In 2001, celebrity yogi Aaron Star started a stripped-down phenomenon in New York with his Hot Nude Yoga studio in Chelsea. Like many hip New York exports, it took about four years for the trend to reach Chicago. February 2010 marks the fifth anniversary of nude yoga taught by longtime instructor Per (pronounced “Pear”) Erez. Classes meet in his private Rogers Park studio, where traditional “clothed” yoga classes and workshops are also offered.
“I had a student who bugged me for about three years to teach in this format,” said Erez, who initially wasn’t sure if the Midwest was ready for it. “It really made me look at my own understanding of what it meant to be nude.” Erez, who has a background in yoga therapy, explains that yoga is all about tearing down barriers and realizing that you are far more valuable than just your body. The shedding of clothes is a big first step toward that.
“It’s the same principle as going to a clothing-optional beach. There’s no status and no pretense,” said Tony Holmes, a student of Erez’s who also teaches yoga. “By taking away some of those outside influences, there’s an intimacy that is fostered and that can be very powerful.”
Currently the classes are male-only, though Erez might consider a class for ladies if enough interest is shown. No more than ten students are permitted in a class, and interested peeps must go through a phone interview. Added Erez, “I just believe in developing an atmosphere of like-minded yoga practitioners, so it’s not a lascivious kind of atmosphere.” Classes are $20 each and range from meditative to a vigorous, vinyasa style. Mats are provided, though students are more than welcome to BYO mat.
Before throwing all yoga-pants caution to the wind, Holmes encourages newbies to join the Nude Yoga Chicago discussion group on Meetup.com, which he facilitates. Topics include best practices like how to create a safe space and overcoming body-image issues, professionalism and the possibility for finding a cooperative space for nude yogis. He explains that the ultimate goal is about being comfortable in your skin by allowing your inner spirit to lead your yoga practice—daunting studio mirrors be damned.
Visit meetup.com/Chicago-Nude-Yoga to connect with other nude-yoga enthusiasts. To sign up for classes with Erez, go to bareessentialsyoga.com. In the interest of privacy, the studio address is provided after the phone interview.