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[This Just In]

AU NATUREL
Yoga buffs

BY NINA WILLDORF

While concentrating on their breathing, posture, and balance, a group of yoga enthusiasts in Central Square are also required to keep their hands to themselves and their eyes firmly trained on the ground.

That’s because these folks, practicing their sun salutations and downward-facing dogs, are all men stretching sans clothes, partaking in Naked Yoga for Men. Every Wednesday and Sunday evening, 15 to 20 of these guys gather (with their own mats) to strip off their shorts and get down to business under the direction of their instructor, a former Boston Ballet dancer. (For security purposes, both the organizer and the location remain under wraps until a screening process takes place via email.)

Naked Yoga for Men is the brainchild of Bob Sparling, a Brookline “naturist” who long lamented having to trek to New York’s gay-friendly Chelsea to practice yoga in the buff. So about six months ago, he found a willing instructor, rented some space, and posted fliers, both on- and offline, searching for others seeking such a class.

It seems there’s a hunger for this sort of thing; the twice-weekly classes, which cost $15 a pop, are often filled to capacity, says Sparling. “Most yoga classes are, like, three-quarters women, and some men feel somewhat self-conscious and inadequate,” he explains. “They feel these women can stretch better than they can.” With Naked Yoga for Men, Sparling hopes to create an atmosphere both noncompetitive and nonsexual, for the predominantly gay crowd.

Until late last month, every student eagerly volunteered to get naked upon entry. At that point, however, some new attendees nervously clung to their covers, opting to keep their shorts on. “That created a stir,” says Sparling. “Some of us thought it was disruptive, a little strange. We had an email debate, and we decided that the students could wear shorts for one class, and after that they have to go nude.”

But the question remains, why nude? How much is that standard spandex ensemble interfering with practitioners’ range of motion? “I can’t say that clothes get terribly in the way,” admits Sparling. Then he turns the question on its head. “Why do you need clothes when you’re doing yoga? It’s just to please other people.”

Apparently, not wearing clothes seems to please a fair number just as much. Sparling says his job as facilitator has required him to police the classes on occasion, cooling down the occasional fired-up attendee. “Once in a while we have a guy who it seems is spending too much time watching rather than doing the exercises,” Sparling says. That person is given a warning and, if he continues to leer, not invited back. “We’ve really had very few problems, though,” he adds, over the phone from his apartment, and reportedly naked. “It’s mostly just guys who’d never done anything nude before and they just got to like it.”

Those interested in participating in Naked Yoga for Men can request more information at redhead_02139@yahoo.com.

Issue Date: April 26 - May 3, 2001