Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What to Wear for Yoga

Yoga costume, 1931 
Back in the dark ages, when Field and I started practicing yoga, what we first referred to as "sticky" mats hadn't been invented yet. It was the early 1970s. We took turns practicing on a folded Pendleton stadium blanket, which we still have. His mom, Nancy bought us a second blanket when she heard there was conversation over who would get the treasured thing if we were ever to split up. 

No sticky yoga mats. No belts, blocks, or straps. And no special yoga clothes.

It was the West coast. We were not practicing Bikram, so we didn't wear bathing suits, as they did back then. We both wore pretty much the same typical yogi attire: white linen or cotton drawstring pants and a cotton T-shirt or tank top. The pants had to be white. I got pretty good at whipping out a pair in about an hour on my old Sears portable machine. Eventually, as yoga stylin' evolved, some yoginis would wear a dance leotard with the prescribed white drawstring yoga pants. Our teacher, Joel Kramer wore a speedo bathing suit.  No kidding.

By the time we moved back to Michigan in 1978, the yoga pants might be shucked in favor of just the leotard. Bare legs. Not that half of us cared back then, but the bare legs and generous leg openings of the leotards was a bit of a modesty problem with seated split-legged poses. This was a whole different scene than the other side of the Mississippi. In Detroit, women were wearing matching latex tights and leotards of shiny fabric, often in animal prints like leopard and tiger. And lots of jewelry, makeup, and styled hair. I felt like a real hippie. 

The men were still wearing the white drawstring yoga pants, but we began to see shorts and even bathing trunks show up. A little company saw the need in the Ann Arbor Iyengar community and started producing a yoga short for men and women. The item, cut for modesty, was called the same as the company, "Hugger Mugger," which means “a well-kept secret.” Hugger Mugger is still in business, but I don't know if they still sell the shorts. I preferred Hugger-Muggers to the long pants because the position of the knees could now be visible to the teacher without having to roll up the pants. 

Around this time the dance-wear industry started producing leotards and body suits for yoga practice. I still like the look and convenience of a one-piece, but it's a hassle when you have to go to the bathroom. And I remember these could be pretty silly- with puffy little sleeves and belts, bows, and decorative pretend buttons. Oh, my. 

In the late 80s the industry Got Smart and things started to get much more sophisticated, fun and street-worthy. The universal uniform that has taken over the ubiquitous jeans scene around the planet – black yoga pants and a top of your choice. Anything goes. All you may need is a little jacket or swingy mini over your standard black stretchy pants and you are moving from studio floor to desk to dance floor with only a change of shoes. 

What a great time we live in.

Modeled by Marguerite Agniel in The Art of the Body
Harcourt, Brace and Co., NY, 1931