Every time I attend a Gay Men's Yoga class with Jason Pachol, someone asks about naked yoga. Well, finally, Eric Schwarz is here to take up the mantle!
Eric Schwarz, 35, arrived in Perth from Washington DC, five years ago. From a young age he had been fascinated with Australia. He remembers being so excited when Sabrina the Teenage Witch visited Australia, when Oprah visited Australia, when The Simpsons visited Australia – so when he was backpacking in India and ended up at an ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas with a bunch of yogis from Western Australia, he was completely gagged!
Eric says, “We hit it off, and they invited me to come live and work in Australia. The offer wasn’t right for me at the time, but a few years later I needed a major shakeup, and it suddenly made sense. What turned into a 3 month working holiday is approaching 5 incredible years.”
We spoke with Eric about his love of yoga, his love of Perth and his love of getting naked!
How long have you been involved with and teaching yoga?
This question is auspiciously timed, because it was nine years ago to the day that I graduated from my first yoga teacher training! And the number 9 is especially auspicious in yogi tradition. Before that I practiced regularly for two years. I’ve had the privilege of leading international retreats and serving as faculty on numerous yoga teacher trainings in both Washington, DC, and Perth.
2016 was my final year living in the States, and it was also the same year I was voted Best Yoga Instructor in Washington, DC.
Why have you decided to start Naked Yoga classes?
I see it as another form of coming out, or, pardon the pun, stripping back another layer.
A lot of queer men have the shared experience of compartmentalising different parts of themselves as a survival mechanism. The past few years I’ve let different parts of myself merge: The storyteller in me, the teacher in me, the life coach in me, the queer man in me, the drag queen in me, the naturalist in me.
The more authentic I present, the better I feel. Naked Yoga is a further integration of my own identity. It’s also a merging of several spaces I inhabit in Perth. The part of me that loves being naked, the part of me that loves yoga, and the part of me that is queer.
Have you ever taught Naked Yoga before?
Actually, no, which is why this is so exciting to me. I’ve definitely attended, and I have many friends back in the States who teach it. It’s huge in the States and it exists over East.
I’m all about leaving my comfort zone and trying new things – because that is where growth happens. So bring it on!
What style of yoga will your classes be?
This will be an all-level vinyasa, meaning it will have moments that are physically challenging, but not necessarily complicated. And all of it is scalable, so there are different variations you can explore depending on skill and ability.
Is it just that everyone is nude or are there other differences from regular yoga?
It’s really that simple. Yoga, but you happen to be naked. A huge part of my role as a yoga teacher is to help people feel comfortable, and it’s something I’ve always been good at, whether you’re naked or not.
The truth is, and this is hard for just about everyone to believe, is that the discomfort associated with being naked goes away relatively quickly. It’s kind of like jumping into a swimming pool. The first moment or so you really feel it, but then it quickly normalises. Eventually, I’d like to add in some partner poses, but probably not in the first week.
Umm… does anyone ever get a bit excited in the class? Do you address that or ignore it?
I have been asked this question many times, I have read many FAQs about this question, and I have even asked this question prior to attending my first naked yoga class, and I can tell you that the answers are all consistent with each other and with my own experience.
Because we’re moving around in such strange positions, the likelihood of getting a Boner is extremely low. Everyone thinks they are the exception to this rule, that they will somehow defy the odds and be the one person who gets a boner. But if you do, so what? We’re all only human, and it will go away before you know it.
Any other highlights or fun information you’d like to add?
Since moving to Perth, I’ve felt like I’ve had to choose experiences and relationships that either nurture my mindfulness/spirituality side or my queer side. Some may call me a greedy bottom, but I want it all!
Naked yoga is a space for queer men to connect and get curious about their inner landscape. If this takes off, and there is demand, I’d love to offer weekend retreats for naked yoga and other adventures.
Are you involved in any other LGBTQI+ organisations or events in Perth? Tell us about them…
This year I joined the Frontrunners, an LGBTQ+ walking/running group. I absolutely love our Saturday morning walk/run. It’s in King’s Park and we hang out for coffee afterwards. Everyone is so friendly and it’s a truly diverse group.
What do you think is great about the LGBTQ+ Community in Perth?
Everyone has really stepped their pussies up since the pandemic. Maybe it’s just my perspective, but with the borders relatively closed, I’ve seen so much more creation and investment in the community, whether it be through art, theatre, special events, regional Pride celebrations, or sports. It feels more home grown and celebrated.
From what I can surmise – and keep in mind I’m a foreigner who has only been here a few years – it seems like the thing you did as a queer man, once you reached a certain age, was to get out of Perth and move over East. And I get it, because I grew up in a small town and that was my experience, also.
It’s inspiring to see what we can accomplish and create when we invest in ourselves.
...and what improvements would you like to see for the community here?
Everyone and their mom has an opinion on The Court, Connections, and lack of physical LGBTQ+ spaces in Perth. I sometimes wonder if the integration of the straight community into these spaces perpetuates performative allyship.
I don’t know if it would work in Perth, but I miss the good ol’ fashion gay bars back in the States. A place where you could grab a beer and fries during happy hour after work, flirt with some cute guys, and be home by 8pm.
Not only is it expensive to do a big Saturday night out at the clubs, but it’s also exhausting, and both of these factors are additional barriers to accessing a queer space. Furthermore, it is challenging that the centre of gravity for queer Perth is NOR. There are so many queer folx SOR, I’d love to see more events and experiences offered down that way.
What would you recommend for anyone new to Perth that they must see or do here?
Get out in nature! There are so many exceptional bush walks out in the hills.
Eric says: “Naked yoga is a space for queer men to connect and get curious about their inner landscape.”