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How To Choose Yoga Pants: The Buying Guide for Men and Women

Laura Finch on June 25, 2020
Laura is a yoga teacher who completed 200 hours of training.

This is a true story, I swear.

I nailed yoga squats such as Malasana and Skandasana pretty instantly during my first yoga lessons. But once I went to the bathroom after one of the classes, and… Oh my.

Horror-struck, I found the seams of my yoga pants broke in the crotch area.

Luckily, no yogis in the class were harmed since no one seemed to notice this awkward situation (or at least they pretended they hadn't).

My yoga pants ripped in the middle of a yoga class.

Yup, this happens in real life too.

And this is how I've learned that yoga pants are important.

Ill-constructed clothes can break your workout (and image) or make it.

I'm not talking only about the public embarrassment of having your bottoms split. I'm talking about: chafing, irritated skin, poor breathability and trapped sweat, waistbands that keep slipping, and tops that won't stay put.

Navigating through the jungle of all the yoga pants for women and men is not an easy task. But fear no more!

Read on to learn:

  • what fabric composition works best for yoga pants for women and men's yoga pants
  • what qualities all good yoga bottoms share
  • how yoga pants and leggings should fit
  • how to prolong the life of your favorite yoga pants

Let's get started!

Let's get started

In A Hurry? Meet Top Picks

Don't want to bore yourself with details? Check this this list of the best yoga pants and leggings for women, and the best yoga pants and leggings for men.

Meet YogaKali top picks – sustainable and ethically-made yoga leggings that feel like a second skin and keep you dry during the practice. These yoga pants flex with you during stretches and stay in place during inversions. Plus, they look great too.

Click here to check the YogaKali winner of the best yoga pants for women

Click here to check the YogaKali winner of the best yoga pants for men

Natural Or Synthetics: What Fabric Works Best In Yoga Pants For Women And Men's Yoga Pants

Fabric is the king.

Cheap poor-quality material will cause itchiness at the most inconvenient time, trap heat when things get hot, sag after (or worse, during) the workout, and get stinky after a single yoga class.

If you've ever wondered why some leggings are $15 per pair and others $85, fabric composition will be your most probable answer.

Poor fabric can turn your zen practice into an itchy & scratchy show.

Poor fabric can turn your zen practice into an itchy & scratchy show.

Yoga pants for women and men are generally made of cotton, organic cotton, bamboo, synthetics, and cotton-synthetic blends.

Let's look at each fabric on a case-by-case basis. I'll mostly focus on the properties and features of each material rather than the sustainability of its production.

Bamboo Yoga Pants

Bamboo is a natural and organic material that is processed into a light and breathable fabric called rayon or viscose.

It's generally a good choice for workout gear and yoga pants in particular due to its performance properties, such as the ability to wick away moisture and prevent bad odors from building up.

Due to its temperature regulating properties, bamboo yoga pants will keep you cool and dry when you're hot and warm when you're cold.

Bamboo fabric is soft and gentle even for the sensitive skin, thus comfortable for restorative yoga practice as well as intense workouts. Besides, it is durable and made-to-last.

Bamboo trees

Bamboo is often blended with other fabrics such as spandex, cotton, or wool.

Keep in mind that while growing bamboo is generally sustainable (it doesn't require any fertilizers or intensive labor to grow), the process of turning it into a fabric is chemically and labor-intensive. So not every yoga pants made of bamboo are as natural and eco-friendly as advertised.

Make sure you buy bamboo yoga pants from companies that have rigorous labor standards and green practices in place.

Or take an extra effort and look for items made of Tencel Lyocell – a modern man-made and truly eco-friendly fabric that has the soft feel of bamboo and awesome performance properties.

Sustainable fabric

Cotton Yoga Pants

Cotton yoga pants are comfy and soft.

They work great for stretching, practicing restorative, and moderately-paced types of yoga as well as lounging after the class.

Cotton is highly absorbent. If you're wearing loose-fitting cotton yoga pants to a physically challenging workout, expect them to get clingy and heavier as you sweat.

Some research also says that when wearing cotton, as opposed to synthetic fibers, it'll take a long time for your body to cool down and sweating and shivering sensations will also last longer. So, cotton yoga pants are probably not the best choice if you're into hot yoga only.

That said, tight yoga pants for men and women's leggings made of cotton won't drag you down after a sweat session, but I believe it depends on how much you tend to sweat.

Cotton absorbs sweat instead of repelling it.

Cotton absorbs sweat instead of repelling it.

There are many problems with cultivating and processing cotton into a fabric (some of which I highlighted in my post on why cotton is bad).

If you're a hardened cotton fan, I suggest you consider yoga bottoms made of organic cotton instead. They will be better for you, better for farmers, and a tad better for the environment, too. Plus, organic cotton has a softer feel than ordinary cotton.

On a side note, whether you opt for loose-fitting yoga pants or tight leggings, make sure the fabric composition includes at least a bit of spandex. It will prevent sagging knees and help the pants retain their shape.

Cotton cultivation is laced with controversies.

Cotton cultivation is laced with controversies.

Yoga Pants Made Of Synthetics

Synthetics include man-made fabric such as nylon, polyester, spandex, PVC, and the like.

The process of producing synthetics is merciless towards the environment and factory workers since it requires large amounts of toxic chemicals and energy resources.

Love it or hate it, synthetic materials are great for activewear. Specifically for the items designed for high-impact workouts.

Nylon and polyester blends, for example, are great at wicking away moisture. Instead of being absorbed by the fabric, the sweat evaporates from your skin, helping you stay dry and avoid the sweat marks. Plus, yoga pants made of nylon and polyester are also permeable and help your skin breathe and regulate its temperature.

Synthetic fabrics are a kind of heavy-processed plastic.

Synthetic fabrics are a kind of heavy-processed plastic.

Another synthetic material spandex, also called Lycra, prevents the yoga pants from deforming. It makes them stretch and retain shape for years to come.

Synthetic fabric won't feel as soft and pleasant as cotton or bamboo (though modern textile innovations can surprise even the harshest critics) but is more durable, resistant to fading and pilling.

That said, synthetics create a heavenly environment for stink-causing bacteria. So your hot yoga pants will likely start smelling funky after a single class.

Luckily, the new generation of odor-free fabrics is already here. Lots of activewear brands are now using X-Static technology or a more sustainable Polygiene® - silver salt.

Such fabrics are treated with either nano-silver or recycled silver that is known for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. That way, the gear remains fresh for more extended periods of time and doesn't build up bad smell even after several sweaty hot yoga classes.

Yoga pants treated with silver don't have to be washed as often as regular activewear.

Yoga pants treated with silver don't have to be washed as often as regular activewear.

So, what's a better and eco-friendlier alternative to traditional synthetics?

Really, it's a no-brainer – recycled synthetics.

The whole manufacturing process requires fewer resources, plus prevents waste from going to landfill.

Recycled plastic bottles, fishing nets, industrial waste – modern technologies allow us to make yoga pants for women and men from basically anything.

Yoga Pants Made Of Cotton-Synthetic Blends

The yoga pants made of the cotton-synthetic blend combine the best and the worst of two worlds.

The pants will be softer than pure synthetic wear, but at the same time, they will absorb more sweat and are more likely to pill when compared to near-100% cotton or pure synthetics. Pilling is nasty, and it can make even a new pair of yoga pants look shabby and old.

Qualities To Look For In Yoga Pants

'Looks aren't everything' applies not only to people but to sportswear as well.

We're used to choosing the clothes based on the style we like or color that suits us.

Sure, it's important to feel confident and attractive in your yoga pants. But just like you don't buy your laptop or car because of how it looks, there are features of yoga pants you should prioritize over style.

Comfort & Ease of Movement

It's self-explanatory, really. You should feel good in your yoga pants.

Good as:

  • you shouldn't stop in the middle of the yoga class to adjust the sliding waistband;
  • the fabric should be pleasant to skin and definitely not itchy;
  • the yoga pants shouldn't drag you down in any of the postures…

Regular sweatpants are comfy around the house or in the gym, but generally, don't fit well in the yoga studio. They will usually be too loose and heavy, and maybe even too hot for some yoga styles.

Instead, both women's and men's yoga pants need to be lightweight, streamlined. They must not stay in the way of your postures, especially during fast-paced Power or Vinyasa yoga.

Yoga pants for women and yoga pants for men should be comfortable

Performance Properties

Depending on the type of yoga you practice, you might want to pay a close eye to some specific qualities of your yoga pants. For example, the ability to stretch, wick away sweat or repel bacteria.

If your daily routine involves calm and slow types of yoga, get yourself a bamboo or cotton pair of yoga pants. It will have a nice soft feel, but at the same time, hold the shape and let you stretch and squat without fear.

Hot yoga fans, on the contrary, will most likely appreciate synthetic-based yoga pants or their cropped counterparts – yoga capris. Technical synthetic fabric will wick away sweat and let your body dry fast and adjust its temperature during and after the workout.

Good yoga pants will wick away sweat instead of absorbing it.

Durability

No yoga pants will last you a lifetime. Sooner or later, you'll have to say goodbye to your favorite pair and get a new one.

That said, some materials will serve you longer than others.

Nylon, for example, is considered one of the most durable and long-lasting synthetic fabrics. It's also pretty easy to take care of. Just toss them into a Guppyfriend (a special washing bag that protects synthetic clothes from polluting our waters), into the washing machine, and you're good to go.

Yoga pants made of natural fibers such as certified organic cotton and hemp are no worse than nylon and can withstand years of wear and tear.

Bamboo and modal, on the other hand, tends to pill and lose its attractive look faster than other materials, and often requires more meticulous care (hand-wash, for example).

Some extra features can also prolong the life of tight-fitting yoga pants. A gusset, for example, a small piece of fabric sewn into the crotch area, helps to distribute the pressure around the crotch seams evenly, minimizing the chances of seam breaking.

Gusset can increase the durability of your yoga pants

Fit & Style

There is definitely much more variety in yoga pants for women than yoga pants for men.

Luckily, the popularity of yoga among the male population is finally increasing. So, more and more brands are finally putting effort into creating quality yoga gear for men.

Leggings, loose-fitting yoga pants, harem hippie pants – the fit and style is entirely up to you. Just make sure your yoga pants are of the correct length, not too tight or not too loose with extra fabric flapping around.

Tight yoga pants will likely feel more comfortable for an active yoga session when you have to change postures fast and need your yoga clothes to move with you. Leggings with compression, in particular, are great for both men and women since they support joints, improve blood circulation, and might even help muscles to recover after the workout.

Whereas loose yoga pants will feel cozy for the restorative or other slow styles of yoga. Baggy and relaxed-fit yoga pants are also more versatile. You can pop into a shop or cafe after your yoga routine without feeling too naked in your tight yoga pants.

Loose fitting yoga pants and leggings

Design

In the case of yoga pants, less is always more.

Let me explain.

Many yoga pants for men and women now come with a whole array of extra features. Think key pockets, zippers, clasps, etc. While these might be useful when you're wearing your yoga pants for jogging or visiting the nearby coffee shop after the practice, I believe there's not much use for pockets in your yoga studio.

Besides, there's a high chance that an internal hidden pocket or zip will fit differently on different people.

Some decorations can be bulky and tend to bunch up during the practice. Zippers and drawstrings, for example, may cause discomfort in some asanas, especially in belly-down postures.

Extra layers of fabric around your waist may help with tummy control and compression but can get in the way in postures requiring you to fold forward.

Subtle mesh or perforation can look stylish but also can be strategically located on the sweaty areas to increase your yoga pants breathability

Subtle mesh or perforation not only look stylish but also can be strategically located on the "sweaty" areas to increase your yoga pants breathability.

Color & Pattern

The classic black yoga pants may seem boring and cheesy, but there is a reason why this color is so prevalent in sportswear - black doesn't show sweat.

This is especially handy in hot yoga or physically challenging and fast yoga styles, which leave you drenched at the end of the class.

If you are tired of black, yoga pants for both women and men come in a variety of colors and patterns. Just be prepared that many colorful fabrics will change hue when wet and can show darkened spots in your crotch and leg areas.

On the other hand, there's absolutely no need to be ashamed of sweat. You're going to the gym or jogging to get stronger and healthier, and sweat is a natural (and truly magical) superpower of your body to regulate its temperature.

Also, be aware that some colors and fabrics, synthetics, in particular, can also have a slight sheen to it. This applies more to tight-fitting yoga leggings rather than baggy pants. So if that's something you're worried about, check the customer reviews or ask the manufacturer about the item's color details.

Men's yoga pants and leggings

Sustainable & Ethical Production

Eco-friendliness is not the feature directly related to yoga pants. Still, I believe it should probably be on the top of everyone's list.

Next time you're choosing yoga pants, ask yourself:

  • Where were these yoga pants made?
  • Who made them?
  • Does the manufacturer offer any information about the factories they partner with, their working conditions, employees' salaries?
  • What are these yoga pants made of? What's the impact of this fabric on the environment?
  • Are these yoga pants fairly-priced?

If the company you're buying from is at least slightly conscious about their environmental impact or the well-being of their workers, you'll probably be able to find some information on their website. If that's not enough or, worse, there's no information at all, ask the company directly.

Now, I don't want to say that it's 100% true. Still, very often, if you're getting "a full-pack" for $20-30 (seamless yoga pants with luxurious fabric, moisture-control, anti-odor and the like), the company is cutting corners somewhere. Either they are exploiting the workers, turning a blind eye on the dirty production, or blatantly lie about some of the features.

There is a reason why yoga pants in the US or Europe are twice more expensive than the ones made in Asia. Domestic US and European brands have to adhere to stricter labor and environmental standards than the ones abroad.

I don't think that every yogi must be a vegan hippie tree hugger. Not at all!

But I believe that as yogis, it's our responsibility to look wider at the consequences of our choices and actions.

You're doing yoga to feel better, right? Well, with such a pace of trashing Earth, soon we won't have a planet to do yoga and feel better.

More and more brands are using recycled plastics and industrial waste to create stylish and functional pieces of yoga gear.

More and more brands are using recycled plastics and industrial waste to create stylish and functional pieces of yoga gear.

How Yoga Pants Should Fit

So, you ordered a pair of yoga pants of your favorite color, patiently waited for them to arrive, but when you put them on, and something just doesn't feel right?

I've been there.

Sometimes it might be tricky to understand whether you got yourself the right size, especially when we're talking about tight leggings.

Here are some general rules that will help you figure out whether your yoga pants fit you or you need an exchange.

  • First of all, ask yourself if you're comfortable. Good yoga pants will feel like a second skin and keep you focused on the practice. Which means:1) no chafing seams digging into your skin; 2) no muffin tops; 3) no extra fabric crumbling and getting in the way of postures.
  • To make sure your yoga pants don't go sheer in Down Dog, squat a few times in front of the mirror.
  • Tight-fitting yoga pants have to be stretchy and stay up all the time. If you take breaks to adjust your slipping waistband, you might need a smaller size.
  • Well-fitted yoga pants won't wrinkle or get baggy on the knees or the crotch area.
  • Make sure your yoga pants don't leave any marks or lines on your body after the practice. If they do, it means you probably need a bigger size.

How To Wash & Care For Your Yoga Pants: 5 Tips

The first rule of caring for your yoga pants is to love your yoga pants.

Sometimes it means that you have to go the extra mile to increase their longevity, prevent pilling, or get rid of the stinky after-workout smell.

Also, always check the manufacturer's instructions before tossing your pants into the washing machine. Some yoga pants made of bamboo or modal can be gentler and need hand-washing.

Air-drying your yoga pants not only saves energy but also protects the fabric from wear and tear.

Air-drying your yoga pants not only saves energy but also protects the fabric from wear and tear.

Here are some general cleaning rules that apply in every case.

1. If your yoga pants are made of synthetic material, invest in a Guppyfriend washing bag (like this one from Organic Basics).

The thing is that all synthetic garments shed microplastics into our waterways, causing massive pollution. Guppyfriend not only captures these fibers but protects your clothes too.

It's a simple step to become a more eco-conscious consumer.

2. Wash your workout pants and leggings in cold water. It will prevent color bleed, shrinkage, and fabric breakdown. Do not use the drier, as it can weaken the material. Instead, air-dry your yoga pants.

3. Wash the yoga pants made of natural material inside out. It will reduce friction with other clothes. Skip on the jeans and other harsh fabrics and load your washing machine with garments made of similar material.

4. Avoid fabric softener – especially with synthetics. It will make your yoga pants softer, but the chemicals in the softener can decrease the wicking properties of the material and impede the breath-ability.

5. Choose high-quality detergent. Synthetic fabrics, in particular, are very prone to smelling funny after a sweaty workout, and the regular wash often doesn't help.

Tossing more powder into the washing machine won't do any good either. On the contrary, if not rinsed properly, the left-over detergent can block the odors inside of the fabric and even lead to skin irritation.

Try soaps with special enzymes (like the sport detergent below) or the good old vinegar solution.

General Advice On Buying & Wearing Yoga Pants

Choose Quality

With yoga apparel, the price generally means quality.

Don't think that the more expensive brands are just ripping you off, and you can buy the same yoga pants paying three times less. The items may look the same, but a $15 pair clearly won't perform like the one for $80.

If yoga pants are more expensive, the fabric is of higher quality, the seams are well-constructed and more durable, and people who sew the pants for you get decent wages.

Take Good Care of Your Yoga Pants

… If you want them to last.

Wash your yoga pants according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

If the yoga pants are treated with anti-odor technology, you don't even need to wash it after every use, which means you save time and resources. You can also invest in special spray fresheners that kill bacteria and keep your yoga gear smelling fresh.

Alternate Between Yoga Pants

If you practice yoga almost every day, have at least two pairs of pants. This way, you can wash or air dry one pair in between yoga classes.

FAQ About Choosing Yoga Pants For Women & Men

Which yoga pants are the best?

With so many options available, choosing the best yoga pants for women and men is a tough decision. I'm personally a fan of yoga leggings for women from Organic Basics and loose-fitting yoga pants from Hippie Pants.

Both companies also make quality yoga pants for men.

I've also spent hours researching yoga bottoms and shortlisted the best options in the post on the best yoga pants for women and the best yoga pants for men.

What is the difference between yoga pants and leggings?

Yoga pants are a type of athletic pants you can wear to yoga. They can be baggy, bootcut, flared, straight, semi-tight, etc.

Yoga leggings are simply a type of yoga pants – with a skin-tight fit from the waist to ankles.

Check out this post about the difference between yoga pants and leggings.

Should yoga pants be tight or loose?

IMHO, it's a matter of preference. I like both, but tight-fitting yoga pants or leggings are my definite go-to style for fast Vinyasa, gym, and running. They streamline my body and offer a kind of lightness when I'm moving and jumping.

Loose-fitting yoga pants, on the other hand, are cozy for Iyengar, restorative yoga, Yin, and stretching. I'd also prefer lounging in baggy pants rather than tight leggings.

If you do a variety of activities, my advice would be to get both.

Who should not wear yoga pants?

I can sometimes hear people saying that guys shouldn't wear tight yoga pants or that larger-bodied people should wear baggier clothes instead of leggings.

To me, it all sounds ridiculous.

All those restrictions we pose on ourselves are just in our heads. When making a decision on what to wear, you should listen to one person only. And this person is YOU.

You're probably not doing yoga for someone else, right? You're doing it for your well-being and health. So why would you think about such nonsense as what you should or shouldn't wear to your own practice?

Are you a woman, man, non-binary, trans, LGBTQ+ who feels comfy wearing tight yoga pants? Wear them!

Are you skinny, plumb or plus-size yogi who enjoys the stretch and coziness of leggings? Wear them!

What are the qualities you're looking for in yoga pants? Do you have a favorite pair of yoga pants?

Share in the comments!

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4 comments on “How To Choose Yoga Pants: The Buying Guide for Men and Women”

  1. It was really warm here during the summer and I wear loose workout pants, which I found to be perfect for me as they allow total freedom and keep me cool.

    Winter is coming and my home gets pretty cold during the winter months. I'm worried that during some practices, especially when things are slower, I might start to get uncomfortably cold.

    Could you recommend any warm yoga pants?

  2. I think you omitted one very important, and maybe the most important, factor in choosing right yoga pants - which ones are environmentally friendly meaning they do not contain plastic micro fibers that pollute our waters.

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