Once upon a time, I was a clothing designer in New York City. It was a rough world, where they loved you one day and wouldn't "buy you" the next. I'm lucky I got out of the rag trade before it ate me up. Yet I've always been fascinated with how folks adorn themselves and it's in my DNA to watch styles change and evolve (sometimes to my dismay), even in the yoga community.
Waaay back in the day, when only men did yoga, the
dhoti was the regulation garb. The dhoti required the ability to master a complex wrapping technique to arrange the fabric just so. Once it was on, it allowed great freedom of movement!
In the very first yoga classes that I attended in the 1960's, folks were wearing white yoga suits. This was a short lived style inspired by the Kundalini community, great for sitting and meditation, not so great for trying to get your foot behind your head. There was an innocence and modesty to this style that I loved. But it didn't last long... Along came BKS Iyengar, who modernized the dhoti into shorts, a radical move at the time, which went against the tradition of his teachers and peers. There was a teensy problem with regular shorts, though. In various wide legged and inverted poses, one's intimate parts were all too easily exposed to the world. Ergo the birth of the yoga bloomers, or as we used to call them, yoga diapers, made by Hugger Mugger and still available today. In the 1970's, virtually all yogis, men and women, wore this regulation uniform of t-shirt and yoga bloomers. Personally, I never wore yoga diapers because, with my skinny legs, they made me look like Minnie Mouse! Instead I was inspired by Jane Fonda, the budding fitness industry, and Flashdance, and wore leotards over tights, often with leg warmers. The problem of having to get undressed to use the bathroom was an impediment, until a dancer friend of mine imparted the secret knowledge of pulling all the material to one side to do the deed. A distasteful aspect of this fashion was the tendency for women to wear black tights with white underwear you could see below their
leotards. I never got that one! There was the brief period of the yoga unitard, or what we used to call the yogatard, and what I called my sausage casing. You really couldn't go to the bathroom without peeling this whole thing off! And, to my amazement, Marie Wright Yogawear still makes these!
This is the unitard we all wore, with the criss cross straps!
It was a real relief when the yoga fashion time machine marched on and we realized we could wear two separate pieces of clothing, unattached to one another. The era of the yoga capri was born, along with the great innovation of the foldover waistband. Super comfy; why didn't anyone think of this before?! When these waistbands first came out and weren't around much, I called Hugger Mugger and asked if they'd be making them. The woman there said, "No woman wants more bulk around her waist. These are a fad that will fade." She was epically wrong, as this waistband has become the norm for women's yoga pants.
I would be remiss in my history of yoga fashion if I
failed to mention
which everyone seemed to wear for about five minutes before yoga fashion marched on. They are made of cool stretchy fabric, move when you move, and are kinda dorky. Not many people seem to wear them anymore, but as I get older I become more and more a fan of awkward and dorky, so I still wear mine.
Currently, in the real world of the yoga studio we're in a phase of ankle length leggings for women, which I love because of the great variety of creative and unusual prints. In the alternate universe of the media and public figures, we've been treated to (or assaulted with?) some yogic style excess that is truly hedonistic. Tara Stiles being driven around New York in a glass box in which she does scantily clad yoga, and in the hot yoga subculture, I know the uniform for women is a bra and shorts. But that's not my subculture and I just stick my fingers in my ears and say: "la la la," and pretend I don't know that it's happening. I've got a healthy bit of judgement arising on the border between personal style and hyper-sexualizing the yoga room. We'll save that for another time. In the men's department, it's pretty same-same. The biggest fashion controversy seems to be: shirts on or shirts off in yoga class? We actually polled our students a few years ago, and they overwhelmingly preferred that men keep their shirts on; even the men voted this way.
We've come a long way from the dhoti and the baggy cotton yoga suit. Any predictions on what we'll be wearing to do yoga in the next ten years?
In the meantime, GET PHYSICAL however you can! Hope to see you soon in yoga class.
Love and peace, Denise Benitez
** New Student Special **
$30 for Three Classes
(For new students or those who have been away a year or more. Your body wants you to come back, y'all!)
Mythic Morning Series with Amy Reed
Five Sunday Mornings, March 8 to April 5, 9:30 to 11:30 am
Entire Series: $150; Single Classes: $35
"Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth --penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told." Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
Come listen to the mythic archetypes of the yoga tradition and learn about your self and your own story. Each of these two hour sessions will include story time, asana, mantra and meditation.
* Week One: Ganesha
* Week Two: Shiva
* Week Three: Hanuman
* Week Four: Kali
* Week Five: Lakshmi
with visiting teacher MATTHEW REMSKI, March 13-15
Join Toronto yoga philosopher and Ayurvedic practitioner Matthew Remski for this weekend intensive to ground your practice and teaching of Restorative Yoga with the insights of Ayurveda. Special attention will be paid to the poetry of internal sensation using the language of the elements, dhatus (tissues) and vayus (directional pranic patterns). Postures will be simple but rich, with options provided for injury or mobility concerns. Excellent for practitioners wishing to explore the intuitive dynamics of Restorative, and for teachers wishing to enrich their classroom technique.
Good Alignment is Good Practice
w/Beth Award, Four Week Series, Mondays, March 16 to April 6
A four week series in which you will learn the basic language of alignment used at Seattle Yoga Arts. The aim of good yoga is to improve posture and biomechanics for the living of life.In these sessions, you will learn a cohesive system of alignment language that you can bring into any activity, any type of yoga, and every moment of life. If you are already a student at Seattle Yoga Arts, you will clarify and refine your understanding of the movement and alignment cues we use in our classes and how they work in your body.
w/Claudette Evans, March 20; 5:45 to 6:45 pm
New moons are a blank page on which to speak our intentions. Darkness is the moment before birth, a pause and an exhale. The new moon is traditionally the preferred or "ripe" time to plant seeds in the ground or seeds of love, creativity, or friendship. It is considered beneficial to devote time to chanting and meditation on this day. Each month, we'll rest in the quiet energy of the new moon, and the power of a different chant, followed by a short meditation, which will cultivate equanimity and increase our ability to appreciate stillness and subtlety.
w/Laura Prudhomme & Erin Beattie, March 21, 2:00-5:00pm
Seems so obvious, right? But how DO you sit, stand and walk? The basic principles are unconscious. Unless we are injured or practicing mindfulness it's likely that we rarely even think about how miraculous it is that these are our fundamental movement patterns. When we practice aligning our bodies in our everyday activities we have access to a healthier range of motion. Who doesn't want that?
w/Laura Prudhomme & Erin Beattie, March 28, 7:00-9:00 pm
Slide into a more restful mode of being with Laura's calming sequence of movements and Beattie's gentle hands on support. This evening practice is powerful medicine. Come nurture yourself.
Yoga practice is medicine for your soul.
No pre-registration required for
Love, From Your Teachers at Seattle Yoga Arts
Denise, Rainey, Meg, Bianca, Jaime, Laura, Beattie, Amy, Claudette, Beth, Rebecca, Mandy, Dean