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.