New photo exhibit elevates ancient practice of naked yoga to an art form

Luba in a basic yoga pose.
Luba Shumeyko, a yogi, model, and the wife of photographer Petter Hegre. Shumeyko is featured in Hegre’s new show, “Luba Nude Yoga,” which is about as self-explanatory as it gets. Here she is slaying a Prasarita Padottanasana. Photo: Petter Hegre

You may have heard of nude yoga: there are classes in NYC, Las Vegas, Chicago, and across the pond in London. You may even have heard of Petter Hegre, the former apprentice of photo rock star Richard Avedon who has become famous himself, releasing six books of photography in the past 13 years and showing his work around the world. But have you heard about Hegre’s latest, which brings naked yoga and photography together in a show that features his wife practicing sans Lululemon?

The show opened at Unknown Gallery on April 2 in Venice, California. The show, “Luba Nude Yoga,” which is open to the public and runs until July 5, does something that’s often discussed but is rarely seen: It gives a representation of an artist’s muse in the flesh.

So. Much. Flesh.

Born in Norway, the 45-year-old photographer has traveled the globe shooting beautiful women in the buff. The new show at Unknown is Hegre’s first U.S. art show and is the premiere of many of these images of his wife, the Ukrainian-born Luba Shumeyko, who is both a model and a yogi.

Naked yoga.
This view might be NSFW, but her view is definitely NSFW. Photo: Petter Hegre

Hegre posted the collection, which is filled with naked women, on his website (the NSFW link is at the end of this story) and it went viral. The photo set currently has more than 1.6 million views, surprising the couple.

“We posted the photos on our website and suddenly they are all over [the] Internet—but with wrong titles, like ‘sexy yoga.’ During that photo shoot, sex was the last thing I was thinking about,” Shumeyko told Elle.com.

Spine time.
During this shoot, Luba Shumeyko was covered with only a thin layer of baby oil. Photo: Petter Hegre

Practicing yoga in one’s birthday suit is nothing new. Traditionally, the practice of naked yoga is the opposite of erotic. Dubbed “nagna,” the form has been practiced since ancient times in India. One sect, the naga sadhus, use nudity as part of their spiritual practice, believing rejecting clothing is a way to reject the material side of life. And bringing the rejection of clothing together with yoga gives them an opportunity to break the attachment to the mortal constraints of everything physical, sensual, and material.

Naga sadhus in India.
Not all naked yoga practitioners are models: the naga sadhus. Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia

One Hindu text addressed a life sans dressing gown directly: “A person in the renounced order of life may try to avoid even a dress to cover himself. If he wears anything at all, it should be only a loincloth…”

Like many practices from the Far East, naked yoga was rediscovered in the ’60s by hippies. And re-rediscovered in the early aughts, evidenced by a video that went viral: former Playboy Playmate Sara Jean Underwood, practicing naked yoga. Similar to the Hegre series, the video was shot by Underwood’s husband.

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The Luba photos were shot in the couple’s new home in Malibu, California, where they recently moved after leaving their home in Barcelona. (See the video above for a behind-the-scenes from the shoot. Be warned, though: She is nude, after all.)

According to Luba, working with her husband of a dozen years was a breeze.

“We work very quickly and efficiently together. It’s fun and easy, very comfortable and stress-free. We listen to jazz and shoot in our house, where there are heated floors. My husband’s very thoughtful!” she told Elle.com.

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