Don’t Do Yoga Bare: A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga Wear

Black color fitness accessories set on pink background. Creative sport concept.

Hey there, it's yoga wear.

If you are among the 36 million Americans who practice yoga — and assuming you don't do yoga bare — you may feel your fashion choices for the studio are limited to leggings. This is far from the truth. There are many different options to consider when suiting up for yoga class.

To continue the theme of this introduction, just know that you, too, can be "smarter than the average bear" by considering these tips for what to wear.

First, you need to know a little more about what you will be doing in class — besides rocking your athletic wear, that is.

Benefits of Yoga

If you want to be a yoga student — also called a "yogi" — there are several things to consider. First, of course, is to choose the type of yoga you wish to pursue. Some are reflective and some are more active and strenuous. After you have chosen which yoga type is right for you, you'll have to address how to dress for your class.

Because yoga is mostly a low-intensity type of workout, many people do not consider it an exercise workout. In fact, yoga is one of the best workouts you can do for your physical and mental health.

Here are some of the key benefits of yoga:

Balance and Flexibility

Yoga is one of the best ways to improve your flexibility. Yoga stretches your muscles in many different ways, allowing you to become more flexible and comfortable with moving your body. Exercises such as running or weightlifting are great for your health, but you don't get as much range of motion as you do with yoga.

Yoga also allows you to focus on your balance. You spend a lot of time holding movements and focusing on your body's alignment during yoga.

Oftentimes you are balancing on one leg or standing in a movement that may feel unnatural at first. Continuing to practice yoga will improve your balance and strength in everyday life.

Heart Health

Yoga focuses a lot on breathing techniques. This practice is called Pranayama (Praa-nuh-yaa-muh), or "yogic breathing." It has been found that yogic breathing can improve the function of the cardiovascular system. Controlling the pace of your breathing can help you to control your heart rate, lower arterial pressure, and reduce your risk of stroke.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety affect almost everyone in some way. Any exercise is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety, and yoga is no exception. Performing slow, mindful, low-impact yoga moves while focusing on your breathing is a great way to lower stress levels.

Many yoga classes include dark lighting and soft music, which can also help you relax and rewind after a long day.

Yoga clothes, mat, and weights on the floor


You don't have to lift heavy weights to build strength. Many yoga moves force you to support your body weight for long periods, building up both your strength and resistance. Yoga requires a lot of core stability, which strengthens and builds your abdominal muscles.


Studies have shown the calming nature of yoga helps relieve insomnia. Any exercise releases energy, making you feel tired and ready for a good night's sleep. Remember, yoga IS exercise. In the battle for sleep, it packs a one-two punch: the energy drain from physical exertion and the mental calm linked to its meditative qualities.

You may not want to perform intense yoga too close to bedtime, as it can still get your heart rate up and make it hard for you to rest.

"You wouldn't do these right before bed any more than you would run on the treadmill," says Johns Hopkins sleep expert Dr. Anastasia Rowland-Seymour. “But the benefits are more due to its meditative properties."

Holding static yoga poses can be effective in helping you relax and rewind as you prepare for sleep.

Posture and Body Awareness

Yoga can release tension and lengthen muscles that become tight after sitting at work or completing a different type of workout. Releasing this tension naturally improves your posture.

Because yoga forces you to focus on holding poses and moving your body in new ways, you become more aware of your body and what it can do. This helps you in everyday life and your more intense workouts.

What Happens During Yoga Class?

In class, you can expect to go through a series of poses while being encouraged to focus on your breathing. Instructors usually lead you through these poses and remind you to take deep breaths. They may or may not lead you in a chant or meditation.

Classes often end with some sort of relaxation period. This can be laying on the floor or sitting cross-legged and focusing on your breathing.

Two women wearing athleisure clothing

Types of Yoga

Although there are some general things you can expect during a yoga class, it ultimately depends on the type of yoga you are practicing. Here are a few of the most common types of yoga for you to consider.

Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa yoga, also called "flow" yoga, is one of the most common forms of yoga, focusing on movement and breathing techniques. Vinyasa yoga teaches you to use your breath to seamlessly transition from one pose to another.

This type of yoga is great for both relaxation and endurance because you are engaging in a lot of movement while still controlling your breathing.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga involves your breath, body, and mind. It typically focuses on posture and breathing techniques. During Hatha yoga, you will usually begin with breathing, then move into the poses, and finish with meditation.

This type of yoga is practiced to help balance your body and mind, which helps you to relax and recover. This is a great option for beginners to consider as it is typically slightly less complex than Vinyasa yoga.

Three women doing a yoga pose

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga is a little more physically intense than Hatha yoga and is often used for weight-loss purposes. Ashtanga yoga is set to a sequence of movements that will push you both physically and mentally.

This type of yoga is great for people who want to improve their endurance.

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini yoga is known as the "yoga of awareness." This type of yoga involves performing repetitive poses and is highly focused on breathing and activating spiritual energy.

Kundalini is a cleansing form of yoga that is meant to be more spiritual than other types.

Aerial Yoga

Aerial yoga is exactly as it sounds: yoga in the air. Aerial yoga requires you to perform the same exercises that you do on a mat, except you are suspended in the air with a hammock. This type of yoga is great for people with joint issues as you can perform exercises without the added pressure of supporting yourself on the floor.

Restorative Yoga

If you are looking for a highly relaxing form of yoga, then you should consider restorative yoga. Restorative yoga is all about slowing down and releasing the tension in your body.

In restorative yoga, you hold poses for several minutes. These poses are typically easy to hold and allow you to use props such as blocks or blankets. This type of yoga is used to promote deep relaxation and meditation.

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar yoga focuses on posture, body alignment, and releasing tension in your body. This type of yoga focuses a lot on using props to help you achieve certain poses.

Iyengar yoga poses are held for long periods during which you, as the student (yogi), are encouraged to increase the intensity of the pose once you feel comfortable. This helps you build strength and endurance.

Six adults wearing basic yoga clothing in white, black, and gray

What Do You Wear to Yoga?

Now that you know the different types of yoga and the one that best suits you, it is time to create your yoga wardrobe and get dressed for class. As promised, here are a few quick tips to help you dress for success and stay comfortable in class:

Yoga Attire for Women

There are many different options for women attending yoga classes, but it ultimately comes down to something comfortable and form-fitting.

Leggings & Shorts

Most people wear leggings to yoga. If you wear leggings, be sure the material is not see-through. Many poses you perform will stretch the fabric. Make sure the leggings won't fall down during exercise. You don't want to spend the whole class readjusting or pulling up your pants.

If you don't want to wear leggings, or at least not every day, you can wear shorts or spandex to yoga class. If you wear shorts, choosing a pair with spandex on the inside will protect your modesty without impeding your movements while performing the poses.

If you prefer long pants, you can wear sweatpants or loose-fitting joggers.

In the end, it's a personal choice with the main factor being that you are comfortable and dressed appropriately for a public place.

Five women meditate in a yoga pose during class

Sports Bra

You also need a sports bra that is comfortable and provides you with good coverage. You typically do not need anything as supportive as a bra that you would wear for a cardio workout, but it should still hold you in.

Some yoga exercises require you to be almost upside-down, and you don't want to be falling out of your bra when your yoga mates are trying to concentrate on their movements and breathing.

Make sure you choose a bra without clasps on the back. You don't want metal clasps digging into you while lying on your back.

Yoga Top

You can choose to wear only your bra or you can cover up with another top. If you choose to wear a shirt, make sure it won't slip over your head when you are in those upside-down poses. Loose-fitting tops are fine, but tuck them in before starting your workout.

The best choice is a tight-fitting shirt or tank top. This will allow you to focus on your movement without worrying about your shirt falling over your face when you are upside down.

Yoga Attire for Men

Men should also be aware of their fashion choices when picking up their mats and heading to yoga. This is what men should consider wearing to class.

Tops and T-Shirts

On the top, you can't go wrong with a T-shirt — as long as it doesn't constrict your movement. You are bending and stretching more doing yoga than occurs in a normal gym session.

That said, remember not to wear a shirt that is so loose that it falls over your face when you do an upside-down pose.

A nice-fitting tank top or t-shirt should do the trick. You can also tuck your shirt in before starting your class.

Yoga Pants

Many men opt for shorts when practicing yoga. Running shorts or basketball shorts will work just fine, but make sure to wear a supportive pair of briefs underneath. If you prefer to wear long pants, there are many brands of yoga pants for men.

If you are doing Vinyasa or aerial yoga, which requires a lot of movement, you may want to go with something tighter to prevent the fabric from getting in the way. You can wear looser yoga pants or even sweatpants if you are going with a more relaxed form of yoga.

A group of adults meditate during a yoga class

Shoes or No Shoes?

Yoga is typically performed with no shoes. It is a common practice and good etiquette to remove your shoes at the door. Shoes can make certain poses more difficult and cause you to slip during the workout.

Doing yoga barefoot allows you to stretch and strengthen the muscles in your feet. You rarely get to do this with other exercises, so you should take advantage of it with yoga. Stretching your feet muscles can support your arches and prevent foot pain.

If you are uncomfortable or unable to be barefoot, you can ask your instructor if you can keep your shoes on or opt for something such as socks with grips on them or tight flats with flexible soles.

Start Practicing Yoga Today

Overall, yoga is an incredible form of exercise with many benefits. Regardless of which type of yoga you choose, you will feel a positive difference in your body and mind.

Since a key component of yoga is to cast your worries far away from you, it would be silly to start your yoga session by worrying about something as insignificant as what to wear. Simple common sense dictates that as long as you are comfortable, the clothing covers what it is supposed to cover at all times, and doesn't slip or cause you to slip during your session, what you're wearing is perfect.

There's always room for trial and error in deciding what attire is best for you.

Getting started with yoga is one of the best choices you can make for your overall health, so why wait?

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