Over the weekend, The New York Times published an article entitled, “Why Yoga Pants Are Bad for Women.” As a yoga teacher, of course it piqued my interest. I clicked on it thinking maybe there was some scientific information I needed to know about the pants I wear every day. However, once I started reading it, I quickly realized that is not what I was going to get.
The article basically talked about the death of sweatpants with the rise of leggings and that “we’re wearing them because they’re sexy.” I brushed it off initially because I knew it was all wrong. But after reading through some of the comments and seeing others post about it on social media, I realized there are people out there that took it to heart. The more I sat with it, the more it bothered me that someone was shaming women for the choices they made. As someone who has struggled with their body image, as someone who has been objectified by both men and women, and as someone who respects my role as a teacher, I have a lot to say about this.
Firstly, I would like to make it clear that when getting dressed for work in the morning, I have never asked myself, “Will this make me more attractive?” Not even once. If anything, I have chosen clothing that will make my body less noticeable. I have worked with male sports teams in the past and on those occasions, I will always chose a high necked top and/or one that is baggier. If I need to demonstrate something, I can always tie my shirt up for a better view, but I don’t have to put myself on display unless necessary for the learning experience. In fact, teachers are often encouraged to wear tighter clothing for better visuals. That is not something I am always comfortable with, so I chose to layer. It is then up to my discretion what will improve my teaching versus being a distraction.
Following on that, I don’t teach yoga so that others will look at, objectify, or sexualize my body. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I have noticed looks, I have been asked out, and I have received comments, often which are from women wishing they had my body, or telling me how skinny I am. Honestly, it upsets me because I did not ask for their opinion, and yes, I am a bit sensitive about it (hence why I’m writing a book about my relationship with my body).
Last year when I was getting a lot of comments on my weight, I was going through a big bout of anxiety. Knowing that other people were noticing my unintentional weight loss, which was already giving me anxiety, gave me even more anxiety. It’s one thing to have a friend say something where I can make a joke about it, but it’s a very different situation when someone I only know in a very specific setting says it. These comments also sadden me because it appears these women don’t see the beauty within themselves. They don’t acknowledge their strength, their flexibility, or their progress. A teacher is not there for you to compare yourself to. We are there to guide you on your own journey.
I wear yoga pants truly because they are more comfortable in the practice. I have tried yoga in sweats or joggers and in many poses, they simply get in the way. I have to pull up this or that, readjust in this pose or not go as deep because of the drop in the crotch. Yoga pants are functional. They were designed with practicing yoga in mind. And you know what else? They work well in other types of exercise too! Fabrics are breathable. Mesh often adds an element of design, but they are also functional. Have you ever taken a 2 hour level 3 Vinyasa class? You will gladly take any little bit of breeze that you can get! And as someone who lives in the South, when that summer humidity comes, I will wear anything to stay cool in class.
The article also mentions the high prices of yoga pants. I agree, they are expensive and I resisted paying for them at first, but not anymore. Why? Because they are better quality. They last longer. And most importantly, they aren’t see through. Again, as a teacher, I don’t want my body to be a distraction and being able to see my butt or underwear would definitely be one. Luckily a lot of companies offer discounts to fitness instructors, and I am extremely grateful for that, but I would pay a higher price regardless if it meant my pants weren’t sheer.
And frankly, as there are a lot of options out there, I do chose clothing that makes me feel good. I have had a lot of ups and downs, and then even more downs, with my body. Yoga has allowed me to heal my relationship with it and feel happy in my own skin. For the first time in my life, I can feel confident in a tight crop top. Do I wear that when teaching? No. But in my own practice? You bet. I have the right to wear what I want to wear, for myself and no one else, on or off the mat. I dress for me. If I feel good in my clothing, then it’s so much easier for me to feel happier as a whole. I’m not self conscious if my shirt moves a little. I’m not worrying if others are looking at me and judging. I can focus on what I’m doing with my beautiful body.
What you wear for any exercise is your choice. I choose to wear tight fitting pants, but you don’t have to. If you feel more comfortable in sweatpants and it doesn’t hinder your practice? Great. If you prefer tight yoga pants with mesh or holes, then that’s awesome. Rock them. Wear what you feel comfortable in. We all have an intimate, and often complicated, relationship with our body. Make the right decisions for you. Don’t let anyone, including me, tell you what to wear.
Be comfortable. Be confident. You do you, girl.