Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bewitched, Bare-Assed and Bewildered

"We are naked, yet this is not a sexual group. We strive for a sense of community, acceptance, and a bond of brotherhood." 

      - "Organic Yoga," from yoga.organicmen.org/, a local naked yoga group for men
                       (emphasis in original text)  

"Oh shit, I forgot to take off my Rolex."

After a certain age (my age, in fact), the times are no longer changing - they changed a long time ago, when I wasn't paying attention. Guys are just doing different kinds of things than they used to do. Sure, they still go off hunting and fishing and bonding, but the numbers of hunter-bonders has dropped in the past 40-odd years by about 35 percent. Naked men's yoga is gaining ground fast, faster for sure than baseball, which we used to think of as the national sport. Once upon a time, every red-blooded American boy could tell Williams from DiMaggio (at least in uniform):

"Wanna hold my bat?"

I don't hunt and am not suggesting we all take it up en masse to save a troubled nation and stave off cultural decay. And I couldn't watch an entire baseball game if my life depended on it, which you can be sure it never will. But I know I'd rather watch baseball from now until someone appointed by the county catches and sequesters me from polite society, than I would do naked yoga in a room full of other men. Not that I see anything wrong with it, but we all have our limits and I think I may have found (another) one of mine.

I can walk around the locker room at the gym with complete sangfroid, but yoga seems somehow a different proposition. There are poses one assumes (asanas) which seem to defy our physiological parameters, the bounds of nature, the frontiers of medicine, public safety directives, the dictates of good sense (or good taste, take your pick). The pose called the 'downward-facing dog,' it is easy to imagine, may be disconcerting when executed nicely by the bare-assed guy right in front of you. Think of it as 'light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel.'

I know it's not a man.

There is a repeated insistence on some naked mens' yoga sites that it's all nonsexual, that it is intended to enhance nonsexual intimacy and closer bonds among men. I suspect that's all perfectly true - that most of the men who practice naked group yoga are not looking for sexual connections and are probably trying to stretch their boundaries and experience things in a new way. So it occurred to me that in order to write about the topic, it might be better not to remain within the limits of my own prejudices and narrow tastes, but to plumb the narrow prejudices and personal limitations of the man on the street, the Average Guy. My man-on-the-street poll consisted of the single question, "Would you like to join a group of men practicing naked yoga?"

The first respondent made no direct reply, which I prudently took to be his reply, and left the area immediately:

I found the next gentleman at home:

"You should probably leave."

And so it went . . .
"Like hell I will . . . would. Whatever."

"Never thought about it before. No."

Undecided, said the horse does naked yoga already

 Could not respond intelligibly

 "Mmmmm . . . probably not."


 "I might. I won't say no."

 "Da-aad Gum! Is that even legal?"

 "Were you speaking to me?"


 "You haven't seen the end of this . . . I mean heard the last of this, soldier."

 "You first, mister!"

 "Say that again, bub?"

 "You're not from this part of town, are ya?"

 "Boxing, maybe. Yoga . . . "

 "Off this ranch - now!"

 "Well, heh, heh . . . maybe. What did Harry Reid say?"

 "What's 'naked'?"

"Absolutely not . . . I can't do setu bandhasana any more."

 "Are you serious?"

 "Fantastic! How about after dinner!"

 "Is that something you do in this town?"

 "No. But I used to wiggle my ears naked."

I've seen the websites, but in the end I really suspect it's all just a wild hoax cooked up from some crazy episode of "Family Guy."

"Griffin, we understand you've been 'advertising' your yoga sessions."

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