The popularity of yoga in Western countries such as the United States and Canada is relatively new. However, it is important to recognize that while yoga is new to the West, it originated in the East and has been practiced there for centuries. One of the biggest draws of yoga is that it has hundreds of years of widespread cultural use to prove its benefits. As modern yogis, we must acknowledge, be grateful for, and get in touch with the culture that has taught us so much about mindfulness and physicality. Here is one lesson about yoga apparel we can learn from the place where yoga originated.
In the United States, yoga fashion often focuses on clothing that hugs the body. So Western yogis may be surprised to learn that in India, the birthplace of yoga, yogis typically wear loose, breathable apparel. This difference between worlds has a lot to do with other cultural factors, but there are a few reasons why looser clothing may be the way to go. First, yoga is all about the breath. It’s about loosening the muscles, relaxing, and deepening our breathing patterns. Loose yoga clothing, such as wide legged, cotton pants and wraps allow our bodies to move in all sorts of ways without tension or restriction. Leggings or tops that are too tight may be constricting you in ways you aren’t even aware of.
There is also a beautiful aesthetic that comes along with looser yoga apparel. Watching a class of yogis glide into half-moon pose is truly an artistic sight, especially when the practitioners are draped in colorful fabrics. Practicing outside, these looser fabrics move with the wind, offering sensations that serve to focus the mind. Finally, it makes perfect sense that the culture and people who introduced the gift of yoga into the world have the deepest understanding of it. In the West, we often get sidetracked by ideas that yoga is primarily for weight loss or for obtaining a perfect body.
In reality, yoga goes much deeper. It is the path to mindfulness and spiritual connection between the mind and the body as much as it is a physical exercise. We would do well to get in touch with this rich history and culture, as it can deepen our practices in untold ways. Ultimately, your practice can serve you whether you wear loose or tight-fitting clothing. But learning about where yoga came from and the culture that still practices it today (in very different ways than we do) is both necessary and beneficial for serious practitioners.
If you take the time to learn about where this form of exercise comes from, you may be surprised at the ways your practice takes flight. More than tightening your belly or improving digestion, yoga can be a lifestyle that teaches you about yourself in the most spiritual way.