Dan Carter is the owner of Danimal Yoga in Washington, D.C., where he recently began leading all-male naked yoga classes geared towards gay and bisexual men.
“This group wasn’t always profitable, it wasn’t always easy to do, and I caught a lot of flack in the beginning from friends and coworkers,” 28-year-old Carter tells Queerty, “but it has been so rewarding.”
What started as a quirky side hustle is quickly expanding into an actual thing, with multiple classes being offered per week, drawing as many as 25 students per class.
“Thanks to all this amazing press, we are adding more classes,” Carter says.
Queerty chatted with Carter about his practice, what it’s like doing downward facing dog in a roomful of naked men, what happens if someone pops a boner in class, and so much more…
QUEERTY: How did you first get into naked yoga? How is the experience different than non-naked yoga?
CARTER: A buddy of mine invited me to a “men’s yoga” class and then told me it was naked about an hour before it started. At that point it was too late to back out. However, the class really woke something in me and I was hooked.
It is magical having an hour alone with your body, without even your clothes to distract you. For there to be a non-sexualized space where gay and bisexual men are naked is incredibly liberating and self-actualizing.
Based on what I’ve observed, you seem to take what you do seriously, but you also have a sense of humor about it. Would you say that’s accurate?
Oh, absolutely. This group is a huge passion project of mine and I’ve built some of the strongest student-teacher relationships with these men. At the same time, I think it’s good to acknowledge the fact that we’re bare-ass naked contorting our bodies into weird shapes. I often joke, “What if someone were to try to break into the studio right now, they’d be in for a hell of surprise?” We’re pretty self-aware.
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I’m not against the idea of doing naked, but I’m also not sure I could just take off all my clothes in a roomful of strangers and start bending my body in unusual ways. What advice do you have for people like me, who may be curious but are also maybe a little horrified by the idea?
First, I would say come and scare the crap out of yourself! I think we all need to do that from time to time. If we’re not getting nervous anymore, it means we’re bored.
More empathetically, I’d say find a friend who’s interested in the class and come with them. The first class is always much easier with a buddy and if at the last minute you decide to bail you’ve got someone to laugh about it with.
Has anyone ever popped a boner in class? If so, how often does it happen? And how did you and the other students respond?
Oh, absolutely! It doesn’t happen often because I’m a pretty energetic teacher and you have to be really focused on the muscle groups that are working in a pose. That being said, there are some cute guys in class and things can, ahem, pop up. I usually just recommend that student come down into a resting pose for a minute. But, some students ignore that advice and are proud to be flying at full mast. We’re all adults, we can laugh about it and recognize the sensuality of the group can be enough to get someone excited.
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OK, I have to ask. A group of naked gay and bisexual men doing downward facing dog in a room together. What can you tell me about that?
We get guys coming from time to time who think it’s going to be an all out orgy, but that’s just not what this is about.
Gay and queer men have lost spaces to be nude together in a non-sexual environment. These places used to exist at local YMCAs and sports clubs until the 1960s when swimming pools became coed and bathing suits were required. A few still exist, but they are fewer and further in between.
I think we provide a space to create a healthy relationship with your body, to un-shield yourself physically and emotionally from other like-minded guys and to move untethered from your daily monkey suit.
Do you have any policies on wandering eyes? Is cruising ever an issue?
We really don’t have a problem with these things, so we don’t have a policy. Every once in a while we get a cruiser, but usually something either clicks and they get on board with what the group is about or they take one class and never come back. Still, no one in the group is ever mad about a compliment. Guys often exchange compliments about one another’s physiques.
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I actually used to be a fitness yoga instructor many, many years ago. Sometimes people would fart in class and I never really knew how to handle it. How do you handle it? I can imagine it’s even more awkward when the people are naked, but maybe not?
Bahaha that is such a real issue! What’s really cool is my first teacher training was with a Dharma Yoga teacher and one of the unique characteristics of their teaching style is that they make feces and flatulence jokes all the time. I’m not that aggressive, but I am really good at diffusing the situation if not the smell itself. One of my go-to lines is, “I’m so glad all the bottoms in the room are getting enough fiber in their diet.” It always get’s a chuckle.
What happens if there’s a fire drill in the middle of class?
Oh, wow… I never really thought of that. I think most of my students would probably just run into the street naked. A little publicity is a small price to pay to forgo a toasted tooshie. Hell, imagine all the press we’d get if it did happen… Hmmm (pondering to myself maniacally).