You can get all the benefits of butthole sunning without taking your clothes off

Don’t go mooning the sun just yet.

a man lying on the beach
Where the sun don't shine.DepositPhotos

The practice of bum sunning is trending again thanks to a wellness influencer on Instagram, but can you really absorb solar energy straight into your anus? The short answer is no: Your butt is not a plant. While there are actually some animals that can turn solar energy into cellular fuel, humans can’t and don’t photosynthesize. It’s true that the rectum is a sort of shortcut into your system, seeing as how drugs administered there get absorbed faster than ones we take orally (bypassing that whole digestion tract has its perks). But sunlight doesn’t enter your body and turn into energy for your cells, so shooting it straight into your behind is no more or less effective than sticking your tongue out on a sunny afternoon.

Still, these nude sunbathers may be seeing some positive effects—yes, really—so here are a few ways you can follow their lead without exposing your most sensitive bits to the elements. If you do want to strip down, just make sure everyone who might spot you in your birthday suit has consented to do so, apply sun protection where you can (read: not in your vagina, but probably on your butt), and check yourself for dirt, debris, and ticks when you’re back inside.

Ben Franklin said we should all carouse around naked

On a recent episode of our podcast “The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week,” I talked about Ben Franklin’s proclivity for hanging out in the nude. The founding father wasn’t alone: Into the early 20th century, some doctors claimed that prancing around without clothes (especially outside) was the best way to fill yourself with vim and vigor. Basically, Franklin and his fellow nudists figured that human bodies didn’t evolve to wear clothes, and that sitting around in swampy, tight-fitting garments was bad for our health.

As I explain in the episode, none of this is backed up by modern evidence. Many experts (including my mom) agree that spending all day in underwear isn’t good for your nether parts, but that doesn’t mean you need to do yoga in the buff. Just get breathable clothing and take your underwear and bra off when you sleep.

Drinking in the sunlight is important for your physical and mental health

Your butt may not be botanical enough to absorb solar radiation and turn it into energy, but that doesn’t mean sunlight isn’t important. The searing rays are crucial in helping our bodies produce vitamin D, which allows us to absorb calcium from the food we eat (which in turn helps keep our bones strong). Exposure to sunlight can also lessen the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that worsens in the fall and winter. Read up on tips for combating SAD here.

Some researchers even worry our concerns about skin cancer have led us to get less exposure than we need. That being said, you should wear proper sun protection when you’re outside, even if it’s overcast or cold. Sunlight has its benefits, but overexposure is still dangerous. Check your location’s UV index to see how long you can frolic safely without doing too much damage to your DNA.

If it’s not sunny and warm wherever you are, you can supplement your time outdoors with a “happy lamp.” There isn’t any data on what it will do if you shine it on your butt, but please do report back if you give that a try.

Most of us could stand to spend some more time outside

You don’t need to gaze up into the sun (with your eyes or your anus) to see some benefits from time spent outside. Some doctors are even prescribing trips into nature as an easy way of improving health. Studies have linked more time spent outside to lower stress and anxiety, better sleep, blood pressure, and heart rates. It might also lower the risk of obesity, diabetes, asthma, and allergies, and make people feel better overall. Any exposure seems to be better than none, though more remote areas are probably better—especially if you plan on getting naked there. (Again, it is not necessary to get naked there).

Mindfulness and meditation are super effective, even if you keep your pants on

Meditation is one of the few forms of “brain training” actually proven to work. Here’s what we said about it in a recent print issue:

Meditation is an ancient practice that rests on training your brain to focus its attention on the present moment, rather than the past or future. Studies suggest that using this technique over time can increase your ability to sustain attention. Recent research shows that even short-term use of this technique, when done properly, can help you concentrate, as well as improve visuospatial processing (how objects are shaped and arranged in a given area), working memory, and executive functioning.

Many of the wellness influencers and celebs who talk about sunning their nether regions talk about the practice as part and parcel of a good morning meditation, so it’s no surprise they’re feeling calmer, less anxious, and more energized after their solar sessions. Learn how to meditate, anywhere, while wearing anything.

Butt-sunning selfies are probably a thing by now, but most people taking the time to disrobe and scissor-kick in the morning light aren’t holding their phones up to check Twitter while they do so. That’s another great pro-tip for those of us looking to stay clothed to take note of. Here are some tips for breaking that smartphone habit, no nudity required.

Doing things you believe are good for you is a great way to feel good

Placebos work so well, it’s kind of terrifying. You can genuinely improve your health and emotional well-being by doing something you think will make you better—even, if in some cases, you’ve been told you’re being given a placebo. Does eating a chunk of garlic when you feel a cold coming on make you feel better? Excellent, keep at it. Do your fancy aromatic bath salts seem to do more to ease your chronic back tension than plain-old epsom? Go ahead and make that bath fancy. Feel like acupuncture solves all your problems? Great news, that means acupuncture can solve some of your problems.

It’s important to remember that if doing something that causes no harm to anyone else makes you feel happy and well, it doesn’t really matter if it “works” by any physical mechanism. Risks of sun exposure and potential grit-in-anus issues aside, laying around on a secluded, sunny rock with your legs splayed is not the worst thing you could do with your time if it makes you feel good. On the other hand, you could get the same zippy little boost in energy and happiness from any number of things (like doing yoga, getting a massage, or simply sitting outside meditating) that don’t require you to make up stuff about your butt’s special powers.

Stretching is a great idea, no matter what you wear

People exposing their butts to the sky often do so in a pose called ananda balasana, or “happy baby,” which is popular in modern yoga practice. It is indeed an effective way to bare your butt and genitals to the open air, but it’s also a nice, gentle stretch that helps ease tension pretty much all over the body. The research on yoga’s overall benefits is still incomplete, but it’s definitely good exercise (and exercise is definitely good for you—even if it’s just ambling around or gardening), and it may be good for decreasing lower back pain and inflammation. It’s not a magical cure-all, though: doing it in a hot room won’t cleanse you of your toxins, and, fair warning, you can hurt yourself by becoming too flexible. But if rolling around and doing gentle stretches on a warm rock sounds nice, that’s because it probably is nice.

If you’re not sure how to get your ankles that close to your head and and feel queasy at the thought of doing so, check out this beginner’s guide to stretching. You don’t need to go and moon the sun, but spending a little time limbering up can keep you feeling sunny enough.