Of hot pants and pink bikinis in the hot room

Published on May 30, 2013 by      Print
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By Trish Tillman

I’ll admit it, I enjoy various forms of hot yoga. I find the feeling of rivulets of sweat trickling down my skin to be soothing and even contemplative. Now, the thing about hot yoga is that heavy clothes quickly become oppressive and almost unbearable. I’ve worn a sweatshirt in the hot room before, but it was after my ACL surgery, when I could basically just sit and breathe and do the top half of the poses. Then I bundled up like a consumptive at the beach and sweat out my frustration at my jacked-up knee. Normally, though, when you’re doing hot yoga, you will find you’re inclined to wear as little clothing as is socially acceptable.

This brings me to my point—there is a way to wear skimpy clothing to a hot yoga class (for both guys and girls) and there is a way NOT to do it. It’s possible to attend a class wearing basically a swimsuit, but still avoid looking like a yoga bunny. (I think it’s great to be a yoga chick, by the way, but never a yoga bunny.)

Just follow these handy, gender-inclusive pointers:

Wear something that is truly, honestly your size. I know many tops and shorts say “one size fits all.” That is simply not true. During class, ill-fitting clothes will stealthily creep into a state of greater and greater revealing-ness, and you don’t want to spend half the class putting your various bits back into your outfit, do you?

The half-cheek is not acceptable in the yoga room. I can’t believe I really have to point this out. This look is great on the beach or if you really enjoy the feeling of epic wedgies, but in yoga it’s just preening.

Wear color schemes and patterns designed for a grown-ass woman. I once saw a woman coming to hot yoga in what was definitely a bathing suit. It was a ruffled, pink bikini number that looked like something a six-year old girl might wear while building sandcastles on the beach. On a six-year-old girl, this would be cute and endearing, but on a woman at least in her thirties, this just screamed of maturity issues.

For the fellas: These common offenses are categorized in order of ascending awfulness.

Be judicious in your use of spandex shorts. I get it. Board shorts or MMA shorts have lots of extra fabric, and some guys don’t like how this hinders their movement during yoga. Nonetheless, spandex shorts are only ok if they are of a decent length (not mini) and if their fabric has enough oompf to keep all the relevant equipment decently, discreetly tucked away. You may be super proud that you look like you have a live squirrel stuffed down your shorts, but I’m not happy when you’re doing forward folds right smack dab in front of me.

No underwear worn as a yoga outfit. No joke, I once saw a guy come to the studio and realize he’d forgotten his regular shorts. Unfazed, he whipped off his pants and proceeded to do the entire class in his boxers. Boxer shorts, when soaked with sweat, cling tightly to the body. They reveal… well, topography. Not to mention that running around in your undies stopped being a viable option at around age four.

No light-colored spandex shorts. Light-colored spandex shorts, much like a white t-shirt, will become nearly transparent when wet. I once had the misfortune to be positioned right behind a guy in WHITE spandex shorts during a sweaty hot yoga class. It was like looking at an anatomy textbook. I could see what religion he was. I spent the class alternating between horror and curiosity at whether he knew what he was doing, and if so, then why?

Bear in mind, I’m hardly a prude. I think the human body in all its variations is glorious and worthy of celebration, but we should probably not be revealing our full, um, gloriousness to unprepared fellow yogis. THAT is best done in entirely different settings.

About Trish Tillman

Trish TillmanTrish Tillman is a graduate student of history, adjunct professor, yogi, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu player in the Washington, D.C. metro area. On the (jiu jitsu) mat, she goes by the very un-yogi-like nickname of “Hateful Trish.” Her dissertation research would probably be going much faster if she didn’t find everything in the world so interesting. 

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  1. Niamh Collins says:

    I think that every time you find yourself judging other ppl by their outfits you should probably see that as a cue to come back to your own mat and exercise your focus. As long as people don’t smell or behave badly who cares what they wear? That said, I have told a friend once that her legging were transparent in forward bends, we all need a heads up if our outfits might not be doing what we imagine.

    • Jo says:

      Niamh – didn’t really read this article as a judgment. Some of what Trish was pointing out, basically echoes what you did for your friend who became more visible than she would have liked in forward folds i.e. guy who did his practice in his boxers.
      Plus, I think she makes a valid point that some scantilly clad students may want to ponder – when you come to yoga, how inwardly focused can you really be, if you’re showing up in pink ruffled bikinis 2 sizes to small – seriously, that does not sound comfortable . I also think there is nothing wrong with suggesting that functional or (gasp) conservative clothing that doesn’t show off your bits during yoga could actually help with one’s practice.

  2. Louis says:

    I loved reading this. I thought it was very funny and well written. Incidentally, as a guy, I must admit and I know it’s not very yogic, that scantily clad females in yoga class are welcomed. The scantier the outfit, the more, um, fascinating. The guys who practice bare chested though, are kind of a turn off though, not because they are baring their flesh but more because they are showing off.

  3. Emma says:

    Haha! Love this! Especially the part where you could tell the guys religion. Made my day thank you :)

  4. Trish Tillman says:

    Thanks guys! I always think it’s fascinating to see the range of outfits that show up in hot yoga, from the aforementioned tiny swimsuits, to the strictly functional, like bike shorts and a t-shirt, to observant Muslim ladies in long pants and sleeves and headscarves who somehow do every posture and advanced variation in the sweltering heat.

    Louis- sad but true, guys (at least in general) are much more visual than girls- I don’t think guys are ever going to stop appreciating a nice-looking, scantily-clad yoga chick :D It just doesn’t work the same way for girls, though… sad for us, really.

  5. kk says:

    I seriously LOVE YOU. You are my new hero/idol. I bow to thee.

  6. julia says:

    Trish, you kill me! That was very funny…especially the bit: I could see what religion he was…that officially made my morning…!

  7. Kate says:

    Trish — This article is HILARIOUS! I am going to my first hot yoga class on Saturday and will make sure to abide by your rules. :)

    Louis — Seems like the “scantily clad yoga chicks” in skimpy outfits that you like *might* be doing the same showing off you accuse the bare-chested guys of (or it’s quite possible that neither of these types of people are actually doing any showing off at all or that some are and some aren’t).

    Niamh — I agree with the other commenter who said this article was meant to be lighthearted and a heads-up of sorts. BUT, even if it wasn’t, why is it okay to get bent out of shape about how people smell (see your comment) but not about what they wear?

    • Niamh says:

      Oh crap! Sent that response before I remembered what website I was on. To defend myself from sounding pompous, I honestly try very hard not to care what ppl wear, or look like. Am always catching myself thinking that I’m the least bendy or most pink faced in class and so it’s ingrained in me to not to criticise. I can ignore everyone else’s outfits and supreme bendiness and even own put downs, but a smell is a sensory overload. But I suppose you’re right. If I should ignore superbendiness of some then why not super rankness of others.

  8. Peter says:

    Very funny article. The outfits I have seen have been all that you mentioned and more. I still don’t understand the leg warmer look in a heated yoga class (ladies), and guys free ballin is really not a good idea.

  9. Annie Oakley says:

    Speaking of what to wear – I’m a fan of itchy, confining uniforms that remind us of our lowly station in life. Wait, that was Catholic school. Thank God, (no pun intended) that’s over. Anyway, I hear ya. Too much junk showing in the hot yoga room makes lots of people uncomfortable especially if you are in close proximity to an unsolicited flesh flash. And I don’t discriminate – I don’t care if they are smokin’ hot, cut like Michelangelo’s David, or so obese so as to require a Dr. Phil intervention. Just try to keep it contained. Hot yoga is, well, hot so its cool, (groan, again with the puns), if people need to dress down. But that underwear guy you described. It occurred to me that perhaps in the 10th ring of Hell that would be a fitting eternal punishment for yoga snobs – to be stretching behind sweaty underwear guys for all of eternity.

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