athletes · body image · clothing · yoga

In praise of yoga jeans


I admit it. I’ve been a snob about yoga jeans for sometime. But no more.

In the past I’ve thought of them in the category of “jeggings.” Too much stretch to count as real jeans. I’ve been seeing them for sale in yoga studios for years. On the upside, they are made in Canada. On the downside, they cost twice as much as the jeans I regularly wear.

In the absence of a scale, jeans have been the bench mark for whether I’m losing weight, gaining weight, or staying the same size. Stretch defeats that purpose. But I’ve been struggling with jeans, with how clothes fit generally but especially with jeans, since I started cycling more, rowing, weight training, and losing a bit of body fat. My size 14 jeans have been too big for a year, like I can take them off without undoing anything too big. The belt is more than a fashion statement. But each time I go to a conference I pack them thinking I’ll leave them there. (That’s one of the tricks to packing light, disposing of clothes when I travel.) And yet, it seems, I bring them home.

The size 12 jeans–same style, bought a year ago–fit my waist and butt but are too tight over my thighs and calves. I’ve written before about the challenge of finding women’s clothes that fit athletic bodies.

I wear them but they make me feel like I can’t bend, run, or jump.

The added challenge is that I like clothes in which I can move. I don’t want to teach in yoga pants, though I confess I did wear them, sweats, and jammies for much of my last “stay at home” sabbatical.

I was fascinated to read recently about how athletic clothing affects our behavior. See this story on psychology, fashion, and fitness. Does the clothing we wear influence how we act?

According to their 2012 study, the answer is a firm yes. The two researchers coined the term “enclothed cognition” to describe the mental changes that we undergo when we wear certain clothing. Volunteers for the study were either outfitted in a lab coat or given nothing special to wear, and then performed attention-related tasks—at which those wearing lab coats proved significantly more successful.

“It’s all about the symbolic meaning that you associate with a particular item of clothing,” Adam said. And he thinks the study’s results can be applied to many more fields, including activewear and fitness. “I think it would make sense that when you wear athletic clothing, you become more active and more likely to go to the gym and work out.”

So, that’s the case in favour of athletic wear for everyday life. I thought about this recently when I was running to my building from university parking. My decision to run, rather than walk, is prompted by my cold hands. (You can read about my cold hands here.) But it’s made possible by what I wear, in this case comfortable boots and the yoga jeans.

Read more about the yoga jeans here.

Evelyn Reid writes this about them:

Well, they certainly look like jeans. But they feel like pyjamas. And they tuck it in like shapewear. The fabric was soft to the touch, the fit tight yet non-constricting and it smoothed the silhouette with zero flattening action in the rear and — very important — produced no muffin toppage, no visible cut at the waist whatsoever, an overall godsend, figure-wise.

Movement-wise, can a girl do yoga (or, say, competitive gymnastics) in these jeans? HELL YES. I tried it myself. Deep squats, lunges and assorted dance floor affectations were executed with ease. Comfort. I might as well have been wearing a pair of leggings.

Would I have run in a skirt and other boots? Likely not.

So I’ve moved on it seems to the world of yoga jeans. Not quite yoga pants, not yet anyway.

10 thoughts on “In praise of yoga jeans

  1. This is very cool. I have never heard of yoga jeans. I love jeans. They are only second to yoga pants. But I feel hesitant about going out and especially going to work in yoga pants. They seem too casual and sporty. And perhaps too body hugging. But maybe the yoga jeans would be a good alternative. Are they as huggy as yoga pants? Somehow even though my actual jeans are form fitting, the fact that they have pockets over the butt and that the denim is a bit thicker make them feel more appropriate for teaching and work then yoga pants. I think the whole discussion of when it’s okay to wear athletic clothing or active wear is interesting. It used to be a sign of having ‘let yourself go.’ Great post. I’m going to check those jeans out. Let me know where (not lulu lemon I hope. Trying to find alternative quality yoga gear).

    1. Yoga Shack sells them but I bought these at Curiosities, the gift store in Wortley Village, that sells a lot of clothes, all made in Canada, mostly from Quebec.

    2. Also, I even fit into their skinny jeans! Didn’t buy them. Still not my thing but nice to have that be a fashion decision rather than a size thing.

  2. I am excited to learn of the existence of yoga jeans and am now puzzling out how to come across a pair of my own.

    I’m not sure if wearing them regularly would lend to me being more active in daily life. I’m just thinking they’re a good solution to a physical activity issue I’m already having. I teach a yoga class as part of an after school program at my high school. So on days where I have that class, I have approximately 15 minutes to close down my academic classroom, change clothes, find someone to unlock the classroom where yoga will be held, and then set up that room. The clothing part is really the only variable entirely under my control, so I’ve been trying to streamline that. In the winter, it works okay to wear my yoga clothes directly under my work clothes (a sleeveless top under a long sleeved top, stretchy capris under a long skirt).

    But as seasons warm up, I’m going to have to go back to a full change. I mean, I really can’t wear yoga pants for teaching during the regular school day. But yoga jeans, depending on how they looked in person and on me, might be enough to be visually/symbolically appropriate for the classroom while also being functional for rushing off to yoga. 😉

  3. I’ve worn exactly that brand of yoga jeans –black jeans as business casual wear for 50% of my time in my office full-time job. Before that I spent over 3 years trying to find a pair of jeans that fit me without showing my butt crack, etc. AND something that I could wear business casual. My choice of jeans as a 55 yr. old would be different what a 20 yr. old would wear.

    I bought a 2nd pr. The Lycra in my 3.5 yr. old pr. is losing a bit of its tightness.

    The article on psychology and type of clothing affecting behaviour is interesting:

    For the lst 25 yrs. of my career, I wore more tailored clothing –suits, dresses, heels. Even when I started cycle commuting to work, I often changed into some dressier clothing.

    Now I don’t wear formal business clothing as often. The more I’ve lived cycling lifestyle, my business wear has become more casual by turning to styles that you see Athleta catalog –I’ve bought from them.

    However all of that for myself probably is combined with self-confidence that comes with being further into my career and not caring as deeply about my self-image vs. how well I communicate / behave with others. My priority in terms how I “look” and what I will spend on clothing, is health (fitness wear) over fashion now.

    For women over 50, one way to update your visual image, is to choose flattering styles with a more fitness oriented bent/fabrics. I still like a lovely dress or skirt, but a lot of the stuff just makes me look old / inactive!

  4. Here I am modelling jeans with business jacket, while biking….on the rare occasion I have an early morning meeting.

    I actually don’t wear these (expensive) jeans cycling often. Don’t want to wear the seat area down fast from cycling. The cycling chic movement would frown on me…for them it’s cycling in skirts, high heels, leather long coats, etc.

  5. I have had a pair of yoga jeans made in Canada. They wore well enough, but lasted about three years vs. your four. I wouldn’t wear them as corporate business wear though. They weren’t quite tailored enough for me. But they are excellent for workshops and sessions where I move around a lot.

    1. Exactly my experience. They won’t last past 3 years and quality is going down over time. I have a pair i bought in under a year that are broken (and the effort i need to make to get them fixed or replaced by them – terrible customer service). If anyone finds an alternative (especially for workshops 🙂 I’m in

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