Over the past couple of years, yoga instructor David Oliphant learned two valuable lessons:
1. Taking his clothes off could provide a sense of empowerment and freedom, in the right situations, of course.
2. Innocent activities and facts can be tainted when you add the word "naked" to them, especially in Las Vegas.
A yoga teacher for the past five years, Oliphant started offering men's naked yoga classes in a downtown studio in October. He offers classes through his Web site, yogawithdavid.com.
Doing the Downward Facing Dog and other hatha poses sans clothing is a relatively new way to practice yoga, but it has a national following. The Web site nakedyoga.net lists several cities where classes can be found, including San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.
It is exactly what it sounds like; a group of men get together, take their clothes off and practice yoga.
Men, and women, have shown interest in Oliphant's classes and his rosters have increased from a handful to a couple of dozen students. Eventually, he wants to offer a range of naked yoga classes for women and couples.
Not surprisingly, though, the word "naked" attached to men's yoga can sometimes cause a little controversy. Novices tend to assume two things, he says: that every guy who does it must be gay and that those who practice it are doing more than just yoga.
Neither assumption is true, Oliphant says. "There's nothing sexual about it."
Rather, it's about helping men become more comfortable in their own skin, which should then transfer into their everyday lives, giving them more confidence and self-esteem.
"The reason I started it is one, because I was surprised no one was doing it in Las Vegas," explains Oliphant, who first started doing naked yoga in Reno a couple of years ago. "And two, I'm sure it's true with women but also with men, there's a lot of pressure about the way you look physically. I wanted to make people feel more comfortable in their own bodies. It's been healing for a lot of people."
He's also taken a new approach to his fees, one that is gaining in popularity in the yoga world. Instead of a flat cost, Oliphant solicits donations from students, allowing them to give what they can afford. Classes are offered three days a week.
"I've never made less money but I've never been happier," says Oliphant, who left a job in hospitality to become a yogi. "I'm just happy doing what I feel I was called to do."
His students come from a variety of backgrounds, from the legal field to medicine and everything in between. Some of his students are gay, as is Oliphant. But many are straight. They are single, married, divorced, fat, tall, short and fit. And they all express different reasons for practicing naked yoga.
"Naked. That part's hard to explain," says Michael Radde, a local massage therapist who heard about naked yoga through clients. "You're a lot freer. You don't have anything binding you. Clothed yoga, it's not the same."
One student, Steve, who asked that his name not be used because "you know, there are those preconceived notions about naked yoga," says his experience has been better than he expected. He has found some peace of mind and he's more flexible, too.
"I had been looking for a yoga class, but the one at the health club was too big," Steve says. "The instructor talked over a microphone and it was full of people who knew what they were doing."
Naked yoga was less intimidating because everyone was in the same situation, he says. It helped that the lights were dim.
"You have to be open-minded about it. A lot of people don't get that," Steve adds. "You have to be open to that to accept it. If you want to, you will."
Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@ reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564.