For Jennifer Kries, the concept of Yoga Undressed, evolved from somewhat of an autobiographical journey. It resulted as an inquiry into the process, which lead toward self-development and self-expansion. Years ago she took a naked yoga class in San Francisco. “Basically I treated my body as an instrument, as a vehicle for power, and accomplishment. I started with Pilates and used the practice as a power force. Yoga was the first thing that made me move slowly and connect in a deeper way.” Always feeling somewhat conservative, she was surprised at herself for going to that first naked yoga class. Having a friend with whom Jennifer frequented spas and retreats with, this friend encouraged her to be more comfortable with herself by showing some more skin. By taking her to a naked yoga class this experience freed Jennifer of some of her inhibitions. She treasured the beauty of what she saw at this class, a room filled with naked women, so comfortable with themselves, it was almost as if they were fully clothed. Everyone was relaxed, open and respectful.
“Within moments I forgot I was naked too and in fact, I would go so far as to say that even in those first moments, I felt more free and more at peace than I have in a really long time.” Open to the possibilities and excited to help others find comfort with their bodies, Jennifer created Yoga Undressed. It’s like the feeling of skinny dipping, she said. Familiar with that feeling from her childhood in rural Pennsylvania, Jennifer, used to swim naked on their family property. “It is this feeling of incredible innocence, purity and joy. You don’t think about being naked, you think about being in the world; the warmth of the sun and the purity of the water on your body. You are absolutely free.” That is how she felt going to that first naked yoga class. There was no competition with herself or others. When you are naked that all goes away.
The Yoga Undressed series includes a beginner, intermediate and advanced sequence. Also produced was the duet, which is a choreographed, partnered, yoga dance piece. Partners can watch the video and learn from the duet series. Jennifer does not teach naked yoga and has no intention to, she created this series specifically for people to do in their homes, hoping that it might spark an interest for them to go to a group class.
Fortuitously, Jennifer has received virtually no criticism of her work. It has been beautifully received by men and women alike, but the demographic most receptive are women, between the ages of 45 and 70. Viewers have written saying they watched the series with their husbands or boyfriends, believing it to be the most exquisite art they had ever seen, and ultimately encouraging them to find a whole new appreciation for yoga, and women.
“It’s incredible what this has done for relationships and for the individual because it is so liberating,” says Kries. “It is so empowering. This is just another reason why I created Yoga Undressed, because I think we all deserve to live a life free of shame and I think as Americans we sensationalize nudity to such a degree that people cannot feel at peace with it. The Europeans have won over us with this one because people are way more confident with nudity there.”
She was interviewed for the Philadelphia Daily News and made the cover. If anything, she has felt an incredible wave of support, appreciation and awe and has not received much criticism. Except for one woman, a friend of another journalist, who basically said it was porn and that she did not want anything to do with it. Inquiring more into the background of this person, Jennifer came to find that the woman had a background in corporate America although now she is a yoga teacher, but before all of that she was considering going into the clergy. “When you are born into the Judeo-Christian ethic, shame can be inherently imbedded in your psyche,” says Jennifer. “It’s important to find out where these feelings originate from. When we feel ashamed it breeds anger and fear. By participating in a practice like Yoga Undressed, you become aware of yourself in an entirely new way, tapping into the innocence and purity. Many people have breakthroughs, I actually started to cry when I first experienced it.” When you come to a place of self-love, becoming so moved within, it encourages you to share this with others. Unfortunately, in this culture, nudity is shocking; it speaks to sex, but naked yoga does not. Working on all seven Chakras, the practice brings balance and harmony to mind, body and soul.
As a yogi, watching the videos it’s a beautiful form of expression. Kris hopes the series will spark more of a movement to offer all female, and co-ed classes. The naked yoga scene has been somewhat male dominated. She’d like those barriers to come down so that more people can feel comfortable, without an anticipatory anxiety about it being sexual, when in actuality, that element is not there at all.
The Sadhus in India are men that practice naked yoga amongst other practices in the pursuit of bodily liberation and freedom. The closeness and connection to their body helps renounce what’s actually physical, becoming aware of their spiritual nature. They can be exposed to the harsh elements, but have such control of their mind and bodies that they see the truth of our bodies simply being physical vehicles for our souls. Jennifer would like to help people connect to their own spirits and see the true nature of yoga.
“We can feel spirit in our bodies on this earth now,” said Jennifer. “We are human and we are sexual. It is important for us to understand that we have the ability to cultivate consciousness around sexuality.”
She acknowledges the erotic element of the series, which is okay because of the expression of natural beauty and appreciation. “Sexual life force is the most potent energy that human beings know. We have sperm and eggs to make babies, this is the primary energy and when that is not occurring, that energy builds within us, percolating up through the spine and out for us to give selflessly.”
“The gift that this series gives is a taste of ultimate freedom, and of radiance; real joy and bliss. It catalyzes transformation.”
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