If there’s one thing good that comes out of our pandemic year, it’s the reminder that comfort is a gift. And what’s more comfortable than yoga pants? Comfortable yoga pants.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my tights. They hold things together and allow for maximum movement. They’re easy without being sloppy. But they’re not the end-all-be-all of yoga clothes. In fact, there may be better options.
What are yoga clothes?
Leggings have become so associated with yoga, we’ve started to feel like we can’t do yoga if we don’t have “yoga clothes”—meaning spandex and sports bras (which is another example of how yoga has been separated from its roots, but I digress). The reality is that you could practice your yamas, niyamas, and the other limbs of yoga in a ball gown and tiara. To practice yoga asana, you just need attire that won’t get in the way of your movement.
What about compression? Apparently, there isn’t much need for it. A 2018 research study found that compression garments might make you feel less tired after a strenuous yoga session. An earlier study on the value of compression clothing found little evidence of its benefits. The researchers thought there might be a placebo effect: Those tight-fitting clothes make you feel like you’re performing better. Otherwise the jury is out.
Can I bend in them?
I admit, if I’m in the mood for a strong, sweaty yoga session, I’ll slip on my camouflage tights or the ones with the neon running strips—just because they make me feel like I’m doing yoga. I also generally wear fitted garments when I’m teaching so my students can clearly see my positioning and alignment. But, for home practice, I’m known to throw on wide-legged knits or a flowing cotton split-skirt.
My test of what’s appropriate: Is it Surya Namaskar ready? Does it bend with me when I forward fold? Does it fly in my face during Downward Facing Dog? Do I get tangled in it when I step through into a lunge? Can I throw them in the wash afterward?
Bottom line: Your yoga clothes don’t have to be “yoga clothes” in order to perform for you, and even athleisure-wear companies have figured that out. Here are some styles that may make you rethink your definition of yoga pants.
It’s the details for me. The criss-crossed waistband. The way the fabric wraps around the leg and across the belly to hide what you want hidden and still give a sliver of leg when you walk. That leg opening also ensures you won’t step on them when you step through. They even show these styled over tights—so if you want extra warmth or extra coverage, you’ve got options. Athleta gets points for the widest size range I’ve seen in athleisure wear—and these pants look good whether you’re thin or thick. Sizes XXS–3X; $79
These pants made Oprah’s “Favorite Things” list, so enough said, right? Made from 70 percent brushed bamboo, with some acrylic and spandex for stretch, you could work out or go out in these. Sizes XS–XL; $103
The seven-eighths length makes these wide-legged pants long enough for good coverage but not so long that they get in your way. They draw at the waist for a no-slide fit and have roomy front pockets. (Pockets are always a plus.) They’re also made of a soft, substantial fleece. Sizes 0–14; $69
From the makers of the Dress Pant Yoga Pant, these look like jeans but wear like yoga pants. The waist is elasticized, but not gathered so they don’t look like grandma’s frumpy denim. Slide them on without having to fuss with zippers and buttons. Check the site for a variety of lengths, shapes, and washes. Sizes: XS–XXL, short petite, petit, regular, long; $128
Joggers are fitted at the ankle but tapered to give you some room at the knees and hips. A drawstring waist allows you to adjust the fit. These are made with 89 percent recycled material and come in 14 different colors. Sizes XXS–XXL; $84
For your home practice, these are up a notch from your pajama pants, and the zebra design makes them fun. They’re a soft knit that’s fitted at waist and hips, but loose from the knee down. Sizes XS/S and M/L; $89
Designed with legendary yoga teacher Colleen Saidman Yee, these 100 percent organic cotton pants can be worn during practice or running errands (or on a Zoom call). They’re long and loose with a dropped waist and some slack in the back—the definition of comfort. Sizes small or large; $85
A one piece with a high neckline and a drawstring waist means there’s definitely no coming un-tucked during your practice. It’s also 100 percent cotton with a wide-leg cut. Sizes XXS–XL; $139