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Spandex for the Spiritual

by Kate Lundquist, guest writer, Wellness CricketYoga has become the newest trend for women and men in the United States to strengthen and tone their bodies. The ancient practice of asana (postures, what one typically thinks of when referring to yoga) was only one piece of the puzzle in traditional yoga philosophy. The physical posture practice that is exploding in the United States has morphed into a type of gymnastics for only the flexible, strong, and fit. What used to be one limb of yoga (of eight including morality, breathing exercises, control of the senses, concentration, devotion, and meditation), has now become only one. Why has the essence of yoga evaporated? Why is it that more and more people that really need yoga (those that are not a size two, stressed out, overeating, etc.) remain averse to entering the yoga studio?

Current yoga fashion is a culprit.

Form fitting pants and tight shirts frighten away clientele from yoga studios and brand yoga as the “skinny girl exercise.”

When I was dancing with a ballet company in Boston, I recognized I needed to become more flexible. I arrived at my first yoga class to do just that. I fell in love with the same adrenaline rush you feel from exercising– what was different was how we directed that energy. We learned how to observe judgmental thoughts and competitive qualities with words of encouragement from the teacher to let all of that go, and just be on your mat. It is your practice. If you look different than the person next to you, if they are stronger or more flexible, it does not matter. This was surprising to hear because I was an athlete. I was raised to compete and be better than the person next to me. We grow up in a competitive environment. But how can we continue to feel less of the competition when the yoga industry displays advertisements of only skinny girls in tight clothing? Obviously, most of us do not look like the models. Where can we go from here? Should we exclude power yoga from our lives?

I fully advocate for power yoga (a strength building, difficult style of yoga), it has changed my life, and now I teach it; however, the struggle is in who feels capable of attending a class. Is the yoga clothing industry fueling this body image frenzy? Lululemon, the top name in yoga attire, has a net income of $73.5 million. The clothing is cute for a small, fit person, but if a person cannot fit comfortably into their spandex pants, will they avoid yoga, believing that they need to wear those clothes to practice?

All too often I have heard people say they are not fit enough, not flexible or strong enough to come to yoga class. The yoga clothing industry strengthens that view with the advertisements and clothing offered. Perhaps the clothing lines could offer some choices that are a bit looser and still look good. This would offer inclusion in the yoga world, and remind us that yoga is not about looking cute in tight pants. Yoga was developed to improve positive thinking and relaxation (with the intention of reaching Samadhi, or enlightenment). If the clothing alone is stressing people out, how will we show the western world what yoga is really about? This ancient practice is meant to reduce stress and clear away judgments (including body image). If we are judging one another by what yoga outfit we wear, are we cultivating a yoga culture of compassion… or competition?

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