In 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, 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:
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? Well I haven´t, I got my name engraved on most of my yoga material like my mat, thanks to boss laser I was able to do it easily.
If, 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.