Clothes, hair, and other material obsessions

LW5D61S_1966_3In Vancouver, the yoga “uniform” is dictated by homegrown Lululemon Athletica. It’s the go-to source for yoga apparel, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, and yoga method. At The Yoga Space, an Iyengar studio where I study and teach, I recently found myself in a sea of Swiftly Tech tops and Wunder Unders (including mine). It’s not only a female thing. One day, I was adjusting the shoulders of a male student: a professor emeritus of literature, more the Canadian classic Tilley type–or so I thought. Then I noticed, glinting at me from the back of his pullover, the iconic Lululemon logo.

My first Lululemon purchase was the Groove Pant, followed by two pairs of Wunder Under crops, discounted on Boxing Day six years ago. Then, for a few years, I swore off Lululemon. They’d grown too large to manufacture in Canada, and I wanted to wean myself from petroleum-based nylon fabrics. But other brands either didn’t fit me (too baggy) or didn’t wear well (unraveled or frayed seams).

When I rediscovered Lululemon’s cotton-spandex Wunder Unders, I was hooked. Considering my friend and fellow blogger Michael Romero‘s disparagement of Lululemon’s sound-bite philosophy and sex-sells advertising–all warranted–I’d hate to tell him how many pairs of Wunder Unders I have! But, bottom line, they fit me and they’re durable (my original pairs are still wearable after countless wearings and washings, including the ultimate survival test at RIMYI in Pune).

Nevertheless, the ubiquitousness of Lululemon made me consider physical appearance. Iyengar yoga, among the yoga schools, is not trendy, not showy, and not a “scene.” Regarding attire, teachers are advised to avoid wearing anything skimpy, such as strappy tanks for women (note: bare legs are encouraged to display the kneecaps). Most teachers and students wear short-sleeved tee shirts with leggings or shorts. But practitioners do care about style, and most gravitate toward trend-setting brands like Lululemon.

Does it matter what we wear? How we look? Should it matter?

On one level, why not? Being well dressed is one aspect of professionalism. Grooming is perhaps socially ingrained or instinctive: after all, even my cat constantly grooms himself (and, as a tuxedo cat, he is always dashing)! I remember my first yoga teacher, Sandy Blaine, wearing unitards around the year 2000. No one else wore unitards; it was her unique yoga uniform. She was a gifted teacher, and she also looked the part.

But what difference does it make what we’re wearing? Our practice, our teaching, would not change. Or would it? I recently stumbled upon a couple of Atlantic Monthly articles on this very topic:

Psychology of Lululemon: How Fashion Affects Fitness

Wearing a Suit Makes People Think Differently

The studies mentioned in the articles look at how our clothing (such as suits and workout gear) affects our own behavior, not only others’ behavior toward us. While such findings offer some justification for building an impeccable wardrobe, where does that leave “renunciation,” a central in yoga, Buddhist, and other spiritual disciplines? Aren’t we supposed to be letting go of material priorities?

IMG_2959If, at one extreme, there are ascetics who forgo all worldly cares (including possessions, home, family, and identity) and, at the other end, the Kardashians and celebrity culture–where are we? Is there a middle ground. Maybe we “householder” yoga practitioners can have a reasonable quantity of material possessions, short of greed and excess.

Last thoughts on hair
Perhaps more than clothes, the human species is obsessed with hair. Having more or less made peace with my curly hair, I adhere to a minimal routine, no heat, no color, infrequent trims. Three months ago, on a whim, I decided to add a few highlights to brighten my long, dark Vancouver winter.

Having broken the ice, I suddenly felt inspired to try a dramatic balayage next time. Then, last month, a guest kitty entered our household. Check out her stunning balayage (colorist, Mother Nature). She has one outfit, one hairstyle. Life is simple. We should be so lucky.

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8 thoughts on “Clothes, hair, and other material obsessions

  1. Thanks for the mention! I have softened my stance on Lulu a bit. Since Chip Wilson was ousted, the company has less of a “culty” vibe to it. I also notice many of my students wearing them. So I have surrendered 🙂 Luci, you have so many great qualities, and if Lulu fits you well and keeps you happy, who am I to judge?

  2. Hi Luci,

    Thought-provoking post! What I’ve found intriguing about yoga wear is the way a norm often develops that neither teachers nor students have writing on their shirts – unless it’s yoga-related. I have seen this here and in other places I’ve visited and taken yoga classes.

    I find it refreshing – a contrast with the bombardment of brands and slogans we face when we leave class!

    Your kitty is beautiful.

    Anita

  3. Can you recommend activewear eyeglasses for hot yoga, or any yoga? The local studio has expanded from 90 min. Bikram to hot pilates, 1:15 vimana fusion, etc. My optician says my good glasses cannot be repair anymore; they come loose at the hinges in the heat, with all that wear, and they were expensive.
    I am 64, so they are necessary: progressive lenses, lightweight, etc. I also do water aerobics, and read in the sun…
    Thanks

  4. Couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said. Lulu aren’t the most eco brand out there, but they do have some great-fitting leggings I must admit 🙂

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