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!
Whatever works for you… I guess… I used to work for Lululemon and I know for a fact this brand is a paradox 🙂 they sell you a bill of goods and try to Lulufy you – all in the name of personal growth and a successful goal achieving lifestyle. I’d rather keep it simple and trod along the path less travelled. Thank you
Well, let’s just say I used to love reading Yoga Journal but I ended my subscription of many years after getting fed up to the eyeballs with the emphasis on yoga fashion. Nowadays they have almost more space devoted to advertising than articles. Yawn. The magazine seems like nothing more than a vehicle to generate advertising income, via appealing to our sense of ego, vanity and sex. Very yogic, I’m sure. Not.
Well said, regarding Yoga Journal. Nowadays I just pick up a copy at the library and read the one or two relevant articles, because it’s not with actually purchasing. It has come a long way (down) since it’s inception. One of the original founders – Judith Lassater – has written to the magazine to complain about the way they run advertisements that use nudity to sell clothing and accessories. Are we judging? Well, yeah. Judgement may not seem yogic, but it is a cousinn of discernment which is yogic. Yoga Journal seems to be lacking discernment. I love nice clothes, but let’s not pretend that ridiculously expensive designer clothes (often made by slave labor) enhance any aspect of yoga.
I refuse to go with $50+ dollar yoga clothes. Still wear a tshirt and loosefitting pants and while occasionally self conscious amongst the other SoCal yogis in my area, once class begins, only the yoga matters. I’m also one of what has begun to seem a tinier minority who prefer classes without musical distraction.
Thanks for your comment and also interesting what you said about musical distraction. Check out this Sacred Cow blog on music in yoga classes from earlier this year: http://www.pranamaya.com/blog/uncategorized/do-you-yogabop/
I guess its not about the price of the clothes its about wearing comfortable clothes. Yoga clothes these days are becoming more fashionable so its important to focus on flexibility and comfortableness.
I was thinking about taking a yoga class…..don’t think i’ll spend lots of money on the clothes though. 🙂
I purchase my clothes upon how comfortably they fit, and I do prefer buying a product that I think will last. I own some things that I have purchased at Target and others that are pricier (but those I always buy on sale). As an instructor think it is important to look professional but don’t think I need to spend all that I earn on yoga clothes.
I like it.
Yes,I do agree about the simplicity of yoga.
The more we keep it simple the more our life is simpler.
And then our practice will be our everyday living
I love practicing yoga, but the clothes just don’t fit! I started yoga a couple of years ago, I have lost some weight and am now a size 20 (29 inseam) 40H. I have not been able to find a single yoga brand name outfit out there that will fit me. It seems like yoga fashion makers only want to tailor to thin people. I would be willing to pay $100 for a pair of yoga pants if they would just fit and have the little design on them. Did you know that Lululemon only goes up to a size 12 for women? Gilly Hicks and Barefoot Yoga only go up to a Large; Gaiam, Athleta, Prana, and Everything Yoga only goes to an XL (these are the sizes I have seen whenI went shopping)…That leaves me and a quarter or more of the US market without options for pretty yoga clothes…Not fair…and sometimes I do feel out of place in yoga class because I’m not dressed like everyone else…
Sorry, I should have said for petite length. Some do have larger sizes but not in the shorter inseam lengths…that I can find…
I agree fully, Brandy.
That is why I have created La Dea Vita (www.ladeavita.com). A line of movement-wear for women of diverse shapes & sizes.
I’m a yoga teacher & i see strength and beauty in different shapes.
The athletic wear industry makes & markets clothes for an “ideal” healthy female body.
I’m about to change all that 🙂
Stay tuned. My line launches Spring ’12
The practitioner will succeed; the nonpractitioner will not. Success in yoga is not achieved by merely reading books. Success is achieved NEITHER BY WEARING THE RIGHT CLOTHES nor by talking about it. Practice alone brings success. This is the truth, without a doubt.
From the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, chapter 1, verses 65-66, by Svatmarama Yogendra (“the lord of yoga who delights in his own self”), mid-14th century?
This sentiment is also found in other traditional texts. But it seems to me it matters little what clothing you wear, someone could come to class sporting a loin cloth, trident, and human skull begging bowl, certainly the “right clothes” for yoga in the 14th century, but he may never practice, and without that effort none of these accouterments will do him much good. On the other hand someone in class might be wearing some ridiculously over-priced clothes from you-know-who and what’s-it’s-name, certainly the “right clothes” for the early 21st century (at least in some circles) and yet have a regular and sincere practice. Who’s more “yogic” here?