Yoga 101: What To Wear

Finally, after years of contemplation, you've signed up for yoga. But what to wear? The Lycra tights from your aerobics days or the baggy gym shorts left over from PE? Even if you don't yet know your asana from your pranayama, you want to look like you belong. To ease the way, here's what yoga experts suggest you wear—and carry along—to your debut class.

Think Comfort. Wear what allows freedom of movement—nothing constricting, particularly around the neck—and in a fabric that breathes, says Kate Marchesiello of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, in Lenox, Mass. "Opt for layers," she says, so that you can streamline if you break a sweat or add on if cold.

Ample Coverage. Keep in mind that some yoga postures are inverted. That may mean that your loose shirt ends up around your ears, exposing more than you had intended. So be prepared: A form-fitting shirt or sports bra underneath a loose shirt is good insurance coverage.

Ask Questions. Some types of yoga, like ashtanga, are more strenuous than others, like hatha or kripalu (which is translated as the "yoga of compassion"). So investigate ahead of time and adjust clothing accordingly.

Know Your Teacher. Instructors have preferences too. "I suggest form-fitting tops, and shorts that go to the knee, like bike shorts, so that I can see your form and correct alignment if necessary," says Baron Baptiste, founder of Power Yoga and author of Journey Into Power (Fireside, 2002). Baptiste's style of yoga is rigorous and hot—he keeps the room temperature at 90 degrees. In this kind of class, athletic wear of a material that wicks away sweat is the better way to go.

Extras. A yoga mat—one that is sticky and doesn't shift when you're doing standing postures—is a must. Also critical is water, a small towel and a firm cushion to help keep the spine in alignment when sitting. But there are less concrete things to carry that are essential to the yoga experience. Says Baptiste, "Bring your spirit and an open mind."

—Barbara Hey