Attending yoga classes is a fantastic way to observe all kinds of yogis. In the great tradition of people watching, one can witness a variety of people and styles- each is unique. Part of the fun is marveling at how differently each of us expresses ourselves. In the yoga studio, how we present ourselves can hint at what the practice of yoga means to us or it may simply be a reflection of how seasoned one is.
After some observation, the intrepid people watcher might notice a few trends. Styles and designs emerge into recognizable patterns. The studious watcher could even go so far as to categorize students into broad groupings. Meet the yoga personalities. Members of these groups happily practice side by side with members of other groups. Even in one’s own local yoga studio.
Which one are you?
Like fashionistas of every setting, these style savvy mavens love the idea of clothing tailored for a specific activity. When they ski, they wear proper ski clothes; when they lounge, it’s loungewear all the way. In the same vein, they ask: why wear anything but specific yoga clothing when practicing yoga?
Brand names- recognizable both by their logos and specific looks- top the yoga fashionistas preferred list of yoga clothing. A yoga fashionista can be spotted by the logos they sport and by the design savvy items they wear.
For instance, yoga specific tank tops sport plenty of innovative straps- no simple crew neck tanks here. The pants have 4-way stretch, fold over waistbands, ruched sides, or other details. Colors are bright and lines are clean. Design savvy tops coordinate with equally stylish bottoms.
The female fashionistas wear fresh makeup and clean upswept hair. Bright colors add to the plumage. The male fashion buffs lean towards black, greys and muted colors. Stretchy tops that are strategically tight in all the right places show off well-toned biceps.
Although yoga is an individual practice, embracing the social side of classroom dynamics makes the fashionista feel part of a group. Likely more of a social animal than other yoga personalities, the fashionista enjoys the feeling of looking great while performing a sun salutation.
Enjoy your inner style animal fashionistas- be fun and spirited.
Always Chill: The Cool Yogi
Inner experience is what yoga is all about- says this kind of yogi. The extraneous stuff doesn’t matter- it’s the experience that counts. It’s about the integration of body and mind.
The cool yogi takes this attitude and runs with it. In color, style and form, this self-expression approach to yoga and clothing is self-assured and big on individual style.
This kind of yogi knows that different types of clothing can make us feel certain ways. The way a type of fabric drapes over the body. The individualized adornment that funky jewelry can bring. Chunky rings, layers of wrist jewelry, tie-dyed or Hindi-lettered pants and lots of layers are the hallmarks of the cool yogi.
Not content to stay within the large corporate confines of the yoga gear market, this yoga personality actively seeks out unique and interesting yoga attire. Not always relying on yoga specific clothing, but always sporting clothing that moves in line with each asana performed, these yogis are creative but practical with their clothing.
Clothing that is eco-conscious and crafted from sustainable materials, made by small collectives or otherwise having an impressive type of pedigree attracts this hip type of yogi. Even though the cool yogi is aware of his or her coolness- sometimes to a fault- their dedication to the practice of yoga is never questioned. That’s what makes them ultimately endearing and yes, well, cool.
The Comfort Pups: Utilizing the Downward Dog Test
Why do downward dog in anything but complete comfort? Like being in their own living room, the comfort pup knows that clothing serves them and not the other way around. Pulling on their old reliable stretch pants and perhaps the one yoga t-shirt they own, these yogis want to be able to move without constriction.
Without being able to justify the expense sometimes given to purchasing yoga clothing, the comfort pup- so named for the downward dog test of comfort they employ- knows that their clothing has to perform. The downward dog test means viewing an item as clothing as being just as comfortable in downward dog as in tree or a vigorous sequence of sun salutations. Not an easy order.
Practical in their approach, these yogis view their yoga clothing as strictly utilitarian. Why waste your good shorts on asanas, the comfort-loving yogi asks. And why wear something that is expensive and just as comfortable as the elastic waistband shorts these yogis favor.
In fact, the comfort pup has no shame in wearing bleach-splattered clothing to class. It’s a yoga class, after all, they reason. What one wears has no bearing on the quality of the their practice.
If one is a comfort pup, there will be no messing around with frivolity. Although one may dress quite differently off the mat, on the mat they mean business. And that means elastic waistbands, cottons, and exercise t-shirt or tanks previously owned that are designed for the gym or the sports field. No specific dedicated yoga clothing needed here. Easy peasy.
These yogis are a great reminder for the rest of us to take comfort seriously. After all, if one can’t be comfortable, preoccupations and distractions will abound.
The Old Schoolers: Old School Love
Not so concerned with whether shirts dip up or down, or if pant legs get hiked up to the knee, there is a fine line to the untrained eye between the seasoned old schooler and the newbie (see below). However, once you see the old schooler in action, no doubt will be left in your mind. These yogis know their yoga.
Favoring baggy khaki pants with elastic waist bands, linen or hemp shirts, possibly with the arms cut off, and t-shirts from a 2002 Krishna Das performance, the old schooler is confident in the yoga studio.
That confidence most likely comes from being able to dig deeper into a forward bend and effortlessly limber over into wheel. These yogis require clothing that moves freely.
Free moving clothing in neutral colors and natural fabrics that breathe are the hallmarks of this yogi. Elastic waistbands or fisherman pants give their clothing ease of movement. But unlike their comfort pup counterparts, the old schooler doesn’t care so much if they have to pull down their shirt from their back for the twentieth time. In fact, they don’t even notice. It’s just part of the practice.
Some old schoolers, while not as limber as their counterparts, have an amazing ability to get into the zone. Their meditation skills are second to none. Looking effortlessly free, their asanas have an elegance mastered over many years of practice. Not surprisingly, their clothing reflects this same attitude.
Easy and carefree, these yogis blend into the background of the studio. Yet, on closer observation, they are the heart of the class. Equally comfortable teaching as being the student, the old school yogi loves their yoga. It’s old school love.
Ah, the newbie. Haven’t we all been there at some point? Shirts that are too loose so that they gape all the way open when doing downward dog. And then entirely too small when reaching out in Side Angle pose so they’re constantly riding up the back.
The last thing most of us want to do when practicing yoga is constantly rearrange clothing. Pulling it up … or down. Pushing fabric out of the way … or back again. Even splitting seams and constricting muscles can be the result of clothes ill suited for yoga.
Head to toe brand names can also be a sign of a newbie. Unsure of what to wear, the newbie sometimes heads to the store and plunks down way too much cash on clothing pushed on them by eager salespeople who know a newbie when they see one.
Take pity on the newbie – they don’t know what the heck they’re doing. But they’ll learn. Like we all did.
Perhaps physically comfortable in their clothing, the newbie might be feeling terribly uncomfortable in clothing that isn’t “them.” Or in the alternative, the newbie is feeling mighty comfortable in mountain pose, but then it all comes to a big baggy mess over their heads when they dip into an asana.
Uncertain of what to wear, or simply not thinking through an item of clothing, the newbie can often be spotted looking confused during camel pose and relieved during child’s pose.
If the newbie is your yoga personality, take heart. Keep practicing and one day the newbie yoga personality may shift into one of the above categories. No longer a newbie, one will find their own personal style. And that in the end, is a big part of what yoga is all about. Being oneself.