In 1973, both Eastern philosophy and naked girls were all the rage, and so why not combine the two in a film? Naked Yoga, a 24-minute film made by one-time director Paul Corsden, does just that, but has wallowed in obscurity since it was made. Never released on home video, and broadcast on British television just once – in 1986 by Channel 4, when they were still genuinely risk-taking – it remains a little-known British film oddity that was once considered lost, with Academy Archive Documentary Curator initiating a search for it in 2004. Director of Photography Michael Elphick found the Channel 4 print, which turned out to be a perfect 35mm copy, and the film was restored in 2012. It still hasn’t been issued on DVD or blu-ray though.
The film is a visual mix of Indian Tantric art from the V&A and Hugo Moss Gallery, and scenes where three naked women go through yoga routines – either on location in Cyprus, in the fields and on the beach or in Shedderton studios – while blues musician and radio presenter Alexis Korner narrates with a stream of Buddhist philosophy and a Pink Floyd-inspired psychedelic soundtrack by Jonathan Hodge plays in the background.
Certainly, this isn’t an exploitative movie – there are sound reasons for performing yoga in the nude, and the film is devoid of sexual lechery, even as we see close-ups of naked female bodies. It does feel like a genuinely philosophical film, and rather like an outtake from a late Sixties psychedelic art film. Of course, there’s a certain nod towards commercialism, with the naked yoga practitioners all being lithe, attractive young women. Still, it was serious-minded enough to be rated AA (15) by the BBFC when other films with similar levels of nudity were being slapped with the X (18) certificate and it earned a 1975 Oscar nomination for Best Documentary (Short Subject).
As a cultural curiosity and a blissed-out psychedelic trip, Naked Yoga is worth a watch.
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