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Strip and stretch

 Handout number: 396010  Pictured are Andre Sur and Alex Ertz in (D) an acro yoga “side stretch”.  Accompanying story on naked yoga by correspondent Donna Self Smith.Photos courtesy of Tampa Bodyscapes  Pictured are Andre Sur and Alex Ertz in (A) the “partner twist” pose; (B) partner assisted backbend; (C) double child’s pose; (D) an acro yoga “side stretch”.

Photo courtesy of Tampa Bodyscapes

Handout number: 396010 Pictured are Andre Sur and Alex Ertz in (D) an acro yoga “side stretch”. Accompanying story on naked yoga by correspondent Donna Self Smith.Photos courtesy of Tampa Bodyscapes Pictured are Andre Sur and Alex Ertz in (A) the “partner twist” pose; (B) partner assisted backbend; (C) double child’s pose; (D) an acro yoga “side stretch”.

Lululemon might have a problem hawking their yoga gear to some local yogis. The Body Electric yoga studio offers a Thursday night candlelight yoga class for men — in the nude.

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The Body Electric co-owner, Jenny Miller, became friends with nude yoga instructor Andre Sur in yoga training, and she was excited to offer the class on the schedule when the studio opened in 2013.

"It creeps some people out," Miller said, "but we're proud to host it."

Sur, who had been teaching the class poolside at the Gay St. Pete House Bed and Breakfast for two years, was happy to have a roof over his head.

"We were subject to the weather and really wanted to move it indoors," Sur said.

Sur said that outside the class, he rarely practices in the nude, preferring just a pair of shorts. But when he offered it, people took him up on it.

"It's really freeing," he said. "It helps people to accept their bodies and just not worry about what they look like."

Due to Pinellas County regulations, the studio cannot charge for a nude class, so it is by a suggested donation of $20, and Sur said he has anywhere from two to 12 participants each week.

All body types are welcome, and Sur gets a wide range of ages and fitness levels in the class.

"I am so inspired by the people who are very comfortable with their bodies and just come in and take their clothes off without worrying about what other people are thinking."

Though the class is still populated with gay and bisexual men, straight guys do show up from time to time.

"Once a straight guy was late to the class he wanted to attend," Miller said. "I told him he was welcome to join Andre's nude class, and he just went right in and did it."

Sur understands the hesitation, though he begins each candle-lit class with a few reminders for attendees, such as not getting into anyone else's space or gawking at others during the practice.

"I think it's easier for gay people to say to hell with it and take off their clothes for class. Straight guys might worry about other guys checking them out. But once we get started, everyone just forgets about the naked aspect really fast."

Scott Temples practices and sometimes subs for Sur when he's traveling. He said the first time he took the class was only the second time he had practiced yoga.

"I think I was more nervous about the practice than the lack of clothing. I thought people would be looking around, but it wasn't like that at all. Yoga is a very inward practice. If you're truly practicing, you would have to remind yourself that you don't have clothes on," he said.

For Temples, being nude isn't at the center of his practice. "It's just something different," he said. "It's kind of neat."

Sur said that a common fear among practitioners is an unwanted erection during class.

"It usually doesn't happen. If it was a Yin class, which is very slow and stretchy, it might be a problem," Sur said. "But this is a fast-moving power flow Vinyasa class, so there's no way, even if it did happen, that it could be maintained."

Nude yoga, known as Nagna yoga, is an ancient Indian practice. In Sanskrit, nag means "naked." The Naga Sadhus are a Hindu group who have the long-held belief that rejecting clothing is symbolic of rejecting mortal constraints. It surfaced in the United States in the 1960s, and now can be found offered in a smattering of yoga studios across the country.

Some of the more progressive studios offer co-ed nude yoga, but so far it's just for guys at The Body Electric.

But it might not always be that way. "Women have inquired about the class," Sur said.

Sur said that ultimately everyone is respectful of others and keeps to themselves.

"Everyone gets a nice workout. It's not an orgy class."

Naked Yoga

The Body Electric Yoga Company, at 685 30th Ave N, St. Petersburg, hosts the nude candlelight yoga classes for men on Thursdays 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Check the schedule to make sure class is on at the Suggested donation is $20.

Strip and stretch 07/15/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 6:45pm]
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