A sage’s quote recently making the social media rounds begs the examination of our relationship with yoga clothes. The quote from 13th-century mystic Rumi opines: “I saw many humans on whom there were no clothes. I saw many clothes in which there were no humans.” No doubt, Rumi’s words expressed profound reflections on the human condition, but in many ways, they resonated with the spirit of yoga. For many yogis, the path that leads to serenity of mind is often paved with a considerable investment in yoga clothes. We are seduced by an onslaught of images from manufacturers who try to convince us that their uber-hip pants and tops are key in the quest for self realization.
The beauty and talent that goes into designing these togs should be admired and respected. But projecting our never-ending desires, not to mention hard-earned dollars, on one or more stretchy tops or pair of $100 pants can sometimes blind us to the lessons in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
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If we are to adhere to the Sutras, then we know that abhyasa – constant, determined practice – is the key to establishing a firm foundation in our practice, not a fashionable pair of leggings. Indeed, our journey to achieving vairagya, or freedom from desires, is infinitely more complicated if we give in to our weakness and attachment to clothing. No matter if your closet or bureau drawers are filled with yoga clothes – or whether you practice yoga in your most well-worn, faded, comfy pieces – your yoga wardrobe could provide an opportunity for you to reflect on the yamas and niyamas.
There is certainly value in feeling beautiful and comfortable in your body, whether it’s while doing yoga or shopping in the grocery store. But are you buying another pair of pants even though you don’t need them immediately (or maybe can’t even afford)? Aparigraha, one of the five ethical disciplines of yamas, challenges us to lead a life of non-possessiveness, non-hoarding, and non-attachment.
Can you look within and find truth? The search for truth – satya – usually always excavates something we’ve stored away deep within us. It may be worth examining what exactly is it that makes you feel beautiful? Is it the clothes you are wearing or something else?
Is there contentment – santosha – to be found in your approach to how you dress for yoga? If yoga is an inward journey, can you surrender the attachment to your clothes and any preoccupation with the thought, “How do I look?”
Can you actively practice saucha, a niyama that speaks of purity of mind, body, and deed? How simple to step onto the mat wearing clean, simple clothes, the body clean, our minds and hearts receptive to the process of letting go of the messy clutter to reveal something even more blindly pristine.
Maybe Rumi did contemplate yoga when he penned his observation on humanity and clothing. We can cover our bodies with an array of beautiful clothes – whether they are our uniforms for yoga, work or school – but it’s not until we peel through the layers that shroud our true essence that we begin to see the self.
Have you found yourself preoccupied with or distracted by the latest yoga fashion trends?