Yoga has become one of the most popular physical activities in the world, and for good reason. In addition to offering mental and spiritual benefits, yoga can be one of the best single activities for building strength, flexibility, and balance in a way that is generally safe for your body. The number of people who do yoga as part of their health and fitness regimen has risen from about 4 million to over 20 million since 2001, definitely putting it on the very shortly list of fastest-growing activities.
As with most fitness activities, yoga calls for a somewhat specialized type of clothing in order to get max enjoyment and be able to perform at the highest level. While we tend to focus many of our articles on the compression gear world, we consider yoga wear to be in the quasi-compression category. It is not compression in the classical sense of the word, but it certainly shares the qualities we find in much of the workout gear that offers lite compression, probably registering at 10-15 mmHg of pressure.
When it comes to yoga bottoms, there can be a pretty even distribution of garments. Go to a yoga class, and you will likely see yoga shorts and capris, as well as the more classic yoga leggings or pants. Each has its benefits, and each might be a good fit for different yoga situations. The important thing is to match the gear with the activity and make sure you are using the right bottoms for the right situation.
What to Look for in Yoga Pants, Capris, or Shorts
What to look for in yoga wear resembles what we would recommend you look for in other gear like compression wear or bike shorts. The key is always matching your budget with your priorities. In short, though, we think you probably want to think about:
- Type of Yoga. The type of yoga you do can make a difference on the gear that you want to use. If you are doing hot yoga classes where the temperature could easily exceed 95 degrees, you might want to opt for shorts that allow your legs to easily breathe. Go to a vinyasa class, and you will largely see longer leggings or capris being worn. The 3/4 capri pants are a popular option, because they provide good coverage but do not interfere with your feet (you do yoga barefoot).
- Fit. Perhaps the most important, don’t compromise on fit. Making sure you are working out in clothing that is comfortable is important regardless of the sport. Yoga is no different. Personal preference comes into play here, as some people prefer tighter clothing, others like to err a little on the loose side. We tend to advise folks to go the loose and comfortable route, but firm enough to provide support and hold everything together. Too loose, and things will bunch up which is not good in yoga. If you order something and the fit is off, send it back and get it right. You will use a garment way more if it fits.
- Your climate might make a difference in the yoga wear you choose. If you are doing your yoga in the mountains where it is easy to wake up to -5 and snow, having long leggings will prevent you from having to change at the gym. If you live in sunny San Diego, the boringly predictable weather will allow you to be more flexible in this regard.
- Multi-Purposing. While many companies like Lululemon distinguish between yoga leggings and other leggings, we find that most readers simply use their gear for cross-training purposes. The capris that might be used for yoga one day are used for hiking the next. Because of that, think about the other activities that your purchase will crossover to, so you can maximize the investment. Just be sure you do not get anything with a prominent (or any) drawstring. Drawstrings are often unnecessary, and are uncomfortable when doing yoga.
- Construction. This is where your dollars will really make a difference, in many cases. Investing in yoga bottoms that are made-well is something we would recommend every single time. What does “made well” mean? Look for strong, flat seams that will be comfortable against your skin, cuffs and waistlines that have ample, even stitching, and fabric panels that are 100% symmetrical when comparing the right and the left. If you buy a brand that begins to show construction deficiencies, don’t go back to that brand again. They might have quality control issues at their factory. As for where your gear is made, it makes sense to pay attention to it. Very generally speaking, we tend to like gear made in the USA, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, and Australia. Gear from China and Mexico are often fine as well. We tend to be wary of some Chinese gear as well as that made in Taiwan.
- Caring. Many people underestimate the care instructions, but we think it is important. Who wants gear that requires more TLC than a pet? We prefer stuff that can be washed with your large loads of clothes, and if using a dryer is OK, it is a big plus. If you need to air dry, just be sure that you follow those instructions you will shorten the life of the garment.
- Color and Design. At first glance, you might think that color is just a vanity thing, but it is not. We find that some colors, such as lighter grays and other bright colors, tend to show the sweat saturation more than the darks. Sweat marks are a real thing at the end of a yoga class when the lights come back on. They are totally natural and the sign of a good workout. Who wants to be preoccupied by how they look when you are trying to get a great physical workout in? Additionally, if you think you will use your bottoms for running or walking, we highly recommend getting reflective accents which are common on many pieces.
- Breathability. In the past decade, there have been huge advances in the world of breathable and moisture-wicking athletic wear. The fabric you choose for your yoga bottoms should have these qualities, too. Not only will breathable fabrics be more comfortable, they will likely allow you to stay a bit drier which can be useful for many yoga poses.
- Budget. After all that, you need to figure out what your budget is. If you have to prioritize in order to come it at a certain $$ amount, we suggest putting fit and construction at the top of your list. From there, try to include as many “nice to haves” as your budget will allow.
9 Best Yoga Shorts, Capris, and Leggings
With the criteria set, here are our 9 favorite yoga bottoms on the market today. We did our best to include a variety of price points, so that this article can serve those with any budget level.
2XU 3/4 Contour Tights. We tend to like most things 2XU makes, and the Contour tights are no exception. 2XU has been making great triathlon, cycling, and swimming gear for over a decade, and those skills translate well to the yoga world. This tight is made of a Powermesh Lycra fabric, which provides strong support. The compression offered in the 2XUs is going to be firm and supportive, but not too restrictive. This is more workout compression than recovery compression. If you like your bottoms on the tighter side, this is a great choice because they double so well as running and jogging pants.
2XU Plyometric Pro Tights. Again, if you are looking for a great crossover garment that will be suitable for way more than Yoga, 2XU is worth a peek. The Plyometric is another 3/4 capri-style tight, the Plyometric is similar to the Contour but offers better breathability and more print options. They provide good support, and are form-fitting. You should only use these if you are a fan of snug clothing during yoga. They will double as a great cool-weather running pant if you are on to crosstraining with trail or road running. The Plyometric tights offer an anti-chafe seam as well as reflective panels, something we really encourage if you plan to use these outside the studio.
Lululemon Align II Pant. Lulu has become synonymous with yoga in many circles, and of all their pants we really like using the Align II. It is a forgiving pant with plenty of support but looser than the options from the compression gear makers. We especially like the convenient, hidden pocket, and the high-rise waistband is as comfortable as anything we have tried. Overall, the comfort level of these pants are top-notch, so you will find yourself wearing them for way more than just yoga. $98
Victoria’s Secret Knockout Sport Capri. Did it take us a bit to get past the fact we were recommending a Victoria’s Secret garment on a hardcore workout gear site? Yeah. But the fact is that the Knockout Sport Capri (and the longer Leggings by the same model name) are a legitimate yoga garment that lots of people would swear by. We like the comfort level, the fact that the firm, breathable fabric is also very soft, and the number of color and print options that Victoria’s Secret provides. These tights and capris are made of 4-way stretch nylon, and like the Lululemon have a pocket for convenience. At $65, they are some of the more affordable quality pants on the list.
Danskin Sleek Fit Yoga Pants. We wanted to include something on the list that wouldn’t break the bank, and at under $35, the Danskin Sleek Fit pants often come up as one of the options at the sub $50 price point. By spending less, you will get less firmness in the fabric, and you won’t have the same 4-way stretch, but these are good yoga pants and comfortable for around the house. They are a fundamentally different legging than the other options, because they are 55% cotton. That means that you won’t have the same moisture-wicking properties, but in exchange you will save a lot of money. They won’t double for running like the 2XU or Lulu’s will, but if you need something at the budget price range, these are a good way to restock or start out. Note that they tend to run a little long, so when in doubt order on the short side.
Athleta Chaturanga Knicker. Athleta has been making great yoga gear for as long as anyone. They are to yoga what 2XU has become to triathlon. Among their lineup, we really like the Chaturanga knicker. These have an inseam between a short and a 3/4 capri, and going to just around the knee. Made of Pilayo fabric, it is one of the better moisture-wicking materials we have used and great for yoga. The crotch gusset is made of Coolmax technology, a nice touch and something that will add to your comfort. Overall, we think this should be shortlisted for anyone, and the price of $49 is a great value. Best Buy.
Athleta Criss Cross High Waist Metro Legging. If you are looking for something that can be as versatile in the yoga studio as it is doing casual errands, the Criss Cross Metro Legging might be a great choice. It has much of the technology you will find in the yoga-only pants, and will perform will during a typical yoga session. Added to it are some finish/print options that make it a bit more usable in other settings, and four pockets for ample storage during non-yoga events. As with all Athleta gear, the waistband is ultra-comfortable. $84.
Nike Pro Cool Shorts. We wanted to include some shorts choices on the list, and the Nike Pro Cool shorts are the most versatile shorts we can find on the market that work well for yoga. Nike does a great job with its Dri-Fit fabric (used in much apparel in addition to yoga wear) and the flatlock seams are comfortable time and time again. The 3″ inseam might be a little short for some peoples’ liking, and could be annoying to others, but will work for many depending on body type. If you want some shorts that work for yoga but are perfect for other sports as well, these are a great investment and will not break the bank at $28.
Lululemon Wunder Shorts. A little more of an investment than the Pro Cool shorts, the Wunder shorts give you a few things: A slightly more supportive gusset area, a longer inseam (5” vs. 3” can feel like a big difference), and a bit more compression. The compression, to some, feels much better given the support it provides. We have had people use the wunder shorts for yoga and other activities, so they pass the test of versatility. If you have the budget, we might recommend spending the extra few dollars on these. If not, you will be fine with the Nike’s. $48.
Between the nine options above, you should have plenty to choose from in terms of quality, style, and price. If you are more in the market for general spandex shorts, we devoted an entire piece to that where we go into the finer point of those garments as well.