As I am frequently asked by the editors of the various fashion magazines---Elle, Bazaar, Vogue (US and British versions), W, Cat Fancy---how my current yoga look has evolved, I thought I'd share with you, my loyal readers, the same sartorial timeline my publicist faxed to those august publications. (For your information, Tom Ford has dubbed my fall/winter 2006 look "The Yogi Roué." But I digress).
First Class Ever
A t-shirt and sweatpants, both cotton. I drenched both garments absolutely. I sweated through sweat pants, for Christ’s sake. Although maybe it was only fitting---they are called, after all, sweat pants, and one would assume they are in fact pants to be sweated in. But certainly they were never designed to be sweated through.
More than establishing me as profligate sweater---who knew?---my first yoga class, at some yoga studio in Los Feliz, somewhere on Sunset, was also a banger because, while the class rested in savasana, the teacher read aloud a section from an animal rights book that described, in graphic detail, how pigs were killed at a slaughterhouse. I recall something about an abbatoir, a conveyor belt and a bolt gun.
The Casual Skateboarder
In subsequent yoga classes I unveiled my “casual skateboarder” look: board shorts and wife-beater. I had one pair of board shorts (dark blue, Stüssy) that had a 36-inch waist. My waist size was a few inches less than that, so consequently my ass crack clambered forth to hang from the rafters like a naughty pet monkey. Additionally, the shorts were only washed once a week.
Eventually I ditched the wife-beater. I would sweat through every square inch, and after an hour of yoga it was akin to being wrapped in wet newspaper.
This was in San Francisco, so believe it or not, my sandwich-bread flat ass, attendant ass crack, and shall we say musky scent---which, I maintain to this day, has a fantastic bouquet that is at worst intensely pleasurable and at best a powerful aphrodisiac---went largely unnoticed at our local studio, which was situated in the heart of the Mission district. I recall once or twice practicing next to a fellow my age who wore baggy raver-style blue jeans, and whose sweat was crusty and jaundice-yellow, and who emitted the pungent ether smell of someone sweating out a high-grade crystal methamphetamine.
I went and upgraded to these dark blue gym shorts I got for $6 a pair at some sports outlet store. They were cotton, and I would also sweat entirely through them---it should be obvious that at this point issues of perspiration and water management were paramount to my yoga practice. How to collect, funnel, transport and then disperse the prodigious and surprising amount of water being produced? I'd need plumbing, sewage piping, treatment plants---we're talking water management infrastructure here, people. The other drawback to the gym shorts was that they required boxer-briefs underneath, or else the class got full-frontal twig and berries.
I wasn’t quite ready to make the jump to tight, spandex-type shorts, so I invested the ungodly sum of $40 in a pair of Nike runners’ shorts---they were synthetic, unlike the cotton gym shorts, and they featured an inner lining that gathered up and protected the cash and prizes from the ever-prying eyes of yoga babes.
Unfortunately, disaster struck---I lost this pair. The cotton gym shorts were also proving to be disadvantageous as, over time, the constant shimmying, prancing, and floundering that took place during yoga resulted in the stretching of all three pairs. I could handle a bit of stretch around the waist … but the leg holes were stretching, too, which naturally led to a bit of anxiety about my fundamentals burrowing into the light of day unbidden, as is their wont, like a sand-worm in Dune.
Thankfully, around this time Prana hosted one of their seasonal warehouse-clearing sales and I picked up some thigh-length boxer-brief shorts. For some reason, I was still demanding cotton, which, in hindsight, makes no sense, given a) the vast quantities of sweat that jet forth, Old Faithful-like, from my pores, and b) the fact that cotton doesn’t wick away or disperse moisture---it absorbs it.
It was at this point that I abandoned all sense of shame and went to Swooshtown and plunked down $70 for two pairs of tight matte-black running shorts made of material also used somewhere on the space shuttle. When I say tight, I mean tight---grape-smugglers, banana hammocks, meat-pockets, jewel-bags, coin-purses, what-have-you.
(To be fair, many of those terms are really only applicable to Speedo-style shorts. You hear me, Ray Rosenthal-in-that-video-with-Chuck-Miller, circa ’87?)
Cinch the Package
It had been a long and trying journey to reach spandex, or at least a high-tech spandex derivative. When I say “spandex,” I’m really thinking of the shorts the Big Guns wore back in those ’93 Yoga Works videos.
(I have much love for those videos, and not just because El Gran Jefe Tim Miller shines forth as a bronzed, muscle-bound Southern Californian alien crash-landed amidst pale, sun-starved twig-men and hairy-pitted women unsexed in drab, shapeless unitards, but because it appears someone had the gall to color-coordinate all the dudes’ spandex shorts.)
Watching the old videos, you get a sense that, despite the many companies that have sprouted up to sell us cooler, more (or less) athletic yoga wear, what really matters at the end of the day, for ashtanga yoga people, at least, is that their clothes be functional to a fault. Of course, how functional is too functional? I can’t help but think of that one nice couple in Mysore who both wore such short-shorts that the round, jiggly flesh of their upper, upper thighs and the lower quarter-moon of their ass-cheeks bobbled on display for those of us fortunate enough to practice behind them.
(Guruji says, “Keep your mind on God!” So I repeated “The ass cheeks are God! The ass cheeks are God!” over and over again during practice. It didn’t work. I switched spots.)
Maybe I’m in the middle of a parabola---as I get older and fatter, I’ll begin to bundle up again, and reverse the evolution---moving from tight shorts back to cotton gym shorts, and finally, in my old age and infirmity, ending up sweating through cotton sweat-pants while grabbing for gnarled toes in a white “Who Farted?” T-shirt.