Yoga Attire for Non-Binary Folks: Navigating Gender Expression on the Mat
It's a subtle irony that sometimes to feel good in your body, you may need to expose it.
I found movement later in life. It was several years ago when my journey with physical exercise began. I came to the realization while doing a lot of daily meditation that just “sitting” wasn’t enough I needed to move my body as well. It could have been anything, rock climbing, swimming, going to the gym. I gravitated toward classes and leaving the house, and being around other people. It was then that I found the Martial Art of Aikido, the perfect mixture of spirituality, physical practice, and community. Learning more and more about my breath, and posture through daily physical exercise was life changing.
What I was wearing never really crossed my mind. In Aikido dojos everyone wears the same thing, a white gi, there’s no gender-specific clothing. The gi’s worn are often quite oversized, and the design of a gi has a lot of extra fabric to move around, this gives the body no discernable shape or silhouette. All of this to say that this uniformity is somewhat liberating from a gendered perspective.
The pandemic and switching apartments detached me from my Aikido practice, which still has a very special place in my heart. Over the past couple years I’ve picked up a intensive hot yoga practice. I love yoga, it allows me to play in new and interesting ways and learn about my body at a high level. I love the feeling of sweating, at this point i’m addicted to it, it’s a cathartic release. I love non-heated yoga as well, but the hot stuff is where it’s at.
What you wear in a yoga class is mostly up to you, if you wanted to you could wear a parka, that would be your choice and while the teacher may express some concern of overheating, I think you could convince them. For the most part there are no rules, except don’t be naked or expose yourself (unless that’s the kind of class it is). Yoga attire is pretty gendered. Men often wear dark or neutral colors, the optional t-shirt, and running shorts or swim trunks. Women often go with a light colorful pastel, sports bra and yoga pants. This begs the question, what do non-binary and trans people wear to yoga?
What I fear is that many people shut themselves off to a public yoga class because they fear this very thing. I know at times I have. People may not want to choose what to wear, it can feel a bit paralyzing. We all may not like certain parts of our bodies, and the subtle irony that to feel good in ones body you may need to expose it. This may come across as vain, but I’m not even thinking about what other people think. The biggest critic of you is you, there are moments in yoga when will be looking down at yourself, your arms, your legs, knees, if there’s a mirror perhaps even your whole body, and those moments, for some, can be uncomfortable, at times they’re uncomfortable for me. The elephant in the room in most public spaces is gendered locker rooms, which can be an understandable deterrent for trans and non-binary individuals.
I’ve tried wearing a lot of different to outfits to yoga class. I’ve worn trunks, yoga shorts, yoga pants / leggings, yoga shorts, the leggings + shorts combo, large regular t-shirts, compression t-shirts, and even pullover sweaters. At different times in my life I’ve been interested in showing or hiding different parts of my body. Currently my jam is wearing gi pants from my aikido days, or even pants from scrubs (a lightweight pant) and a fitted long sleeve t-shirt. For a while I wore all white, but as of recent i’ve been integrating color. I usually find something I like from a thrift store and search ebay for the same brand and size and buy multiples. My yoga style continues to grow over time. Recently I’ve been into these “womens” funky zip up athletic tops, which I love, and seem unnecessarily gendered.
For the most part the world of non-binary “active wear” or “athleisure 🤦” fashion isn’t a marketable demographic, —yet. Advertising isn’t telling us what to buy and what to wear. This is amazing! We get to define what makes us comfortable in our bodies, borrow what we like and discard what we don’t. I hope this inspires other non-binary and trans folks to find a movement practice and feel good in their bodies as well. I believe it’s important for non-binary people to write about their experiences when it comes to clothing, resting on the shoulder of those that have come before and sharing what works for them.