Hatha yoga flowered in the West in the late sixties and early seventies when several prominent yoga masters traveled to America. They traveled the length and breadth of the country, introducing a new generation to an ancient practice. It didnt take long for their students to recognize the benefits of yoga and it continued to grow in popularity. Today, yoga is a household word.
There was no such thing as yoga apparel in those early days until entrepreneurial students started a cottage industry. Back then, the only pattern they had to work from was their pajamas. Pajamas were an interesting choice, since the word comes from a Hindi word that means leg garment, though pajamas were never actually worn by yogis in India, who traditionally wore nothing but a loincloth, if that.
Loose fitting, cool cotton pajamas provided a pattern, but in order for the pajama style pant to be functional as yoga apparel, some changes had to be made. Thicker drawstrings and heavier elastic replaced thin waistbands and heavier cloth was used instead of the flimsy cotton and synthetics used in the manufacture of sleepwear. The frequent choice of unbleached cotton reflected the growing trend towards natural, organic foods, as did the use of natural, earth-toned dyes.
Yoga pants were so comfortable that people wanted to wear them everywhere. Pockets were added and the market for them grew beyond the yoga community. Some of those small one sewing machine companies grew into larger boutique manufacturing companies. In an effort to compete in an ever-growing market, they refined their designs and the materials they used. Today, yoga apparel has become so popular that even fashion labels like Victorias Secret carry a range of yoga pants and tops.
The serious student of hatha yoga puts functionality ahead of fashion when they choose their yoga pants. Whether its one of the natural and synthetic blends like cotton/lycra or the natural fibers like hemp and organic cotton, theres never a problem finding yoga pants that are functional and look good, as well. Yoga pants that impede or restrict movement in any way are not really yoga pants theyre a fashion statement. When youre stretching into the standing tree pose (vrilshasana), you dont want to have to stop to adjust your pant leg and when youre lying on the floor, stretching your legs behind your head into the plow position (halasana), you dont want to feel like you have to hitch up the back of your pants. Yoga pants should move as fluidly and flexibly as the body of the practitioner and stay put around the waist.
With typical Western ingenuity, yoga was embraced and adapted to suit its new home, but basically it remains the same. There was little if any improvement needed to be made to the ancient art of hatha yoga. All that was needed was for us to create a range of apparel that suited the modern age. It may be a humble contribution to yoga, but its a welcome one, because yogas benefits are too numerous to be kept to the select few who prefer a loincloth to a pair of yoga pants!