European neighbours, naked yoga, naked swimming clubs, naked bike rides and naked gym classes all seem to be gaining popularity and let’s not forget that earlier this year 3,000 people stripped off in the name of art in Hull for photographer Spencer Tunick.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that we are getting back in touch with our bodies as exercising naked is a practice that is rooted in history. It was the Anglo-Saxons who first started using the word “gym”, a contraction of the Greek “gymnasion,” which translates as “school for naked exercise”.
The Ancient Greeks ritually exercised in the nude, and the dress code for the Ancient Olympic games was nothing more than a pottery flask full of oil to grease up with. Apparently this helped to get the dust off your skin more easily.
Other rituals which accompanied these games included brutally sacrificing hundreds of animals and throwing any married women who dared to attend off the top of a mountain. So it’s safe to say that their lead isn’t one that we necessarily want to follow.
In a much less violent movement, Candy Farm, near Doncaster, hosts an annual Nudist Festival offering activities such as naked yoga, barbecues in the buff as well as nude dancing and pool and darts.
The World Naked Bike Ride is also a perfect example of the nude revolution. For one day every year, tens of thousands of bikers take to the streets in hundreds of cities around the world in a protest against oil dependency and car culture, but also as an unbridled celebration of the naked body. Founded in 2004, it aims to “deliver a vision of a cleaner, safer, body-positive world” and the official line on the dress code is “bare as you dare.”While some will find naked exercise liberating, the thought of parading your bare body around a city is pure horror for most people. Not to mention the inevitable saddle burn. For the latter group, there are lots of other options that you can enjoy within the confines of four walls.
Naturist groups across Yorkshire host popular swim events at various public pools and of course, whenever there’s an exercise trend like this, yoga is always at the forefront of it. If Harry Potter yoga, rave yoga, gin yoga or aerial yoga don’t quite hit the mark, then you can always go nude.
Doria Gani practices all kinds of yoga and offers specialist naked classes. There is a sense of freedom practising yoga naked,” she says. “Freedom from negative feelings about your body, and deeper connection with yourself and the world around you.
“While many equate being naked with sex, this couldn’t be further from the truth in a naked yoga class. Naked Yoga is about being comfortable in your own skin and the amazing confidence that comes with it. It’s about knowing, accepting and loving yourself at your core.”
Some experts have suggested that performing exercise naked does in fact have benefits. However, these benefits are more psychological than physical, with an increase in self esteem being the commonly cited plus point.
“Being happy with your body begins with a naked one,” says psychologist Emma Kenny. “Being willing to bare all and being unafraid of our bodies can provide a boost to our confidence. People who don’t feel the need to cover themselves up are potentially more self-accepting.”