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7 Rules: what to wear to yoga

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The first time my wife and I did yoga, the suggestions we received for our yoga apparel were pretty vague – “wear something loose and comfortable”. Through experience, we learned that dressing for yoga is a little more complex than this, and just like any other physically demanding activity, the right workout gear makes a huge difference. It’s not just about you, either. The right clothes help your instructor and give consideration to others – yes, even yogis can stink and the ol’ boob popping out gets a bit old after a while!

Dom Cadden

Here are seven rules of yoga clothing, from top to toe.

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RULE 1: TAME YOUR TOP

“Comfortable” doesn’t have to mean loose. Loose tops and T-shirts will just end up falling over your head and exposing your tummy every time you go to downward dog or a headstand. Tops shouldn’t be too low cut, either – things are going to fall down or even fall up whenever you twist, bend backward or turn upside-down. Opt for long, fitted tops that stay put and keep you covered no matter what you do. This also helps the instructor see what’s going on with your core and body alignment. This is where a compression tank top can help, especially for women – not just to stop things rolling about, it’s more for them heightened body awareness for core-focused workouts that comes when you have a top that’s giving you a squeeze.

Finally, play it safe and stick to dark colours, especially if you get pretty sweaty – after all, it’s yoga, not a wet T-shirt contest.

RULE 2: HAVE THE RIGHT BRA

Guys – you can skip this. Yoga can be alienating enough without the added creepiness of guys in bras.

For the women, don’t be fooled into thinking that just because yoga is ‘low impact’ you can wear any old bra. With all the stretching and extending, you’ll soon regret anything with wire in it and you’ll be thankful for the way the extra coverage a sport bra gives when your ladies are tipped every which way. It’s also important to have a bra with moisture management and abrasion resistance to avoid any nasty chafing. This all applies double for Bikram or Hot yoga!

RULE 3: LET IT BREATHE

Yoga has a big emphasis on correct breathing – and that should apply not just to your lungs, but your skin, too. People not familiar with yoga often think that the lack of action means a lack of exertion. That’s not the case, as there is a lot of isometric effort – yep, yogis sweat. You want to wear thin fabrics that will not bunch up or retain moisture, but instead they “breathe” or wick sweat away from the body. Many sports performance tops breathe well these days, but look for ones that are also soft against the skin and provide antibacterial protection – your camel pose should not actually smell like camel.

NB: Nude yoga

Take the time to think this through, especially if you have light-coloured carpet.
It’s usually best to be exposed in positions like these only under the supervision of a gynaecologist, urologist or proctologist. You’d be amazed how many unwanted suppositories you can pick up in some of these floor poses.

RULE 4: AIR DOWN THERE

The breathability factor should carry through to your most private parts. Cotton is not the best choice for undies – sure, it breathes, but it also gets heavy when wet and doesn’t dry quickly. The last thing you want to be thinking about when spreading your legs wide or sticking your leg up in the air is whether you’re making sweat shadow puppets with your stuff ‘n’ junk. Opt for some moisture-wicking briefs or trunks (best option to reduce chafing), and while we’re down here, avoid light-coloured bottoms and pants or shorts that are thinning in the crotch. Give anything lycra an over-the-shoulder check in the mirror under a bright light. People get bored in those long poses, you don’t want them taking bets on what position your tights will split in (not that I have done this. Much.)

RULE 5: YOGA PANTS

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Yoga pants are tricky. Loose shorts should be avoided (especially by guys!) For similar reasons you’d avoid loose tops, plus even short shorts will tend to bunch up when you move, leaving you tugging them down every five minutes. However, bike shorts are a good option if you are doing Bikram yoga or sweating a lot. Long pants can be snug, but they should be able to stretch – try some lunges or stretches in the dressing room to make sure you have a full range of motion. Compression tights have the advantage that they will help your body awareness so you hold your positions better. If you’re worried about being too cold, opt for a form-fitting track pant. Avoid any type of bottom that has a bulky drawstring at the waist because the knot will be a pain when you lie face-down. Also remember that you will be barefoot during the class, so you have to be careful that your pants aren’t so long that they trip you up. Three-quarter form-fitting pants are a good option.

RULE 6: LAYER UP

It can take a while to warm up in yoga, especially in cooler weather, so it’s good to wear thin layers that are easy to shed. Layers will help raise your core temperature raising core temperature and loosen muscles, then prevent chills during the final relaxation phase of the class.

RULE 7: CARE FOR YOUR CALVES

Shoes and socks are usually discouraged for yoga as they interfere with the foot’s grip on the yoga mat. However, if you get cold in your lower legs or you’re prone to calf cramps or soreness, you can wear compression calf sleeves, which will help with both issues. These go all the way to the ankle but leave your feet free to move with full flexibility.

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