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What are the best pants to practice yoga in? The answer isn’t obvious and depends on a number of factors such as the type of yoga you do and what you are hoping to get from your yoga wear.
Let’s start by taking a historical perspective and revisit what people have tended to wear over the ages. As many of you know, the origins of yoga lie in Northern India more than 5000 years ago. Of course photography wasn’t invented at that time but the first recorded photos of yoga practitioners last century depict a type of dhoti. It required some degree of skill to tie it correctly and make the cotton fabric wrap around the mid region of your body. Once in place it was worn as a single item with no other clothing on the torso, legs or feet, making it incredibly convenient for all kinds of stretching and movement. In contrast to modern times, yoga was largely a male pursuit and yoga wear for women was not even contemplated.
Fast forward to modernity and the first thing you will probably think of when you hear “yoga pants” are leggings. They appeared as a successor to the striking but impractical leotards over tights which were commonplace in the 80s. Popularized by companies such as Lululemon in the 90s, leggings have gone from strength to strength both due to the popularity of yoga itself and a more general trend of women wearing yoga pants as casual everyday attire. But is that all you can wear to yoga class?
In fact there are several alternatives to leggings such as shorts, harem pants and Thai fisherman pants as well as different types of actual leggings. In this post we will go through some advantages and disadvantages you may want to consider when choosing which yoga pants are right for you. There a of course no definitive answers and many people end up buying more than one type depending on the occasion.
It seems like an unrelated topic and might be something you have never even thought about but the type or yogi you are will have a big impact on what you end up wearing to yoga. There are many ways to look at this but, in our experience there are 3 broad types of yogis. We will try and describe each without judgement and hope you identify with at least one of them!
The fitness yogi is interested primarily in working out and keeping in shape. Yoga in this sense is a means to an end and is practiced in the same way other forms of exercise such as pilates or tai chi. This type of yogi is not concerned with mantras and spirituality but will usually push their body to progress and develop expertise in postures and other physical goals. This kind of person is most likely to work up a sweat and to want to look athletic. They are likely to favor are moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics and if they choose leggings they are likely to wear sporty looking patterns.
The instagram yogi has made a very conscious choice to practice yoga and is proud to communicate it. This kind of yogi is very sensitive to the visual environment in which yoga takes place as well and pays attention to how they look to others. They may not go to yoga class at all and instead practice alone but they will almost certainly document their progress and their yoga pants will be key to their look. This kind of yogi usually purchases many varieties of yoga pants and often favors plain colored pants which can be shown off in numerous photos without appearing repetitive. They are not often ashamed of their bodies and will be keen to wear form hugging apparel to best show off each asana.
This kind of yogi places equal importance in exercise and spirituality, asanas and breathing rhythms. The Spiritual Yogi will choose their teacher carefully and often practice not only yoga but meditation and mindfulness techniques. The spiritual yogi is often aware of the history of yoga and interested in the different branches of yoga. This kind of yogi will likely choose comfort over appearance and some may go for comfortable wrap pants to make sure they are at ease. Others will choose pants which incorporate spiritual patterns such as mandalas to aid the meditative side of yoga.
Just because you identified as one type of yogi (or not!) doesn’t mean your decision is made. Another important consideration is the kind of body you have. Everyone has their own unique reactions to particular environments and a kind of body that feels comfortable in specific ways.
For example, if you are a person who naturally sweats a lot you might want to bear that in mind. First of all, don’t worry, this is very common but you might want to favor fabrics that either allow high breathability such as cotton or a synthetic material that is designed to be quick drying.
If you tend to put on weight easily or are pregnant and expect your body to change shapes over a period of time, you will love Thai Fisherman pants. They can be adjusted for snug fit every time you use them and come in both long and short versions.
The relationship you have with your body may also be a factor. For example, if you prefer to dress modestly and not show all your bumps and curves to everyone in your yoga class, you might want to choose baggy yoga pants. Be sure to make sure they have elasticated anklets so they don’t slip and slide when you lift your legs.
Another important factor with any choice of pans is what you’ll be using them for! The growth of yoga has seen an explosion in types of practice, from the traditional schools to the banal trends and everything in between. The type of yoga you end up doing will inform you choice of yoga pants. If you do hot yoga, you can expect to get hot and sweaty, as the name suggests. The most commonly known form, Bikram yoga, is practiced in rooms at a temperature of 40 degrees (or 100 °F).
We ask you to wear white so that you will reflect what is outside and go within yourself — Siri Singh Sahib
On the other hand don’t wear black leggings to Kundalini class, you may get kicked out! In the words of Yogi Bhajan, the master of Kundalini Yoga; “We ask you to wear white so that you will reflect what is outside and go within yourself”. The belief in this kind of yoga is that color affects consciousness. And white as the natural equilibrium of all colors uniquely impacts the subconscious.
For gentle, low activity yoga, prioritize your comfort.
Finally it is worth thinking about whether you will wear your yoga pants beyond yoga. Will you go shopping in your leggings or go to a meditation retreat with your harem pants? And will they combine with the clothes you already have. Leggings have the advantage of being increasingly socially acceptable and going with virtually anything! If you already have a boho style you probably already own harem pants but may want to buy ones that have a higher crotch to allow for more freedom of movement.
And like any other clothing choice, you will have to consider whether to go synthetic or natural. Many shoppers are increasingly guided by overarching values over practical implications. Fortunately there are many fair trade companies producing yoga pants with eco-friendly fibers.
Well unsurprisingly, it depends. Start by asking yourself what kind of yogi you are and what kind of yoga you are interested in. Consider your body and how you think you will feel and finally stay true to your values. You will find your perfect pair of pants to accompany you on your yoga journey!