"What do I wear to yoga class?" Believe it or not this is one of the most frequent questions I get asked by new and continuing students.
In the days before yoga reached it's epic popularity, sweats and a t-shirt would suffice. Now, it seems there are plenty of clothing choices and just about every shop from Target to REI has it's own yoga-wear line.
As a teacher, I've tried just about every brand and I definitely have my favorites. You might be surprised to learn that they aren't always the most expensive ones. I will say that because I'm in my clothes all day, the cheaper brands often wear-out too quickly, so it's often worth it for me to pay a bit more up front for clothing that lasts. However, my needs are different from the average student so I often recommend the more affordable brands first such as Target or Old Navy because they're comparable to the more expensive ones.
For beginners, sweats and a t-shirt still suffice. It's better to wear what you already have in your closet before you decided to "invest" in yoga clothes. One; because you aren't sure if you are going to stick with yoga long enough to need new clothes and two; because you don't know what kind of clothes you will need. You may be the kind of person who runs cold and needs long-sleeves and long pants or you might run warm and want a tank-top and shorts.
Material matters. There are certain types of fabric that are too slippery such as nylon and can make poses like tree much more challenging. Some people find synthetic fabric too constricting while other people don't like the bagginess of cotton. Comfort is the main consideation when it comes to yoga clothes.
Coverage also matters. Please, no running shorts or super low cut tops. As a teacher I often get an eye-full of what I don't want to see when students choose to wear such clothes. That said, you might be more modest and would prefer to have a longer shirt so that it doesn't ride up when you bend over or are in child's pose. The cut of your pants might also matter for the same reason. Low-rise yoga pants may look cute but they tend to slide down in back and can leave you feeling exposed. You don't want to spend your entire class time pulling up your pants and worrying what the person behind you is seeing.
More experienced students often ask me if those expensive lines of clothing are really worth it. The answer is it depends. How often do you plan to wear your clothes? Are you hard on your clothes? Is it hard to find your size in the less expensive brands? What do you plan to get out of your clothes? If you just want to look "yoga like" then the more expensive ones aren't worth it. It doesn't matter how exclusive your clothes if you still struggle with your poses, you won't look like a yoga expert. And no, those $100 pants won't make down-ward dog easier.
If you do decide you need a higher quality of clothing brand, I recommend checking off-price stores such as TJ Maxx or Ross first as often they carry such brands on closeout. They also carry mats and props too for less than what you will find in most stores. You may have to hunt around a bit but the point isn't to go broke buying your accessories however needed they may be. If you spend all your money on clothes and can't afford class, what good are your clothes going to do you hanging in the closet?
Speaking of mats, this is another topic I'm frequently asked about. Many students want to know what mat they should buy. Again this depends on your needs. For some students, one mat is as good as the next and another student may have to try five before she finds the right one.
I don't have a particular brand of mat I'm in love with so best advice I can give you is to find one with the right length, padding and stickiness for you. Don't worry about color or design. A pretty mat won't help you much if you're slidding on it or constantly stepping off the back of it.
As with clothes, expensive isn't necessarily better. I still have my very first mat and it's still in good condition. (Before that I had a beach towel. Yoga mats weren't as ubiquious when I first began practicing.) I chose to up-grade to a mat with more padding and a stickier surface because of the number of classes I was teaching. For me the expense was worth it since I'm on it several times a day.
One thing I will say is to be aware of the eco-friendly rubber mats. A few years ago research was released stating that the PVC in most yoga mats creates harmful pollution. I am all for keeping the environment free of toxins but many of the rubber mats fall apart quickly and leave behind debris. Several companies make yute mats which are eco-friendly and don't fall apart. There are also cloth mats.
To avoid waste, save your old mat for padding under your new one; use it in the car as a non-skid surface for your groceries or you can donate it to charitable organizations with yoga programs.