Tag Archives: yoga

A case for wearing yoga pants every day

Learning to Walk Performed at MOCA Cleveland- May, 2013

Learning to Walk Performed at MOCA Cleveland- May, 2013

Ok I admit this title is a little misleading. I wrote it earnestly for this piece, but ended up hearing insults thrown at women who wear yoga pants in public. Maybe this is partly a response to that, but not really. One reason is that there are more issues at play there than I will get into here and another is that I am writing this not just for women, but men too.

I’m not interested talking about fashion and this isn’t about small or big thighs or whether or not your underwear or cellulite is showing. Be you a lady or a gent this is an argument for wearing “yoga pants”- or gym shorts, sweat pants or any other loosely fitting or stretchy clothing that allows your body to move freely.

There’s the simple point- wear clothes that you can move freely in. Then move freely.

Put these two images in your mind. One of a person wearing any kind of stretchy pants and a loose but well fitting t shirt. The next of the same person in a neatly tailored suit.

If you or I were to see these images we might think that the first image was of the person on the weekend, lounging and lazy or perhaps prepared for recreation or exercise. We might not expect that person to be prepared to make creative decisions or problem solve.

We might assume that the second image was of that person in professional life. We might assume that person held a position of some kind of importance, which may or may not be true, but that is what the outfit, at least in part, exudes. This type professional attire asks for respect and promises results. This person is a problem solver and get’s the job done. And while there is nothing ‘wrong’ with this, chiseled clothing may not only be uncomfortable but it also allows our bodies take the guise of a predetermined shape. With rigid fabric it is also a shape that also has a predetermined range of motion and potentially inspires a predetermined range of thoughts. It may seem like a long shot to connect a lack of creativity with clothing constraints, but how many of us have felt stuck in a problem, then unstuck after moving around a bit? Even the words stuck and unstuck imply motion. What happens when motion is unnecessarily hindered?

Watching the State of the Union address last week, I wondered what it would be like if government showed up for work in flip flops and track pants. Are neckties cutting off blood and oxygen to the brain? Jokes aside- of course problems need a lot more than comfy pants to come to a solution- the ability to move your body to it’s fullest extent may refresh and inspire the mind to move to its fullest extent also. Here is a snippet of research for what it’s worth- http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/261667.php

If you practice yoga asanas you know that in the practice we explore our bodies and how they move. In the process we learn about ourselves- we learn about the capacity of our body and step by step, with awareness and breath, we move into new territories and create shapes that before may not have been possible.

We also move through koshas, or layers of our beings, from the physical body to energetic body, then to emotions, thoughts, wisdom and finally spirit. One by one, practice by practice, we dive into the layers of who we are. This process takes time and is accompanied with many boundaries and borders- some useful, some not. How and when are the boundaries of our clothing useful and when not?

Now, I am sure that for some a suit can fuel inspiration in the work day and yoga clothes might make some feel lazy, wear what you like- I’m not proposing a mass cultural change- just asking ‘what if.’ While I’m at it, I am in no way suggesting that those who do not have much, or any, motion do not explore their minds. We all work within the range of our own capacities and grow relative to ourselves and in our own way.

And finally-back to the more feminine view of clothes that take the shape of our bodies rather than expecting the reverse. That is worth exploring in a future article.


why now

In yoga we often focus on the present moment. Whether we are honing in on how our breath is moving, how our body feels in an asana, or how we react when that person says that thing- we are training to observe what is happening here and now.

This practice can be incredibly calming and empowering. Moment by moment we take notice of what comes and what goes, riding the wave of life with less and less friction. Through observation we learn about our selves. We learn what we can control and what we can’t. We are less overwhelmed. Slowing down, letting the moments decompress helps to find feelings of peace- we’ve heard all this before right?

But what about the past and the future? With this emphasis on the present moment what does yoga philosophy say about the past and future?

I had been thinking about this lately, but was inspired to write this down once a friend expressed the view that focusing on the present denies the past and future. Then, if there is no past or future how can there be a present?

I picked up my book that interprets both Kapila’s Samkhya philosophy and the Yoga Sutras. It was written by my teachers Margot and Bill Milcetich. I can’t say I have any sort of answer to my question, but here is something to get the ball rolling.

The past. The Yoga Sutras outline five modes of the chitta. Chitta can be described as the house of our intellect, ego and mind. One of the modes is memory. To me, this seems to addresses the role of the past. Margot and Bill’s book states that memory is, “the reconstruction of the past that is useful in the present.” Our past experiences create our lens through which we see the present.

In the Secret Life of the Brain, a 5 part pbs series, it is interesting how the adult brain uses emotions from past experience in the present. Watch it here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/brain/episode4/index.html

The future. This was a little harder for me to suss out. My knowledge of the text didn’t point me to a specific passage that spoke directly of the future. The only thing I can think of here is that the second chapter on practice is intended to alleviate our suffering. This chapter is a guideline of work we can do in preparation for a future moment that opens the possibility for us to suffer less.

If you have any insights on yoga and the ghosts of past, present and future please comment below. I know I will be bringing these questions to a future satsang.

For now, my experience tells me that focusing on the present moment allows me to be alert and clear for the daily decisions I need to make. My thoughts have space to be thought and (potentially) understood. This practice is preparing me to act appropriately in the way is required of me.

Where I feel the present moment focus falls short is if we use it as a way to escape our responsibilities. If we forget the lessons that are there to be learned from past experience or if we pretend that a future issue is not impending. I don’t believe this is how the practice is intended to be used, but the possibility is there to use the idea of the present moment to escape or postpone our real work.

photos are extinct moments/documentation of movement

photos are extinct moments/documentation of movement