How to Be a Naked Yoga Goddess
Celebrate the body with Jennifer Kries' unique workout.
Photos by: Gabriel Bienczycki/Zebra Visual
Like a solar flare or a windstorm, Jennifer Kries, the woman behind the new DVD Yoga Undressed: The Goddess Series, is definitely a force of nature. I’ve had a yoga practice for over a decade, but the idea of doing yoga naked is something I never considered until I had a chat with Kries. Not only did she have me considering it and ultimately giving naked yoga a shot—an adventure I’ll be repeating—but more than that she made me really think about how I feel about my body.
Over the years, Kries has combined yoga, dance, and Pilates in her professional life and her personal practice. Starting out as a dancer, she was introduced to Pilates at the age of 13 while studying with the School of American Ballet in New York. This early mat training in Pilates provided her with what she calls her “secret bionic weapon”—the feeling that she was both artistically and athletically invincible, due to its power-enhancing effects, allowed her “to jump higher, turn faster, take bigger risks without being entirely conscious of the repercussions.”
Yoga came into the picture years later, when too much of a good thing led to a sidelining injury, and an osteopath suggested that she try yoga along with Pilates as an aid to recovery. Yoga forced her to slow down, get in touch with her breath, and relate to her body in a new way. “It was the first time I was literally introduced to my body as an entity that I was connected to in all ways and one that deserved my respect…yoga taught me patience and self-love,” explains Kries. While naked yoga wasn’t on Kries’s radar yet, she understood right away that yoga had the potential to ignite a “body love consciousness.”
I started off our chat by asking Kries a question that had been on my mind for days: Why naked yoga? This led to some complex observations. “It makes me sad that women tense up when thinking about getting naked,” Kries responded. That uncomfortable feeling is one I know well, and I eventually discovered that Kries knew it too. While thoughts of tension and sadness were not the answer I expected, they opened the door to a conversation in which words like “freedom,” “empowerment,” and “acceptance” rolled off her tongue. The discussion became less about nakedness and more about healing body shame through yoga—through a “revolution of compassion” where we feel good about being women, and we feel good about our bodies.
When you see Jennifer Kries today, it’s easy to assume that she hasn’t struggled with body issues, or that she instantly took to the idea of naked yoga because she has a good body, but that’s not exactly the case. Naked yoga wasn’t something she would ever have considered doing until a good friend in San Francisco suggested giving it a go, and she did—with unexpected results. “My self-consciousness about my body just evaporated because the other women were so welcoming, respectful, kind, and relaxed. Any shame I thought I would feel disappeared.”
Kries uses a skinny-dipping analogy to illustrate the innocence of nakedness, believing that doing yoga undressed can reconnect women with that “feeling of innocence and purity and joy we had as children, as little girls, before life with other people—grown-ups, in particular—happened.” Naked yoga, she says, “is one of the most powerful ways I know to cultivate abundant self-love, compassion, and courage.”
If you’ve ever been to the Russian baths, or perhaps a sauna, you know that after a while the foreignness of being naked slips away and, as a friend aptly put it, “skin becomes just skin.” Kries hopes that doing naked yoga alone at home, or with friends, will open women up to talking about their bodies with other women, and ultimately rediscovering a sense of their own beauty.
There is an even deeper reason why Kries “felt compelled to create this series.” She is a survivor of abuse, and she wanted to bring women a hands-on way to heal, appreciate, and get in touch with their bodies so they could move through the world empowered and whole. Naked yoga has been a part of her own healing process, starting with that initial class in San Francisco. Working through the asanas (hatha yoga postures), she began to change. “I was overwhelmed by emotion. I finally felt like I had given up the fight, the body armor I felt I always had to wear was not needed anymore… I felt happy deep inside. I can confidently say that this work, more than anything I have ever done, has served to free me from my past in ways I never could have imagined.”
If you think you need the perfect yoga body to do Yoga Undressed, you don’t. While the trainers featured in the DVD have amazing yoga bodies, Kries asserts that this is not a standard of perfection you need to hold yourself to. “Women are supposed to look like women, with flesh on their bones.” The series was designed with real women in mind, and for all levels of experience, using poses and breathing exercises to accomplish what yoga does best—rejuvenate and relax, while building strength, endurance, and flexibility. The extra benefit, as developed by Kries, is that the postures, movements, and breathing techniques are designed to cultivate and ignite a body love connection. While body shame can be experiential, sociological, and cultural at its core, Kries believes that tantric hatha vinyasa yoga, which she developed, is a perfect vehicle to help you overcome it.
Tantra has long been associated with sensationalized sexuality, but in Sanskrit its actual meaning is “expansion,” and it is part of the yoga used in this series. When used in its fullest, as it is here, it releases a form of energy called kundalini, opening not only the root chakra associated with “healthy” sexuality, but all seven chakras. The combination of tantra and kundalini with hatha vinyasa is perfection for Kries, who says, “It is perhaps the most effective and wonderful combination of yoga practices I have ever experienced…It creates incredible energy, power, peace, and radiance all at the same time.”
Let’s face it—finding a woman in today’s society who totally and completely loves her body can be difficult. At first, shedding your clothes, getting out the candles, and doing yoga undressed may seem like the last thing to help you work out your body issues. But perhaps taking your mind off your flaws and fears, and putting your focus back on being in your body and enjoying it, may well be a healing experience. It may inspire change, or at the very least be a bit of fun. It was for me. (yogaundressed.com)