Yoga and fitness are the best of buds—hence the third limb of yoga, known as asana or postures.
Yogis keep their physical fitness through various postures ranging from seated stretches, strong standing poses like Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II), balance postures such as Vriksasana (Tree Pose) or Sirsasana (Headstand). These postures not only take physical strength, but balance, proper breathing and calmness of mind. We practice these asanas to ultimately prepare our bodies and mind for the stillness of meditation.
In Western culture, yoga seems to be synonymous with physical postures only. Our obsession as a society with beauty and being thin, drives people to find new ways to stay fit. Heck, I know that’s why I stepped into my first yoga class 14 years ago.
I wanted a more well-rounded fitness regimen, so I thought stretching would balance out weightlifting and cardio—which it does—but that was my sole reason for stepping onto that squishy purple mat.
Fitness Meets Yoga Pants
The fitness clothing industry is booming as girls want to flaunt their toned bods in ultra-tight clothes and guys want to look. Because what is a good workout if you don’t looking good doing it, right?!
The yoga scene is now realizing what happens when style meets the mat. Companies like Victoria’s Secret and Lululemon are making bank off sexy yoga pants. You never know what someone will have on their bums as they bend over in front of you for a wide-legged forward fold—it could be the face of Frodo Baggins.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a yoga pant, legging wearing fool, probably to a fault. Since I travel so much, they are simple the most comfortable thing to wear, as well as lightweight, diverse and easy to clean. This does not mean that these items of clothing are necessarily appropriate for the yoga mat.
There are times where I feel that they may actually go against the teachings of yoga. Take Brahmacharya for example, often times this refers to the reservation of sexual energy. Well when you’re in a co-ed class and have asses in the air and crotches spread open, men are bound to take a peek or ten. Women are voluntarily flashing the parts of their body directly related to sexuality. Think about that next time you are in Malasana (squatting yogi posture).
Yoga Pants Meets Totally Missing the Point
When we really think about it, fitness is only one small aspect of yoga practice as a whole. Our yoga pant obsession is a side effect of our western culture and what we deem as stylish and beautiful.
If we remove the filter of society we will see that yoga is a lovely well-rounded practice challenging the mind and body through personal practice, physical practice, breathing and meditation. This union is the point of yoga and why we keep coming back to our mat. While it may be fun and rewarding to learn a new posture or nail that one pose we have worked on for the past six months, that is not the ultimate goal.
The goal is union, which is what yoga literally means—union of self.
We can all take steps to get real with yoga again, if we start from the beginning. Begin to learn and dabble in the foundations of yoga.
Pick up a copy of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Dedicate one week to each limb of yoga.
Before stepping into a class, review your actual intentions for taking a yoga class. Is it a workout being sought or the lessons of yoga? If you’re like me and want to have the best of both worlds, a consistent yoga practice will help you experience both the benefits of fitness and teachings. Consistent practice naturally generates a fit body along with a calm (or at least calmer) mind.
Lastly, consider ditching the yoga pants and wear looser clothing. See how that feels.
Author: Christina Nichols
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Photo: Author’s Own