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How did yoga clothing become what it is?

Although yoga clothing has become more of a leisurely attire for everyday wear, its design is purposeful, and the journey for it to get there is quite impressive. 

Yoga clothing began as a kind of underwear cloth wrap when only men were practising. Requiring a skilful hand, a cloth was wrapped just around the waist area to allow for maximum movability. This was eventually modernized by Iyengar into what was known as ‘yoga bloomers’, a wide-legged short style worn with a t-shirt. 

Also popular around this time was baggy, white cotton yoga suits which were very modest and great for seated poses, but lacked proper mobility for more acrobatic poses. The full-body look was about the only part of this trend that retained traction. From leotard over tights looks popular in the 1980s to ‘yogatards’ or full-body, attached yoga pant/tank top look, people liked a cohesive look. The issue of having to take it entirely off to use the restroom brought us to current trends of separate, tight tops and bottoms. 

The tight nature of yoga clothes is not just a trend but actually has a purpose. The design of tight yoga clothing emerged after Iyengar yoga instructors popularised tighter pants to understand what the person’s joints were doing in each movement. The baggier style of early yoga clothes made it difficult to ensure people were doing yoga properly and not endangering themselves. 

Although athleisure is moving away from a tighter look to track pants and baggier jogger style sweats and sweatshirts, the usefulness of fitted attire in yoga practice means yoga pants aren’t going anywhere.

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