I spent this past weekend again at the incredible Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree: Four days of chanting, yoga-ing, and dancing in the desert. It was an amazing, loving, exuberant, and healthy atmosphere. But it was also, like many large yoga events these days, a bit of a fashion show.
Many of the women wore designer yoga threads including fitted flares, sexy halter tops, and hippie couture summer dresses. The men tended to be a more laid back with their approach, but still sported fancy yoga pants and beautifully embroidered tops. Festival sponsor LA Yoga magazine gave out free copies of their latest edition, which focuses on style. About 50 percent of the vendors around the main stage were clothing sellers with offerings like $95 yoga pants, $65 yoga tanks, or $130 yoga dresses (which you can’t really practice yoga in, but I guess you can wear them to a party with other yogis?). I tried on a pair of pants in one store that were four inches too long and the sales guy tried to convince me how great they’d look with heels. Heels? But … they’re yoga pants.
I am not trying to get down on looking good. It’s nice to see exuberant yogis radiant with health all decked out for the show. And a lot of the yoga clothing really is beautiful—and ethically made. But I do question fashion’s place in the yoga world. The ancient yogis wore thongs to practice, coupled with topknots or dreads. They kept it pretty simple. And yoga, in general, is concerned with creating detachment from the material world, which seems somewhat counter to blinging one’s asana garb with hip-hugging shaktified spandex or hemp. That said, yoga style is also thought of as an expression of creativity and celebration of life, particularly from the modern-day Tantric school. I’ve even heard Anusara founder John Friend talk publicly about clothing being a vehicle to self-expression for yogis.
So, what do you think? Can all of this emphasis on our duds be taking our attention away from the true practice, or increasing our suffering by keeping us attached to material things? Or is yoga styling simply a creative outlet for yogis to express themselves? Write in and tell us what you think!