There are many truly important discussions happening about yoga right now: Conversations about whether the guru-student relationship is still a good way to learn and debates about the extent of yoga’s healing powers have kept me sitting at the edge of my Chair Pose. And who could forget the ever-important debate about yoga pants?
When Lululemon recalled some of their pants because the material was see-through, I wasn’t surprised to see the uproar. (I still chuckle at the headlines “Full Moon Pose” and “I See London, I See France, Lululemon Recalls Yoga Pants.”) The fiasco highlighted what has become a national obsession with stretchy pants. And everyone seems to have an opinion.
It’s easy to see why mainstream media outlets are so interested in yoga pants—sex appeal. And women everywhere enjoy yoga pants as a comfortable, more stylish alternative to sweatpants. Of course, this has very little to do with the actual practice of yoga. So why do yoga students care so much? I think it’s about what the pants say about our yoga practice.
When it comes to yoga pants, there are those who justify spending big bucks because they will wear them SO often that it’s worth the investment. There are those who will spend more in the name of ahimsa (non-harming), opting for sweatshop-free varieties. And then there those who shake their heads at the outrageous consumerism expensive yoga gear represents. (All are valid views.) But few seem willing to admit what I think is one of the biggest motivations to buy expensive yoga gear: Where you buy your yoga pants is as much a status symbol as the car you drive—and not to necessarily to showcase how much money you have, but how serious you are about your yoga practice. Nothing says beginning yoga student like a basic PVC mat, sweat pants, and a baggy T-shirt—and we want our fellow yoga students to know that we are serious yoga student, and we have all the gear to prove it! Deep down, I think we all know that that the stuff doesn’t matter.
I love yoga pants as much as the next girl (and, yes, I own far more than I need), but I’m sad that they’ve come to represent such a divide in the yoga community. In our stressed out, overworked culture, we need each other for support and encouragement. Where you buy your yoga pants is a personal decision—and it seems so strange to judge each other on fashion choices when we try to be non-competitive about the poses themselves. No matter how others spin a story about yoga pants, I hope that as yoga students we can keep our gaze toward the discussions and that really matter, our breath, our connections to ourselves and the world, and the practice that helps make all of our lives just a little more meaningful.