During this particularly cold winter, where exposed skin can freeze in minutes, naked yoga might get a frosty reception.
But Jitendra Yoga studio is hoping Winnipeggers will be prepared to shed their inhibitions... and more, by offering classes for those brave enough to try it.
At the start of class, the instructor is the only one naked, while the rest of the students meditate fully clothed. A yoga bolster is required and it is mandatory to wrap a towel around it for hygienic reasons. A bell rings to indicate the start of class and the instructor locks the door for privacy. Through a series of meditative steps, the instructor invites the students to think about how it feels to experience a naked body instructing their mind. The students then begin massaging their arms, torso, back, neck, face and finally the scalp. With eyes closed, garments are removed in this phase. In the final step, students stand up while looking at the floor and slowly lift their gaze.
Yoga instructor Jordan Bellan, 26, began instructing when he was 19, and has taught in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and India. He studied in Israel, Egypt and England, and lived in several spiritual centres. He recently spoke with Free Press intern Estefania Wujkiw.
FP: How is naked yoga different from regular yoga?
BELLAN: It is a psycho-spiritual practice about deepening one's own sense of self-love, ability to feel a sense of comfort in a naked situation and to explore different possibilities in relation to other naked bodies. Not shying away from the way we look, or the way we feel. It really has shattered people's beliefs about who they are and about how they are defined by their image. And about how image defines the world.
FP: What is the process like?
BELLAN: We do take this practice seriously as a spiritual practice, it is not a joke. It should be clear to each student that the nudity aspect is something that we come together, too. It is a moment to create a solid connection between each and every one of us, where we truly dedicate the merit of the practice to self-exploration, to becoming non-judgemental, an open and accepting person, who accepts all beings in all forms for whatever appearance they represent.
We start off with the eyes gazing at the floor, and gently lift the eyes to each other's bodies, at which point, we actually make an effort to look at every single body in the space, scanning the bodies, noticing how it makes you feel. Trying to see each other's eyes and truly be seen. And then we start to move into the yoga postures.
FP: What do you hope people will learn from your class?
BELLAN: The core teaching of this practice is that there is nothing that you can do; there is nothing that you can say, and there is nothing that you can be that would ever diminish the love of the Divine. You are eternally worthy of belonging, you belong.
FP: What do you say to people with sanitary concerns?
BELLAN: The practice is extremely sanitary, students are required to bring their own mats, and we don't lend mats for the Naga Yoga practice. All of the items that a student would use are a bolster, and we would give the students a towel to wrap around the bolster. The body will never touch anything other than their own mat and a towel that will later be sanitized and washed. It is no dirtier than the sweat dripping on the floor of a hot yoga studio through the clothing. Another aspect of my career is instructing hot yoga, and many students are wearing a single, small garment. It is just one tiny step further.
FP: How did you come up with the idea to introduce this practice to Winnipeg?
BELLAN: I was living in India and there was an Ashram, a spiritual centre where nudity and sex are highly encouraged in the space, and the Ashram belonged to a modern spiritual teacher named Osho. He really believed that traditional yoga philosophies wouldn't necessarily uphold or wouldn't necessarily connect. One of those primary things that Osho believed was that sex was a beautiful, spiritual activity, and that the body was a vehicle for joy and peace, and liberation.
FP: How has yoga changed your life?
BELLAN: Yoga has cultured a connection between me and the Divine, me and energy that some people call God, some call heaven, some just call happiness. The practice of yoga means union, and to unify is to unify myself with the joy of being, even in the most difficult and challenging situations.
Jitendra Yoga, located in the Exchange District, is Canada's first and only donation-based yoga studio that provides a full-scale variety of classes. There is no minimum donation in place. It runs a regular program of naked yoga once a week.