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What is naturism?

"Naturism is a way of life in harmony with nature, characterized by the practice of communal nudity, with the intention of encouraging respect for oneself, respect for others and for the environment."

Naturism is the practice of complete nudity in a communal setting. While this may be its most obvious definition, it is part of a much wider context. The purpose of naturism is to promote wholesomeness and stability of the human body and mind. This comes most easily to those who shed the psychological and social encumbrance of clothing to see and respect the human body as created. Naturism also promotes optimum health through complete contact of the body with the natural elements, e.g. sun, wind, air, water. It is practised as much as possible in environments free of the pollutants and stressful components of modern society. It is therefore associated with an enlightened, holistic approach to nutrition, physical activity, mental functioning, and social interaction. Naturism is founded on family participation. Children in naturist families learn to appreciate the body as part of their natural environment. They grow up with healthful concepts and accept the physical nature of both sexes and all ages without fear or shame of their own or others' bodies. Nude living thus removes apprehensions and barriers which have hindered communication between people and appreciation of the environment. It leads to healthier and more humane living: richer and simpler, enlightened by joy and freedom.

Short history of naturism

Organized naturism was called Freikörperkultur (Free body culture) in Germany, the country of its origin. It first came onto the scene at the beginning of the present century. It was a time of awakening, of shedding stiff collars and the accompanying values; there came a need for lightness, air, a more natural style of living, as well as less restrictive clothing. Neinrich Pudor's book The Cult of the Nude appeared as a timely beacon. By 1903, Freilichtpark (Free-Light Park), the first known nudist club, was opened near Hamburg. Shortly after that, Heinrich Ungewitter published Die Nacktheit (Nakedness), a utopia of nude living. It went through several reprints.

The naturist movement grew quickly and became quite voluminous, with clusters of clubs close to the big cities. However, when Hitler came to power (1933), all organizations having nothing to do with National Socialism were banned. Naturism in Germany went underground, in much reduced numbers. But by then the idea had caught on and had become international in scope. Jumping to the present, it is satisfying to see that naturist groups are active in most of the countries around the world, as individual as the places they inhabit: some a little stern and austere, some rather low-profile, some quite playful and flamboyant, and so on. The hardiness of early nudism (no smoking or drinking, vegetarianism, and compulsory calisthenics) has given way to the somewhat freer way of being in the late 20th century. Change is the big constant. The general spirit in world naturism is one of optimism and vitality. Some see the lifestyle as a "secret weapon," a solid impediment to the encroaching ills of the present.


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