Dressing Up Your Practice: What Not to Wear to a Yoga Class

Yes, true yoga doesn’t care about what you wear to class.  In fact, it is not uncommon to see photos of Gurus sitting around in loincloth type things, but sometimes I do think about clothes and fashion.  It’s difficult not to when you’re trying to balance in dancer’s pose and right there, in your line of vision is someone’s bits hanging out of their tiny yoga pants.  Sure it’s not supposed to matter and it’s all about focusing on the self, but we’re all (well I am) only human, and even though you’re comfortable with your bits hanging out, other people in the class might not be.  And let’s be honest, sometimes, it can get intimate enough without throwing nudity in there too.

K.Pattabhi Jois - yes he's wearing a loincloth, but there is decent coverage

K.Pattabhi Jois – yes he’s wearing a loincloth, but there is decent coverage

So here are some tips because believe me, I’ve seen a lot in a yoga class, and I mean a lot!

Ladies

Check your crotch…  Those leggings you wear under your dress might not work in a yoga situation as they get rather thin around the crotch when you stretch. Believe me, when you go into happy baby, or standing forward fold, people can tell the colour of your undies, the style and even if you’re not wearing any.  Tip – patterned pants are actually better at hiding unnecessary sights.

No!!!!

No!!!!

Loose is not always best…  Sure, it’s healthy to let things down there breathe once in a while, but perhaps try sitting in baddhakonasana in front of a mirror and you’ll see what others can see when you’re lying there in supta baddhakonasana.

A sports bra is a good idea… This is personal experience which is embarrassing but I’m willing to sacrifice my dignity so it doesn’t happen to anyone else. In my early days practicing, I would do so in a tank top and a bra. I mean, this is yoga right? And I’m not dangerously massive in the boobage department so what could go wrong right? Well, wrong.  I went into a downward facing dog, and peekaboo, a whole boob had decided to breathe itself out.  Needless to say, I always, always make sure things are properly tucked in now.

Size matters… Even in yoga there we do tend to compare ourselves with the tiny person in the class, but there is no point getting a top which is a size smaller if you end up not being able to breathe.  It is actually stressful enough with the heat and trying to keep up with the poses, and not being able to breathe properly actually will affect your practice. Nobody knows what size your top is apart from you and the sales person. And that hot yogadude?  Well, he’s into acceptance.  If he can calmly sit in a class where girls are regularly breaking down in tears, the size of your clothes won’t matter.

No!!!!

No!!!!

Guys

Save ‘hanging out’ for other times…  Please, stay clear of the loose floaty shorts.  You can wear them to basketball if you enjoy a bit of bounce, but not to yoga.  And for the love of God, please don’t ever wear them to class without underwear.  When people stand behind you in airplane, they see the entire lay of the land, and don’t even think of supta baddhakonasana! Sometimes the heat and general lethargy makes it really hard to concentrate as it is, and seeing things we shouldn’t really doesn’t help.

People know you want to keep things in place but… sometimes your pants are too tight.  Yes, you are God’s miracle and we know it, we just don’t need to be reminded of it in every bridge, wheel, camel and reclining hero.

Those tiny Bikram pants or budgie smugglers… Might be great in 40 degree heat, but they don’t exactly stay in place when you’re in poses like Natarajasana.  Nuff said.

Hell no!!!!!

Hell no!!!!!

If you still love your tiny pants and don’t want to give them up, then maybe a G-string or a thong?  Just something to hold the bits in place, for the sake of the person who is having a hard enough time as it is trying to centre and balance.

Taking your tops off is fine in most cases but maybe might be overkill in a yin or meditation class. Again, we know you are God’s beautiful miracle, but perhaps allow for the opportunity to connect with God (or any higher power) instead of your gorgeous chaturanga pecs in the slower classes? Most of the people who come in are just starting to work into this area and believe me, starting a meditation practice is hard enough without the distraction of your beauty.

Guys and girls

The colour of what you wear says a lot… especially if it’s a heated class where you’re sweating.  Believe me, it tells people almost everything.  As a friend of mine said, “are you trying to say white and sweat don’t mix- or in actual fact they do a little too well and transparency follows- so it might be a shade to avoid?”

I love yoga a lot more than I love fashion but the thing about yoga becoming more and more popular is that there are more and more things available for various yoga practices.  Although it’s not about brands, the availability of them does make it easier for us modern day yogis and yoginis.  Brands like Lululemon Athletica (apart from that one see thru fiasco), Onzie, Lorna Jane, Liquido Active and so many more make clothes to keep the important bits covered so that you can practice comfortably.  Even your trusty trackies will work as long as you’re comfortable and things are held in place.  The important thing is to choose what you’re wearing based on what you’re practicing be it a strong flowing practice in a heated room or a more static practice.

If you have anything to add to this list, please do so in the comments box. 

And check out some of these amazing teachers, they’re dressed 🙂

Bryan Kest

Bryan Kest

Baron Baptiste - yes!

Baron Baptiste – yes!

Shiva Rea - Yes

Shiva Rea – Yes

Edits by the Shunti Sisters

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The Power of the Symbolic Act

As I reach my 33rd year, and with this new moon in Aries, I am thinking a lot about new beginnings.

Something shifted this year. An old life ended, and a new one is just beginning. Bhairava https://azphoenix.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/the-terror-of-my-own-universe/ has been my companion for a while. What I feel is akin to falling in love – my heart is ready to float out of my chest into the unknown, but I am terrified. What was before was familiar, but what is coming is unchartered territory. I can’t go back. I’ve been pushed out of a door that shut and bolted itself right behind me, and strangely all I can think of is my hair.

Why do you wear your hair the way you do? It is part of your identity, the person you want to show the world. A good hair day makes you feel good and a bad one can sometimes stop you from stepping out of the house. Women through history have perfumed their hair on special occasions. Even Muslim women who wear the head cover pays attention to her hair, brushing it until it shines. A successful courtesan tends to her hair painstakingly. When a Hasidic Jewish woman gets married she either shaves off all her hair or wears it very short under a wig. When a person completes the Islamic Haj, he or she is required to cut off a bit of hair to signify a new beginning. The power of symbolism is that one simple act can signify a million different things to different people.

Sometimes it’s not about the hair at all. It is an act that signifies something greater.

And there is something romantic, beautiful and strong about this kind of symbolic act.

Symbolism through history has had a strong impact. It is the ring on a finger, the burning of old love letters, the tombstone for a person whose body was lost at sea, the solidarity of standing silently in protest. After intentions are made, a symbolic act gives something just that much more strength. Like Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram instead of his son, a symbolic act can be an act of devotion, of surrender.

The practice of yoga, is amazing for the physical body but it also feeds our souls with posture that signify more than the obvious. There is mountain pose symbolizing the balance of Ardhanaishvara even without perfect symmetry. There is Hanuman Asana, signifying the devotion of the Monkey God as he leaped to Sri Lanka to rescue the beautiful Sita. In Natarajasana, there the peace and balance of Lord Shiva in the face of destruction. Then there is Shavasana, corpse pose, signifying that all things must end. And of course there are the mudras, each a symbol of the intention.

So based on all this, this year, I feel like something symbolic is needed, so I did something terrifying.

I chopped off all my hair.

The process :-)

The process 🙂

The last time I did this I was 19 and fearless. At that age, I fell hard and fast, mourned deeply and then would do it all over again the next week. I didn’t worry if any man would find my short hair attractive and if I didn’t have dates, then I would find something else to do (getting caught smoking by the campus guard and running because we thought it was a ghost perhaps?). We did stupid things, and then we laughed about them. Life was simpler, and so was I.

Without my mane, I feel a bit exposed, vulnerable. A lot more visible are the wrinkles, the dark circles, the freckles that I’ve just recently stopped trying to cover with makeup. More than that, every emotion I feel seen through eyes that can’t be hidden with a flip of the hair. In cutting it all off, I am allowing myself to be vulnerable.

So this is my act of surrender along with an intention to let go of the past and a prayer for the future. This is my goodbye, hello, sacrifice, gratitude, asking for blessing, forgiving and asking for forgiveness, letting go of love and inviting love in, shedding old skin so that a new one can take shape. This is me allowing myself to stop waiting for my father to come home.  This is one book closing so that a new chapter can begin.

IMG_2525

A symbolic act need not be great. It doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone but you. It can be as simple as a new journal or as complicated as a move to a different country. It can be laying your forehead down on the mat in surrender, or holding your hands in a mudra. What matters most is the intention behind it. It is your journey, your choice, your story. Doing something symbolic is, in itself, a form of therapy.

What symbolic acts would you like to bring in to your life, your practice, and perhaps to seal your intentions?