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This Yogini Is Mad As Hell About Yoga Fashion And She’s Not Going To Take It Anymore

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Yoga Fashion: oxymoron? Nah, not in this day and age of publicly traded yoga-inspired street-to-class-to-brunch sweat-wickery that is sometimes see-through, and these. Naturally, with the wave of trendy yoga clothes for a practice that, ironically, should be less about how you look and especially less about what (or who) you’re wearing, there comes the backlash.

Recovering yogi Megan Sullivan is mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore, so she’s taken to admitting to wearing pajamas in Ashtanga class and declaring her own Yoga Fashion Liberation Manifesto where un-pedicured feet and bunchy underwear reign free!

Here’s Megan’s YFLM via Recovering Yogi:

Yoga Fashion Liberation Manifesto:

  • I will not wear yoga pants that cost more than a week of groceries.
  • I will not subject my body to a yoga thong.
  • I will not worry about my underwear showing.
  • I will not care about my underarm stains, nor will I care about the underarm stains left over on the shirt from last week.
  • I will not paint my toenails just because I want the guru to like me.
  • I will not care whether the guru thinks I’m pretty.
  • I will not care whether the other girls in the class think I’m pretty. Yoga is not high school.
  • I will not style my hair just for yoga.
  • I will not buy special clothes just for yoga.
  • I will most certainly not buy special clothes that are supposed to help me find enlightenment. No one has ever found enlightenment from a T-shirt. Not even one with a really good shelf bra.
  • I will pair my J.C. Penney exercise pants with an old shirt I got when my kids went to the state math contest in 2011, and I will not care. Math is cool.
  • I will, if I need to, practice the Ashtanga Primary Series in a pair of pink pajamas with kitties printed on them.

Amen! We praise Megan’s declaration of personal preferences. Do you have more to add of your own? Feel free to post them on her original blog or right here in the comments.

Much of this is great and needs to be said. But here are our questions.

Doesn’t yoga teach us a little something about expressing yourself, living your life (ahimsa-ly of course) and not caring about what other people may think? Do we really live in a yoga culture in which ridicule for unpainted toenails and pajama bottoms rival high school hallway mockery? We’ll do our practice at home then, thanks. Yoga’s intended to boost our self-confidence and remind us of our self-worth not tear it down. And can’t others get all dolled up if they want to? And what? Guys can wear whatever they want and no one cares? WTF is up with that? (We know, guys, you’re just pining for more fashionable yoga clothes. Don’t worry lulu is coming for you.)

Fashion is one of those things many of us love to hate and hate to love. We have a feeling that “yoga fashion” may very well be a reflection of our own personal style when we’re off the mat. But, doggone it, it doesn’t have to.

In defense of fashion for fashion’s sake who’s sitting all fashionably pouty in the fashionable corner, we leave you with this:

There’s more to clothing than just adornment. It does more than merely change how the world perceives us. It changes how we perceive ourselves. – Jacqueline Carey

Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment. – Alexander McQueen

Also, good news for you yoga fashion frugals, we have word H&M is set to launch H&M Sport which will include yoga clothes. (You could try out to be a model, but on “expert level” need apply. sigh.)

image via www.belleflaneur.com



32 comments… add one
  • Lunamoth

    People will spend too much on fancy Yoga gear for the same reason they spend too much on a plain white t-shirt: because they can. In some ways. I GET what the manifesto is saying and I chuckled and I agreed that too don’t spend that much on my Yoga clothes (and won’t ever paint my nails, because, ick, stinky chemicals). At the same time, if a part of Yoga is about our own enlightenment (and it ISN’T always, not for everyone), part of that enlightenment is noticing what others do, and then moving on and not thinking about it. It’s irrelevant to anyone but the person doing it.

  • Edi

    Śauca, that’s all you need.

  • Oh, this is fantastic! When I got serious about yoga 7+ months ago, I found myself tempted over and over by those gorgeous yoga pants that cost *gulp* $90 a pair. Or more.

    Of course, being a working mom on a budget, those kinds of expenditures are just not feasible for me. But, still, I yearned for them, even though for the other 99.999% of my clothing I stick to thrift shops and resale shops because I love the eclectic style I can create for myself with them.

    So, last weekend, I was at my first-ever yoga retreat at a well-known yoga center, and discovered that they had an enormous gift shop, including – you guessed it – a HUGE selection of these kinda of yoga clothes.

    As I was browsing the selection of yoga clothes, I kept saying to myself, “Hey, I’m on a little retreat. It’s like a vacation. Why not?”

    And then I realized that the entire point of my yoga practice is to get to be myself, instead of trying to be just like everybody else. So, sure, those kinds of clothes look nice, and they make you “look” the part, but it made me realize just how superficial it all is.

    So, to heck with the expensive yoga clothes. I’ll stick with my favorite $5 t-shirt that I scored from my favorite resale shop, and maybe once or twice a year I’ll buy a couple of new pairs of workout pants for $20 from Target when my old ones have worn out. Yoga is about what’s on the inside, not what’s on the outside! Spending $90+ on a pair of “cool” yoga pants might make me look cool, but they sure won’t help with my forward bends.

  • Cassie

    I find 80% of my yoga clothes at the Goodwill Outlet for $1.39 lb. I do splurge every so often and I don’t ever regret buying something made specifically for it. Ah well…to each his own.

  • Violet

    Excellent article, loved the manifesto! Just wanted to add that when searching for yoga clothing, please keep in mind the companies that produce it and their social responsibility to their people. I personally had to give up H&M after reading about how their clothes were made in the collapsed Cambodian factory! Now I put my money towards those companies where the workers are treated ethically and the companies are socially responsible, which in turn makes me feel good to wear their clothes and focus on my practice.

    • Janet Reed

      Bravo to you! THIS is consciousness 🙂

    • LA

      Yes! I was going to mention the same thing! For all clothing as well. And this usually means spending MORE money, but if you are buying fewer things and only things you really love, and taking great care of them, it all works out in the end. For everyone. 🙂

  • Just wish that photo was of a yogini in a pair of pink pajama bottoms and an old math t-shirt…

  • Janet Reed

    Blah, blah, blah. Why do people try putting down that which they are jealous of? When one is in a true state of yoga, they are in acceptance of all – not screaming judgments or trying to rally their high-school friends to not like the popular kids. Get back to your mat, girl. Madd you are.

    • Der Barenjude

      Critics must be literate in order to be taken seriously. Otherwise, the crytic reveals herself not as a student or practitioner, but as a fool.

      Do not end any sentence with a preposition.

      The word “mad” is spelled with only one “D”, unless one intends to refer to the acronym of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

      Do not keyboard, or practice, while drunk.

      And do not judge. On your mat. Off your mat. Or at your keyboard.

      Unless you are me. I’m the yoga literacy and sobriety judge.

      Address me as “Your Honor”.

      • James

        Heil, Your Honor! It’s good to see another literacy nazi on the Internet. It’s important that people such as us focus on the presentation of otherwise-coherent posts rather than the substance. How else can we hide the fact that we have no worthwhile opinion on the topic at hand?

        I’m with you, mein Führer! People (if you can even call them that) like this Janet Reed should have opinions weighted only 3/5 of the strong opinions you and I possess. Maybe Janet just needs to concentrate more on her posts. We should send her to a concentration camp!

        But wait! What is this “crytic” of which you speak? Oh Mein Honor. The next train for Grammarwitz leaves soon. No. You won’t need to pack much.

  • I practise 2 – 4x daily (teach…own studio) and I have found sturdy yoga pants to be a good investment, and necessary for me. But the whole fashion thing gripes me too. The malas on the arm…what is that? I once wore the same torn OM t-shirt for about a YEAR. I wore it until it was too shredded to wear and I was making my own statement. Thing is, owning a studio, you have to play the fashion game a bit. I didn’t impress anyone but myself, but I have no regrets. I didn’t become a yogi to conform to lame stuff.

    • Aprille

      Interesting you should mention the malas on the arm thing. I hear this a lot. So, here’s the scoop for you and all the folks out there who don’t get it. I wear them on my arm to remind me. They remind me of the person who made them, the way they were presented (my friends). They remind me of why I do yoga and how every single breath I take should be with intention and presence. Why not around my neck? Because I can see them more readily as a reminder on my arm. When I want to use them, I unclasp and they are ready. They are not a fashion statement for me. And remember, not EVERYTHING is a fashion statement. Maybe for you, maybe not. For those who buy the expensive yoga clothes (and I admit I do sometimes), buy and wear whatever you want. Buy it because it fits really well, because it makes you feel nice, because you enjoy wearing them….not because someone says you should or the person next to you is wearing it. Be comfortable, be happy, and mind your own little red wagon!

      • Karen

        I wear my mala in the same way. I got takeout at a local chinese place and the girl commented on how wearing a necklace around the wrist was so fashionable in China. I felt a bit awkward, but whatever; I know why I wear it. I have gotten the most comments from Muslims, actually, who remark that the mala is similar to the beads they use for prayer. Jai

      • It just seems a bit odd when students wear them in class. They usually end up taking them off because they are burdensome to practise with. I actually spoke to someone who did not know what is was intended for.

  • LA

    Well, I do own a few pairs of expensive Lulu pants and I love ’em! So comfy, never move around or bunch while practicing, and because they are such high quality, I literally can’t remember the last time I bought a new pair. Possibly 7 years ago?? (and sidenote: I only bought extra yoga pants to have myself covered for teaching/practising in both summer and winter, and enough pants on rotation so I didn’t have to do laundry literally everyday. Once I reached that amount, about 7 years ago, like I said! I haven’t entered a Lulu store since)……..

    So yeah, I agree with the idea that Yoga Is Not a Fashion Show, however, I don’t like the idea of people judging the fact that I’m wearing Lulu pants so that makes me some sort of “yoga snob” or something. Because they don’t know how old those pants are that I’m wearing, or the fact that I have only been washing them in cold, hanging them to dry since I bought them 10 years ago and haven’t needed to buy a new pair since! And if you add up cost-per-wear on a pair of pants that you’ve been wearing to teach and practice in, plus wear as maternity pants twice for 9 months, in the past 10 years, it actually doesn’t end up being expensive at all!! I appreciate all the people who buy their stuff at cheaper stores and 2nd hand (I buy lots of “regular” clothes 2nd hand too), but just cause someone wears Lulu doesn’t mean that they are spending boatloads of cash on yoga clothing. They could just have a few pairs on rotation like me, that they will most likely still be wearing 10 years from now!!

    That sad, I do appreciate the idea of this article and agree with all other points! 🙂

    • shannon

      Nearly everyone I know wears lulu clothing, if not all the time, then a good amount.
      I believe that spending more for quality is a worthwhile investment- cheaper clothing doesn’t last, often doesn’t fit well.
      Having said this, I will not buy lulu stuff. It bugs the you know what out of me that this major yoga clothing co. charges a ridiculous amount of money for clothes and makes no effort whatsoever to green up- even a token gesture! Make your freakin pants in the US! Use some organic cotton! At least this would make the price more tolerable.
      what do I wear you ask? A bunch of stuff but no lulu

  • yes, yes, YES!!! As a student at home i practice in whatever I have to hand that’s comfy – and the last six weeks it’s been PJ’s in the garden at 6am and track pants in the evening. For students, so long as it holds in all the bits that are culturally regarded as needing cover (breasts, testicles tend to also be distracting!) anything goes and yes a couple have found pyjamas just perfect. As a teacher, it’s all about what’s practical, clean and doesn’t distract students from their practice. It’s better for them to consider how to place and spread their feet, not if blue crackle glaze is this week’s top shade…

  • Amy

    All of my favorite yoga clothes double as running clothes and come from such yoga emporiums as Marshalls, Burlington and Ross.

  • I will admit to owning “yoga clothes” but I do find that they’re comfortable to practice in. And I buy mine at Target.

    My biggest gripe is that, yes, it’s all self-expression, but at some point, DO be considerate of others. As a woman who’s fairly “well-endowed” — I actually WISH I could wear some of those lighter tops, but I’m stuck with a good bra and t-shirt.

    However, I was at a workshop where one other woman, as endowed as I am, was in a skimpy cami-type top, and I’m sorry – it’s disrespectful to have your “cups running over” in front of the teacher.

    Just as it is for the guys to be doing yoga in skimpy “show me your stuff” shorts.

    Yoga teaches you to respect your body, but it also teaches you to be respectful of others. I think people need to realize that before they take the “take me as I show up” attitude.

  • Yea and nay! I love fashion, so it does filter down in to my “yoga” style, but the bottom line is I dress for myself. I will wear something I love even if no one else likes it. I regularlly go to to a yoga studio and the gym, so often what I can wear to the gym will translate well for yoga classes and vice veraa. My main intent for choosing what I wear to yoga classes is function. If it looks cute, that just happens to be how I’ve pieced it together because of my love of color. I don’t wear any jewelry other than my wedding set, but if I feel like I need inspiration or reminded of something during my practice, I’ll wear my white lotus flower necklace. It’s a choker on a fabric necklace so it isn’t dangly. I don’t wear anything extraneous.

  • Karen B.

    I taught some community classes at Lululemon in Canada, and scored a few items, and acquired some other tight fitting clothing along the way. I felt that the form fitting stuff helped me as an instructor, demonstrate alignment and the like. If I’m in the baggies, how can they see the twist in my torso or the way my knee aligns over my ankle that I’m trying to explain?

    However the first chance I’d get, when attending a class as a student, I’d eventually gravitate toward the baggiest, rattiest sweatpants and my mighty mouse t-shirt, (with a bra just in case we inverted). Why? I’m not sure. Comfort, I guess. Ultimately I feel more relaxed and fluid, and the asana along with meditation at the end feels more free and soft.

    I’m decidedly unfashionable and can feel pretty uncomfortable in a studio that is all judgey about this kind of thing. A fellow teacher told me about a CT class she subbed for, in her sweats and random t-shirt, and no one believed she was the teacher. All the students in their lulus looking at her like she couldn’t possibly be the real teacher because of what she was wearing. Yoinks!

  • I started with Sivananda in 1989, long before the hot-yoga-for-your-tight-butt craze. The guidance I got during my first classes from Swami Rama was an intense questioning about the intention I was setting by wearing black punk rock t-shirts to class. He pointed out that colors have energy, and images on shirts affect me, my practice, and the other students, either positively or negatively.

    At that time, there was no thought whatsoever of wearing a yoga thong or tight lycra pants, since that was a bit in the realm of the 70s aerobic scene, and we were NOT trying for that “Let’s Get Physical” look when coming to yoga class at that time.

    Even now, the yoga merch you are likely to find for sale at one of these centers consists of white drawstring cotton pants and baggy t-shirts in yellow. Sometimes, you might find shirts with images of the names of chakras in Sanskrit and the colors associated with them—if you are working on that energy in your practice.

    The idea of ahimsa is very important, and should not be forgotten. This is non-violence, but also non-competition—with yourself, as in comparing your practice today with your practice from last week or 20 years ago; as well as between yourself and others, as in Gosh, she’s more flexible than I am, or her ass is tighter or his abs are intimidating…

    Whereas the sleek yoga wear can be helpful in some ways to support the practice, it is important not to be distracted into useless internal criticism, comparisons, anxiety about not being able to afford/or fit into such gear.

    If your yoga community is pushing such spiritual or physical competition, don’t get pulled in. It’s a challenge to stay peaceful and non-violent in the face of fine lycra trousers! But try, my beautiful friends, you must try!

  • josh

    It’s all about preference. Some people get motivated to do yoga when they are all dressed up. To each his own. If you have the money to splurge, then go ahead.. at least you give “ahimsa” to the dying economy.. If you are a mom on a budget.. stick to whatever you have… after all yoga is not about what you wear.

  • dan

    dress for peace

  • Unless those kitten PJ’s were tights & a tank top that would just drive me crazy in the Primary Series! I don’t care what people wear to class as long as their stuff’s not hanging out. If I’m practicing I’m not looking anyway! If it makes people feel good to dress a certain way or put make up on then why should I knock it? As a woman I try to empower other women not continue to make fun of or criticize them. We’ve had enough of that throughout the years.
    I wear anything from expensive yoga clothes that I have purchased to high performance gear I have gotten from sponsorships like Athleta. Some of my faves even come from places like K-mart and Target. Just get on the mat and worry about your own practice…actually don’t worry about it, just do it!

  • Jessica Powers

    It wasn’t long after I began practicing yoga that I started looking for locally made clothing and items that were made with organic material. I bought a good number of things over the years when I came across it, especially as an instructor, and the bulk of the organic pieces are still going strong, while the conventional fabric stuff has slowly fallen apart. I’ve always used yoga pants as pyjamas so never have an issue with it going the other way. Disposable clothing like many big box stores offer has always left me with a bad taste – it may be $20 up front, but the cost to the environment and the workers is exponentially higher and I don’t want to pay it.

  • Some of the yoga clothes people buy come with a high price tag because it is made in the USA like Electric Yoga or American Apparel, and if you buy these from your studio it helps your studio keep its doors open, retail is necessary for a yoga studio to survive. Stains on your shirt is up to you, if you feel comfortable in that and you feel its a representation of yourself, well get it girl. Work it. Manicures and Pedicures are not a luxury but a necessity like brushing your teeth or brushing your hair.

  • RecycleYogi

    This is all so interesting! Maybe it’s a city thing? When I practiced in a small town for 6 years, I hardly remember anybody wearing “yoga clothes”. When I moved to the city, everyone in yoga class is in “yoga clothes”. After 3 years in the city, I decided to try a tighter pair of yoga trendy pants and I frankly don’t like them. The sensation of the poses are completely different when wearing plastic wrap tight pants vs. baggier “track pants”. My ability to do poses doesn’t depend on what I wear. For me, I’ll take the baggier pants so my prana can flow and not be constricted by the tight pants of commercialism.

  • I have a little something to add to an already diverse conversation. I have thought quite a bit about yoga accessibility and certain cultural and demographic barriers that keep people who could really benefit from yoga from beginning a practice. I teach in a lot of different environments, some of which are lower income settings. I think its important for me as a teacher not to perpetuate the image that yoga looks a certain way, or is dependent on a certain type of clothing. It is a subtle detail that dissolves superficial, yet significant predisposed ideas about who does yoga and who doesn’t. In $15 drop-in studios, I still abide by my own ‘no name brand’ clothing rule. I like to be self-expressive in what I wear, encourage the same, counter the consumer market of yoga, and hopefully help people with budgets stick to them. I want my class to be a sanctuary from ‘what not to wear’, something people spend a lot of time thinking about. $90 for a pair of yoga pants that last 7 years is a great investment…. if you have the change in the first place. Let’s remember that there are A LOT of people out there who really can’t fathom spending that percentage of income on a pair of pants to wear to a class once or twice a week.

  • V

    Cassie buying workout clothes at the Goodwill can be a little risky. Sweating in clothing that has been previously worn by someone else who you don’t know can have tragic consequences. MRSA is on the rise and there is no way to know if the owner had the bug. Then there are the skin cells and other nasty little things that rub off on clothing and become trapped in the textile fibers. Ewww. Then theres social responsibility Goodwill has been criticized for its labor practices and accounting. The only person benefiting from Goodwill An American multi-national corporation, which accepts millions of dollars in government funds, pays its top executives more than half a million dollars per year in total compensation, while simultaneously paying some of its employees less than the federal minimum wage.

    Some employees earn just 22 cents per hour.

    And the entire racket is perfectly legal thanks to a Depression-era loophole in federal labor law. Is now a good time to mention that this corporation also doesn’t pay any taxes?

    “Goodwill Industries is one of the most well-known charitable organizations in the United States, but most members of the general public are unaware that Goodwill exploits people with disabilities,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, which has organized a nationwide protest of offending Goodwill organizations. “We are conducting informational protests to make the public aware of this practice that, although sadly still legal, is unfair, discriminatory, and immoral.”

    That the workers are people with disabilities only serves to make this labor exploitation worse. Individuals that are most in need of legal protection from employment abuse are being mistreated by a nonprofit organization that claims its mission is to serve the disabled and disadvantaged.

    Under Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, employers can apply for a special wage certificate that allows them to hire people with disabilities at a subminimum wage. Nationally, more than 300,000 workers are subjected to the law. Goodwill uses the special minimum wage exemption to take advantage of 7,300 of its 105,000 employees.

    Brad Turner-Little, Director of Mission Strategy at Goodwill International, Inc., defended the practice as one of Goodwill’s “tools” to help the disabled.

    “With 80 percent of working age adults with disabilities in our country not participating in the workforce currently, we believe that it’s important to explore more types of opportunities,” Turner-Little told me. “The special minimum wage certificate is a tool to create employment for people with disabilities. It’s not the only tool.”

    Goodwill has repeatedly said, “Without the law, many people with disabilities could lose their jobs.” The nonprofit emphasizes that these are “employees whose disability significantly impairs their productivity.” Why are the disabled singled out with the most rigid productivity assessments? After all, the federal minimum wage protections that you and I receive aren’t tied to our productivity.

    “Subminimum wage, as enforced by Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, is wrong because it creates a double standard for how employees, particularly employees with disabilities, should be paid, by offering ‘special wage certificates,'” points out Andy Voss, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network of Sacramento, which organized a protest outside of a Sacramento Goodwill store in August (pictured below). “It is appalling that organizations that purport to assist workers with disabilities in job training, would hold them back by circumventing the standard of living that minimum wage provides other American workers.”

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