What Not to Wear to Yoga Class
Yoga is a far less intense type of exercise than CrossFit, HIIT, extreme sports, or resistance training, but it does have its own unique demands and requirements. It's important that you dress according to the type of workout you'll be doing.
Your classic Yoga outfit includes:
A comfortable shirt – Typically, the shirt will be slightly loose, giving you a full range of movement. You can use a tank top, T-shirt, or V-neck. The material will typically be a blend of cotton and synthetic fibers, giving you both comfort and good moisture-wicking/quick-drying properties.
The proper shorts – Yoga shorts are intended to be comfortable and loose, but not so loose they slide up and expose anything you'd rather keep private. They will usually have elastic around the legs or waist, a liner, or something to keep them firmly in place. They will typically be made from a synthetic material that pulls moisture away from the body and dries quickly.
Here are a few things NOT to wear to a Yoga class:
- Basketball shorts – Your typical basketball shorts are longer and looser than is appropriate for a Yoga class. When you do those inverted poses, the shorts will roll up—revealing your underwear and other unmentionables to the unfortunate person behind you.
- Cotton shorts – Cotton is NOT the best material for Yoga shorts (as you'll see below). Though it's a soft, comfortable fabric, it's prone to retaining moisture—meaning it's likely to cause chafing.
- Running shorts – You know the shorts we're talking about: those SUPER short shorts, like the ones worn by 1960s Olypmics runners. While short running shorts are great for hitting the track or trail, they're not suitable for Downward Dog or other inversion poses. They're just TOO short!
- Too-loose shorts – Whether they're beach shorts, swimming trunks, or regular gym shorts, you don't want anything that's too loose. Loose shorts are prone to bunching, which can be very uncomfortable. How can you focus on your flow and posture when you're having to pull out a wedgie every few minutes?
- Board shorts –Board shorts may be comfortable and quick-drying, but they're not suitable for Yoga due to their lack of elasticity. Some men like them because of the liner (which keeps everything in place), but they aren't stretchy enough to be truly versatile for your Yoga practice.
- Jean shorts – This should go without saying, but NEVER wear jean shorts ("jorts") to any sort of exercise. Jeans are heavier than other materials, and they will make you sweat heavily. Worse, they retain that moisture, so you'll end up chafing. They also lack elasticity and versatility.
- Old, light-colored, and thin shorts – If your Yoga shorts are old, you may run the risk of busting a seam mid-class. Light-colored and thin shorts may be transparent when stretched.
If you're going to practice Yoga, it's important to buy a pair of Yoga shorts specifically—shorts that are designed for Yoga practice, with sufficient elasticity, durability, and moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties. Stocking up on the RIGHT workout clothes for your Yoga sessions will help you dress appropriately for the workout.
Yoga Shorts Materials
When buying Yoga shorts, the material is the most important factor to consider. The right material can keep you cool and comfortable while you practice, and can keep up with your flowing movements. The WRONG material will cause chafing, be uncomfortable, and prevent you from getting a proper workout.
The most common materials used for Yoga shorts include:
Cotton – Cotton is a soft, lightweight, natural fabric that is very breathable and comfortable. It's resistant to pilling and fraying, and you'll find that it will shed any pilling that does end up forming on the fabric. If you're looking for "green" fibers, cotton is one of the best to consider.
However, cotton will also ABSORB moisture (meaning it will get sodden), and it's not able to dry as quickly as synthetic materials. It's also not as breathable as synthetic materials. You may find that, over time and with regular use/heavy sweating, the color of your cotton clothing fades more quickly than with synthetic fibers.
Cotton shorts are NOT suitable for the more active, intense types of Yoga: Bikram, Ashtanga, Power, and Vinyasa. However, if you're doing the less intense types of Yoga—Iyengar, Yin, or Restorative Yoga—cotton may be a comfortable choice.
Bamboo – Bamboo is another "natural" fiber that is commonly used for Yoga clothing. Basically, the bamboo plants are pulped, and this pulp produces a fiber that is woven into a lightweight fabric. Bamboo is more breathable than cotton, and has natural moisture-wicking properties. It's also good at protecting your skin from UV radiation and can repel odors. Best of all, it's easily as soft as cotton.
The downside of bamboo: it's pricey! You'll pay two or three times as much for a pair of bamboo Yoga shorts as you would for an inexpensive cotton or synthetic fabric.
The good news is that bamboo shorts can be used for just about any type of Yoga practice, from the low intensity styles of Yoga to the most active and sweat-producing types!
Wool – Wool is a natural fiber that has become very popular for "athleisure" wear, rather than actual active wear. It's a naturally breathable material, one that is moisture-wicking and offers good antibacterial properties. It's great for practicing Yoga in cold weather, as it traps heat close to the surface of your skin.
NEVER wear wool for Hot or Bikram Yoga, as it will increase your risk of overheating. Wool can become sodden if you sweat a lot, and it may be too warm for hot weather.
Wear woolen Yoga shorts for cold weather practice, or for use outdoors. Keep it for the low-intensity types of Yoga: Restorative or Yin Yoga, specifically.
Nylon – Nylon is one of the most popular synthetic fabrics used to make Yoga and other exercise clothing. It's soft, silky, resistant to mold and mildew, and is both moisture-wicking and quick-drying. It will pull moisture away from your skin and dry out quickly, keeping you comfortable throughout your intense Yoga practice.
There are two downsides to nylon: 1) it's a synthetic fabric, which means it's man-made and not as "natural" as cotton or bamboo, and 2) it's not as comfortable as cotton. While nylon is lightweight, it has a decidedly synthetic feel.
If you're practicing Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Power, or Bikram Yoga, nylon can be your best friend. However, for low-intensity exercises, you may want to opt for a more natural fiber.
Polyester – Polyester is another synthetic fabric, one that is considered the "workhorse" of exercise clothing. Not only is it durable, it's lightweight, resistant to wrinkles, highly breathable, and non-absorbent. Instead of soaking up your sweat, the fabric will pull it away from your body and push it out to be dried by the air/wind. It's an insulating material that is warm even when it's wet, and it can protect your skin from UV rays.
Polyester, unfortunately, has a distinct smell to it, especially when you sweat, and it can increase body odor. The synthetic material has a somewhat plastic-y feel to it. Worst of all, it can encourage the growth of bacteria, leading to an increased risk of skin conditions and bad odors.
Polyester is excellent for Hot and Bikram Yoga, as it is the fabric that will keep you dry and cool no matter how much you sweat. However, you may want to consider other synthetic materials for more active Ashtanga, Power, and Vinyasa Yoga.
Spandex – Most commonly known as "Lycra", Spandex is by far the most stretchable of the synthetic fabrics. It can expand by up to 600%, and it offers the best range of motion of any fabric. It's breathable, moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and less likely to cause chafing. It also has natural antibacterial properties.
Unfortunately, Spandex isn't as soft as some of the other materials, and has a decidedly "synthetic" feel to it. It also lacks the durability of polyester.
You'll find Spandex is excellent for Power, Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Ashtanga Yoga—really, any type of Yoga where you need good freedom of movement. However, if you plan to sweat a lot, you may need to find a blend of Spandex with other synthetic and natural fabrics.
Blends – The term "blend" refers to a blending of fabrics, such as cotton blended with polyester or bamboo blended with Spandex. Blends mix and match fabrics to enhance durability, comfort, moisture-wicking/quick-drying properties, elasticity, and insulation. Blends are the most versatile fabrics, and they are the ones best suited for all types of Yoga.
However, be warned: just like blends combine all the benefits of the various fabrics included, they also combine the various drawbacks and "cons".
Yoga Shorts Features to Consider
When buying Yoga shorts, here are the features you need to consider:
Length – How long should your Yoga shorts be? For the average man, it shouldn't be much longer or shorter than your knees. The hem should end around the knees, but they shouldn't be so short they end mid-thigh or so long they hang down mid-calf like capris.
Liner -- Buying men's yoga shorts with liner is a decision you need to make. Some guys like having a liner to keep everything securely in place as they move, while others find a liner (similar to those included in bathing suits or board shorts) increase chafing, wedgies, and discomfort. Unless you KNOW you want a liner, you're better off without.
Versatility – Are the shorts designed only for Yoga, or can they be used for CrossFit, HIIT training, resistance training, and sports? The more versatile the shorts, the fewer pairs you'll have to buy.
Sun Protection – If you're practicing Yoga outside, you'll want a pair of shorts that offer SPF protection to reduce the risk of skin cancer.
Gussets – A gusset is a triangular- or diamond-shaped insert of cloth sewn into the crotch of your shorts to reduce the pressure on the seams. It can prevent tears and rips and keep the crotch of your Yoga pants from busting open mid-practice.
Pockets – Some men like to keep their keys, wallet, cards, or cell phone on them while they practice. Most Yoga shorts will include a small pocket of some sort, but you don't want any pockets that are too large, else they could interfere with your freedom of movement. Some pockets are open, while others use zippers or Velcro for closure.
Elastic Bands – The elastic waistband is a must to keep the shorts securely in place as you practice—no plumber's crack to annoy the people behind you! However, some shorts include an elastic band around the leg to keep them securely in place so they don't ride up on your thighs.
Drawstring – If you don't want an elastic waistband, you MUST have a drawstring to pull the shorts tight around your waist while you practice.
Compression – Compression shorts increase blood flow and speed up post-workout recovery. However, be warned: compression can interfere with freedom of movement.
What to Wear for Bikram Yoga
If you're shopping for men's Hot Yoga shorts, shirts, and other clothing, remember that you're going to sweat A LOT! You need to find materials that are moisture-wicking and quick-drying, which don't get soggy when wet.
This means most mens Bikram Yoga shorts, shirts, and pants will be made of mostly synthetic fabrics, with a bit of cotton or bamboo integrated for comfort.
For Hot Yoga, less is always better! Shorter shorts are acceptable in Hot/Bikram Yoga, though not so short they show everything. Try to find shorts that end just above your knees, giving you ample coverage while allowing as much body heat to escape as possible. With Hot Yoga, you definitely want to find clothes that help keep you cool.