Finding serenity in yoga 

Ranger Rich

It was my first yoga class and I found myself in a tranquil place, the soothing voice of the yogi taking me serenely down the physical, mental and spiritual pathways of the universe.

It was a peace that would be short-lived. Because suddenly, during what had begun as a graceful transformation from the Hanumanasana (monkey pose) to the Padmasana (lotus pose), my, uh ... you know, my things ... what happened is they got stuck in a painful, friction-related way against the rubber mat. From deep inside came a sound like this — "Eee-ee-eeeee" — as I frantically reached down to free my, uh, the boys.

I realized at that moment this nude yoga thing was going to be tougher than I'd figured.

No kidding. I was naked. So were the other 11 guys in the class, all of us naked and sweaty, a bunch of naked, sweaty guys seeking an inner peace in the 5,000-year-old discipline of yoga, twisting and turning on our thin rubber exercise mats, our boys flopping all over the place in the dim light of a dance studio, flickering candlelight skipping across the walls and the mirrors and our naked rumps.

Oh, before I forget, because it was the week before Easter, the regulars in the nude yoga class thought it would be funny to add something special to the gathering. I'll try to get to the details later, but for now let me make this point: Nothing marks the Resurrection of Christ quite like painting your testicles to look like Easter eggs.

Joining the group

OK then. Let's move on. The gathering was the regular Wednesday class of the Colorado Springs Organic Men group (organicmen.org), a nude yoga session that brought me to a place of harmony with the spirits and caused me to ask questions out loud, seeking knowledge from my new friends in that candle-filled room, questions such as:

• "Is the vital energy of prana also the 'breath within the breath,' as India's great poet Kabir believed?"

• "Is my search for balance and happiness a universal quest?"

• "Are anyone else's nuts sticking to the mat?"

The whole thing began around 8 with the gathering of the soon-to-be naked men. I had rushed over from another event, a roast of retired Urban Peak boss John McIlwee, where I'd been the master of ceremonies. Now, in the creeping cold of the early evening a few blocks away, I peeled off my shirt, tie and business suit and stood on the sidewalk in my birthday suit. It was windy and the air was quite brisk. Trust me.

Quickly I pulled on sweatpants and a shirt and loped to the dance studio door, where I was met by yoga master Valdamar Archuleta, who was wearing only a pair of funny underwear. Not funny like the secret Mormon underwear, but funny because they were red, bikini-style and had a cartoon character on the, uh, pouch region. We shook hands. I looked him in the eye. More or less. (I think it was Tweety Bird.)

As the flute and sitar stylings of India's Raga Bhairava and Raga Malakosha filled the room, I began awkwardly introducing myself to the other guys, telling them I'm a writer at the Indy newspaper and wanted to chronicle nude yoga. They were silent for a moment, like they'd never been interviewed by a naked guy with a receding hairline and a wrist brace.

(Personal footnote: I'm 56, and a lot of things don't work so great anymore. The wrist is one example. Another is my Johnson, which doesn't fire up like it used to. Sometimes it hardly works at all. A year ago it actually backfired. The guy at the outboard motor repair shop where I bring it says this is common with an old Johnson.)

Anyway, soon the 12 of us were naked and on our individual mats. We began with a well-known yoga pose where you start in the push-up position and then raise your behind high in the air. In ancient Sanskrit language it's known as Adho Mukha Svanasana, but in modern yoga it's called "downward-facing dog" or "the Ted Haggard."

From there Valdamar led us to the raised-hand pose, with arms overhead and palms together. I was still a bit bashful of my nudity and decided to hide my private parts with my really big notebook. OK, I used the pen. OK, the cap of the pen.

Then it was a pose called Warrior, with one leg extended way back and the other bent at a 90-degree angle in a lunging position. This wide-legged pose firms the quadriceps, unites body and soul as one and, more importantly, gives the boys some much-needed air. (Frankly, during this pose they're not doing much. Just hanging around.)

Dealing with the obvious

Here, some of you might be wondering about the ages and general appearances of the 12 naked yoga men. One gentleman was well into his 70s. My psychiatrist says if I work diligently, I might be able to get that image out of my head in three years.

Others, including me, were in their 50s. A few guys were younger. Take Lee Hammitt, 38, a call center trainer and, along with Valdamar, one of the Colorado Springs' nude yoga founders. (It began last year.) He's in very good shape.

"I like to confront my own body issues," Hammitt said. "When you're naked, there's no hiding."

To be honest, though, Hammitt didn't reveal every part of his body. He wore a ski cap. (Skiing in that outfit would give new meaning to the phrase "snowballs." Sorry.)

Most of us were sweating profusely in the final half-hour of the 90-minute session as Valdamar picked up the pace through poses called "seated forward bend with legs spread" (a good time to glance down and check on the boys), Warriors II and III (I don't think actual warriors did this naked, but if they did I bet they put down their sharp swords first) and the half-moon pose in which you lean to the side from a standing position and touch a hand to the mat.

I did my half-moon incorrectly, and the guy behind me got a full moon.

Oh, about the Easter eggs: After yoga ended, two guys took advantage of the paint and brushes — I swear I am not kidding about this — and decorated their testicles.

I didn't do this. It seemed a little weird.

Although I will say this about a couple of guys painting their testicles to look like Easter eggs: It would sure liven up the next Richard Skorman-Steve Bach mayoral debate.


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