Yoga wear dos and don’ts

What to wear to the yoga studio – and what to leave in your closet.
© MSN Healthy Living // © MSN Health

Most people have heard of yoga’s potential benefits. As stated by MayoClinic.com, practicing yoga can improve your fitness, help manage chronic conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure and reduce your stress. But yoga newbies might find that preparing for class is a whole new source of stress. What to wear? Are your regular old gym clothes suitable, or do you need a turban and a T-shirt adorned with lotus flowers? Don’t worry. You probably have an adequate outfit in your drawer, or can piece one together with minimal effort. And if you become utterly devoted, you can always get the turban later. For now, adhere to these simple do's and don’ts and you’ll be downward-dogging with the best of them.

-- By Teresa Bergen for MSN Healthy Living

1 of 14 Yoga clothes (©Chris Bernard/Getty Images)

Don't flaunt 'em

Ladies, beware the tank top that shows mega-cleavage. Few things are more distracting for you and those around you than wondering if a breast is about to make a sudden, unintended appearance. Built-in shelf bras in tanks vary. “Make sure the top is high enough and that you receive enough support,” advises Andrea Rodgers, community outreach coordinator for the Via Privé yoga clothing line. When shopping for yoga clothes, test-drive tops in the dressing room by squatting, putting your hands on your knees and doing a few vigorous cat-and-cow stretches. Everything should stay well covered.

Men face the quandary of whether or not to take off their shirts when it’s hot. Please don’t. Teachers don’t want to place their hands directly on your sweaty skin for adjustments.

2 of 14 People in yoga class(yellowdog/Getty Images)

Find the proper fit

Not too tight, not too loose, is key in yoga wear. “I’ve seen people try to squeeze into a small when they’re a large,” Rodgers says. She wishes people wouldn’t get so caught up in the number or letter on the tag. “It’s very unflattering to be wearing a smaller size. Wear your true size.” Proper fit increases people’s confidence and helps them get the most out of yoga, she says.

Lisa Mae Osborn, owner of the Bhaktishop Yoga Center in Portland, Ore., agrees.
“Clothes that are clean, understated, in good condition and not too revealing are my general preference,” she said. “I like things that are comfortable but not tight, and I avoid baggy or loose-fitting items.” Too-loose shirts tend to separate from your skin during down dog and inversions.

3 of 14 Well fitting clothes (Alexey Ivanov/Getty Images)

Mind the pants

Yoga pants require careful consideration. A major yoga apparel company saw its stock market value plummet after recalling thousands of pairs of too-sheer yoga pants. Your pants should be thick enough that when stretched to the max your classmates won’t see your underwear or skin shining through. To check sheerness, do a standing forward bend with your backside toward the mirror and peek around. This is especially important when you’ve been wearing the pants for a year or two. Sheerness increases over time.

Popular low-rise fashions are another way for your classmates to see more than you intend. Rodgers recommends going a little higher in the rise department. When your waistband moves downward in your dog, “It isn’t pretty,” she says.

If you're a newbie, avoid these perils by wearing regular old sweatpants or gym shorts.

4 of 14 A woman bending over (Getty Images)

Get a pedicure

Yoga gives you plenty of time to contemplate your feet. If you look around the average yoga class, you’ll probably see classmates scrutinizing their toenails or even picking at their toes. Make yours presentable. Keep toenails trimmed, treat large calluses and moisturize dried skin. Yoga gives you a good excuse to wear toenail polish, even in winter. If you have little pedicure time, choose a lighter color so chipping is less obvious. And definitely treat toenail fungus. Nobody wants that in the yoga studio.

5 of 14 Manicured feet (Vstock LLC/Getty Images)

Don't wear a lot of jewelry

Save your big jewelry for outside the yoga studio. A heavy pendant on a long chain can bang you in the forehead or eye when you fold into a forward bend. Earrings can get caught in your hair and damage your earlobes during inversions or quick transitions. Instead, accessorize in a small way or not at all. Wear only earrings with sturdy backings, as yoga’s ups and downs can dislodge more precarious jewelry. Don’t wear rings with protruding parts that catch on things.

Beware of noisy jewelry. The little anklet with bells that you find so charming might aggravate your classmates.

6 of 14 A woman wearing large earrings (Douglas Menuez/Getty Images)

Dress in layers

Yoga teaches people how little control they have over other people and things, one of these things being the studio’s heating and cooling system. Yoga teacher Ginny Kauffman advises wearing a long-sleeved shirt over a tank top. Once she warms up, she removes the outer layer.

Rodgers, who lives in Boston, emphasizes the importance of outerwear. A jacket or sweatshirt is crucial to put on after class, she says, especially if you’re doing hot yoga in the wintertime.

7 of 14 A woman in layers (Ron Levine/Getty Images)

Don’t wear your Goodwill rejects

Clothes that are torn, dirty and full of holes are plain nasty. Whether you regard yoga as part of your spiritual practice or simply a way to de-stress, clean clothes in good repair are more uplifting to all. Your clothes don’t have to be expensive. Rodgers acknowledges that it’s easy to spend $130 on pants or a jacket, but it’s not necessary. You can find more affordable high-quality workout wear. Or a simple T-shirt and sweatpants will suffice.

8 of 14 Dirty clothes (Tony Anderson/Getty Images)

Be mindful of fabric

Yogis differ in their opinions about fabric. Some favor natural fibers, while others prefer the modern technology of moisture-wicking athletic wear. “I prefer cotton and fabrics that breathe,” says Osborn, who’s not a big fan of nylon weave fabrics.

Rodgers likes a moisture wicking is nylon/lycra poly blend. “With cotton, you can get that peed-in pants look,” she says. She values materials which are durable, flexible and comfortable.

Fabric and odor are intimately related. While synthetics wick moisture and keep you dry, they also trap stinky bacteria. Sometimes these tenacious bacteria survive the washing machine. If you like synthetics, look for clothing lines that use odor-block technology.

9 of 14 A woman in wicking fabric (Image Source/Getty Images)

Go midcalf

Yoga bottoms vary from short-shorts to floor scrapers. While too short is distracting, too long can be dangerous. Especially if you practice Ashtanga or another Vinyasa style that requires jumping between poses. Moving from crow to Chaturanga Dandasana is hard enough without the hazard of hooking your toes in your pants cuffs. Midcalf is a good length for both modesty and warmth.

10 of 14 A woman with long pants on (Teresa Guerrero/Getty Images)