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What Not to Wear to Yoga

Want to fit in with the yoga crowd while fitting into your clothes better? Start your journey with exactly what not to wear to your friendly neighborhood yoga studio. Then, learn just what works for the most popular yoga disciplines. Check out the whole story now!

Man in his active wear biting his nails and holding a yoga mat.

With all the things yoga instructors teach about breathing, being one-with-your-body, and feeling the flow, you’d think that occasionally there might be a few words of wisdom about what not to wear to class.

Yoga has brought me inner peace while searching for the perfect mindful exercise. I’ve come to expect a good deal of stretching, some pulling in of the tummy, and plenty of sweat working its way across every part of my body. And that’s just getting my outfit on. The actual classes are even tougher.

I’m not ashamed to admit that when I started practicing yoga, I was a little intimidated by the teachers. And by the serious, sculpted bodies posing around me. And, well, by what to wear. I mean, I know what yoga teaches and how movement and form shape your mind and your body, especially when the classroom is hot. But what to wear?

Clothes and Accessories to Avoid at Yoga

You’ll want to be comfortable in class, but what makes sense for a day in the park won’t necessarily be right for yoga. Follow my advice and your days in a yoga class will be spectacular!

Socks and Shoes

Take your shoes or sandals off before you enter your classroom. It helps keep dirt out and prepares you to stretch. Even if you’re foot-shy because of a little foot fungus or a bunion, your stability and the arches of your feet will be better off.

Socks can be slippery and cumbersome as they sweat through against your yoga mat. I advise against them, but if you have an injury or are self-conscience, at least get non-slip socks with the thin coating of rubber. Those with the toes exposed are nice.

Jewelry

Woman doing a plank pose with her bracelets on.

I have seen many leather bracelets and anklets in the studio, but you’ll want to avoid most jewelry, especially metal. Rings can easily slip off as your body perspires, and when your body heats up and the blood flows under the strain of your workout, you’ll find your once comfortable rings can become dangerously tight around your fingers and toes.

Necklaces are likely to be twisted and pulled to the breaking point in some poses, and when you are upside down, they will fall in your face and need to be constantly adjusted.

Lacy Underwear

Underneath it all, don’t wear anything with zippers. For you ladies, you’ll also want to avoid lacy undies. Yes, they’ll be comfortable in the beginning, and they are breathable, but they also have extra stitching in areas you won’t want rubbed raw. You do have the option of going commando if you prefer. Things are different for you guys.

To start with, please don’t wear loose fabric shorts and briefs. You don’t want things slipping and sliding to the point where there is exposure. And, a jockstrap is likely to rub you the wrong way and need adjustment after every new pose.

Hats

Sure, some people wear baseball caps to yoga, and it’s a quick fix on a bad hair day to pull a ponytail through the back, but again, I’d pass.

Humans transfer heat through the top of their heads, especially during exercise, and you don’t want that heat exchange impeded. Also, the rim of the cap may restrict blood flow leaving you lightheaded and can lead to headaches.

Jeans

Woman practicing yoga in ripped jeans.

As comfortable as jeans are around town, they don’t work for yoga. They won’t stretch, and the material isn’t moisture-wicking. That means they will absorb your sweat and weigh you down. Heavy material will leave your skin wet and can lead to rashes.

Standard Bras

Yes, your regular bra is comfortable around the house, and that thin, sexy one is nice too. But any bra with underwire or snaps and hooks should be avoided. They can poke you during poses and won’t support your chest the way you want. Regular bras are also likely too revealing to the point of total exposure during many yoga poses.

Dresses

Aside from tennis outfits that look like short dresses, no exercises work well in a skirt. Yoga in a dress would be the worst. Spread legs, upside-down poses, and long stretches are hardly conducive to wearing a dress. Hard pass.

Tee Shirts

Woman doing a cobra yoga pose in her tee shirt.

Tee shirts are a poor choice for yoga. You’ll see them on men and women, but tee shirts and loose tank tops are revealing, especially when they land around your neck in a down dog pose or over your eyes when upside down. The short material around the shoulder also makes stretching painful.

Thick Fabrics

Heavy, thick garments are tight and don’t wick moisture. They are also likely to be non-stretchy and thus prone to ripping during a heavy stretch. You’ll want to avoid that at all costs.

Perfume and Heavy Fragrances

Don’t wear fragrances and perfumes to yoga class. They’ll do more than jam your chakras; they’ll jam your classmates thinking and olfactory senses. Heavy shampoos and conditioners can also ignite a fire of smells when you perspire.

Under the Yoga Mat

Yogis standing against a white brick wall.

If you haven’t had a chance to try yoga, there’s no need to be intimidated. You’ll find classes at the local “Y” (YMCA as well as YWCA), social clubs, recreation centers, and in so many strip malls and shopping centers, you’d think the whole world wanted to get their innards cooking and sweat-out their troubles. Everything from 30-minute sets to two hours, and from beginner to expert.

Yoga doesn’t have to be spiritual and transcendent, but that’s how it seems to have started at least 2500 years ago. Yes, you read that right. Yoga gurus have been teaching commoners like us to sweat for a living for a very long time. That’s a good thing, and not meant to be insulant or condescending.

For many practitioners, the goal brought through yoga is liberation, or perhaps pure awareness. Others believe the practice of yoga is a disciplined system for attaining a goal through controlling the mind and body via the physical demands of body postures. At the core is a meditative and spiritual awakening that transcends earthly desires. Still, others think the main goal of yoga is to wear the latest cool stretch pants. It’s a razor’s edge.

If some of those descriptions and definitions sound complicated, they aren’t. They are, however, quite varied, and represent only a few of the many definitions that have grown like beautiful wildflowers across nations over the years. And, they are also like the multitude of forms of yoga practiced around the world.

Regardless of which style of yoga studio you’ve found just around the corner from your house, you’ll get a good stretch, and your happy little heart will start pounding away. But again, unless you are Bradley Cooper of The Hangover fame, you really won’t need to wear sunglasses during your first yoga class. You will, of course, need to try whatever is available nearby or choose a yoga discipline that sounds fun.

Hatha Yoga

Women practicing Hatha yoga.

For many beginners, Hatha yoga is perfect as a gentle style that teaches physical postures. You won’t sweat so much that you’re dripping at the end of thirty minutes or decide that this new/old form of exercise isn’t for you because you’ve developed Charlie horses in a dozen places.

Don’t worry; you’ll soon get a glow and start feeling good about yourself. And skipping shoes and socks means your feet will be in direct contact with the floor or mat to improve the flexibility of some of the most important joints and muscles in your body: those found in your feet.

Bring a nice clean towel and a yoga mat with you. You don’t have to spend more than $20 on a decent mat and it’s a lot nicer to have your own than grabbing one soaked in sweat by another user at your studio!

Vinyasa Yoga

Yogis practicing Vinyasa yoga.

Vinyasa in Sanskrit translates roughly [for yoga] as “placing the body into a special way, or a sequence of poses.” You’ll find this style to be more intense than Hatha, and the transition from one pose to another is as important as the pose itself. The fluid form links each breath to each movement. Sometimes gurus play music in the background.

You may find the best part of Vinyasa yoga is the variety, as classes and poses are closer to freewheeling jazz than the chorus-verse-chorus found in pop music.

Underneath your outfit, ladies may want to go commando or try lululemon or activewear thongs. You don’t want anything that will bunch up and make sure what you wear is moisture-wicking.

For men, stick with shorts with built-in liners or consider tighter underwear like Under Armor boxerjocks under your shorts. Some men also wear biking shorts or lululemon brand with the liner built-in.

Bikram Yoga

Women practicing Bikram yoga.

If you think yoga is hot, then Bikram yoga is for you. This discipline of yoga employs artificially heated rooms to get you lightheaded and sweaty in about 30-seconds. After that, your body starts to adjust. Then, like Ashtanga classes, you’ll follow a regimented series of 26 poses. You’ll want to bring a water bottle.

Above the waist, ladies can try shirts with an attached shelf-bra, but they may not offer the support you want. In that case, a sports bra will be better. They are larger and softer than regular bras and provide great support and are much less revealing. They shouldn’t be too tight and should fit well around your back and shoulders without compressing your breasts uncomfortably.

Yin Yoga

Woman practicing Yin yoga.

You’ll find that Yin yoga employs more passive poses to ease the body into poses. This restorative yoga uses blocks, bolsters, and blankets to prop up body parts and can be a wonderful way to stretch and relax at the same time. And, you’ll be able to do so without exerting as much as you will in other yoga forms.

Shorts (not too short or loose) are good for both men and women, but many ladies enjoy full-length leggings. You men can get away with standard (old daddy) sweatpants if you want.

Kundalini Yoga

Woman practicing Kundalini yoga.

Unlike other more extreme yoga, Kundalini is a fusion of Bhakti, Raja, and Shakti yoga, giving students a wide swath of devotion, mental and physical control, and a breath of energy followed by the power to face all. It’s also translated as “the life force supporting the spine.” That force is a coiled serpent.

Don’t worry; the main idea is to clear the wheels of energy through your chakras. Yes, all seven that run along your spine. And, if you’re lucky, you might free yourself from the effects of Karma.

Kundalini class has a tradition of less extreme clothing and colors. White is calming and easily accepted.

For comfort and versatility, yoga tops should be tight around the chest. Cotton fabrics make them comfortable, even if they are long, fitted tanks. These should stay put no matter what pose you choose. If they don’t, you’ll find them drifting down your mid-drift during down dog and other poses.

Another excellent choice for great support is racerback design sleeveless tops.

For men, fitted tees may be best, but sleeveless fitted shirts are better for ease of movement and to keep your shirt in place.

Ashtanga Yoga

Woman practicing Ashtanga yoga.

While all forms of yoga involve some stretch-to-pose and exercise, Ashtanga yoga synchronizes the breath with a series of poses that help purify the body by detoxifying muscles and organs. Enthusiasts also report that a series of poses produce more heat and internal burning than other yoga forms.

I’m all for burning if it involves calories and my waistline, but the buckets of sweat Ashtanga produces when followed religiously are cumbersome.  Make sure you dress lightly and bring an extra towel and that trusty water bottle.

For ladies’ pants, cropped and full-length leggings are excellent. They should include an elastic band that allows you to bend and pose without slipping from your waist. The leggings will also absorb sweat. Make sure they aren’t too tight; you don’t want the added pressure on your lower stomach.

Conversational Yoga

Woman practicing conversational yoga with goats.

Yoga can be a force in your life, leaving you with much more energy and health than you’ve felt in years. And it should be fun. Don’t wear your judgment on your face when you encounter some different styles and disciplines. Just go with the flow if you can. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy yoga in Tahiti (where I wore sunglasses, sorry) and in other beautiful places.

I’ve also tried yoga on a paddleboard where I fell into an extremely brisk 67-degree Lake Tahoe because my balance isn’t nearly as good as I think it is at times. And I’ve even given a newer fad a try. Goat yoga. If you are wondering, yes, it’s a real thing.

Goat yoga is an easy class with baby goats that run around and jump on your back every time you pose with your back to the sky. It’s cute and fun, just what you’ll be after taking a few yoga classes.

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