Yogis love to embrace the idea that “we are all one.” When I scan the uniform of yoga pants and matching sports bras in my vinyasa class, it surely seems we must share the same mind, same intention, and same taste in clothing. But maybe not the same household income. Sometimes I deeply admire (i.e. drool over) the sleek, stylin’ yoga clothing of the women in my class. Other times I secretly resent the pomp and price tag. Often I experience both sentiments at the same time.
As a hand-to-mouth, humble writer with a huge fashion (and yoga) fixation, class sometimes feels like it stretches my budget past its “safe, relaxed space.” It’s ironic that an activity intended to promote unity and clarity can feel stressful when it comes to our clothing. For yogis on a budget it seems as if affordable gym shorts just can’t hold their pose.
Just as we strive for balance in every aspect of our asana practice, I’ve found a few ways to cultivate “yoga chic” without comprising the wallet-chakra. So, surrender your fear of not fitting in—or even feeling like you’re expected to. Here are some lean and green tips for creating an affordable wardrobe for the mat that’s as unique as you and celebrates the true spirit of yoga.
Swap parties aren’t only for 1970s swingers who dropped keys in a bowl when entering a party. In my Miami hometown, friends host rotating social gatherings for clothing swaps. Although any item is game, we also bring our best castoffs: the too-small canvas slip-ons we only wore once, the favorite hoodie that’s turned a tad co-dependent. Nobody goes home alone and discarded items are donated to a women’s shelter.
Thai Me Up
I will never forget one swap-party score: Thai-style yoga pants that forever changed the way I see yoga attire. These loose, light cotton pants available in every color celebrate individuality, freedom, and fashion. In summer, they double as beachwear; in winter, they can be layered over leggings. During yoga class, leave the long, flowing bottoms loose, or tie the ends up for a $100 harem-pants look. My favorite feature is the price: $9 to $35.
Teacher’s Pet Pants
I love exploring my passion for yoga fashion, but I can’t leave behind my dependable, high-quality Lycra pants. Although budget—and mood—demands variety, a devoted yoga practice deserves a quality investment in clothing that’s comfortable and supple. If it feels right, splurge on just a few pairs of fancy pants. Note to yoga teachers: Major brands such as lululemon offer substantial in-store instructor discounts. Show them proof of teaching creds and you’re all set!
Peace and Goodwill
Do you have a favorite day-trip destination where you love to window-shop in super-chic boutiques? Chances are that same town has a great Goodwill store. By strategically selecting retail locations, I’ve scored $15 second-hand cashmere sweater-wrap dresses (which I love to wear over those pricey yoga pants!) and amazing designer duds.
But when you’re looking around, don’t knock something until you truly consider what it could be. If you’re crafty enough, even ugly second-hand Christmas sweaters can be converted into super-trendy arm or leg warmers. Extra credit for serious DIYers: Use the body of the sweater to craft a one of a kind knit bag—with a lot of saved cash to stash!
Do Your Own Thing
We really are all one—but we’re also guided to listen to our own voice. Although we’re susceptible to community culture, yoga is essentially about personal expression. Come to class exactly as you are and create your own space for comfort and individual style. And remember: Your super-cute yoga teacher you so love, the one with the tiny tattoo and perfect ponytail, most likely can’t afford an entire fancy-pants wardrobe on her salary either. We’re all in this together, so just be yourself and come ready to practice.
Photo by John Suhar
Julie Balter is a writer, yogi, and calculated risk-taker. Her career has spanned over ten+ years as a Screen Actors’ Guild Florida Branch executive to her current role for LGBT-based marketing campaigns such as Kiss For Equality. She’s a former yoga instructor at Prana Yoga in Miami, the blog creator of Yogi After Forty, and a contributing yoga and lifestyle writer for national and regional publications. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.