Aurélie Bidermann Takayama Lapis Lazuli stones bracelet. Vintage watch (my grandmother’s), charm bracelet (my mother’s), and ring (my great great aunt’s school ring).
I’m writing this from the comfort of my home, in the comfort of my favorite pair of yoga pants, an old t-shirt, and my Crocs flip-flops. I haven’t brushed my hair today; I just threw it up into a messy bun. I’m not wearing any makeup. I literally showered, brushed my teeth, and ran out the door to teach.
Today’s “outfit” is what we yoga teachers commonly refer to as the “yoga uniform.” Yoga clothes are not only comfortable, they have been my comfortable choice every morning for the past eleven years. Some days it feels like elastic has interdigitated into the fabric of my skin. While some have perfected the art of dressing up their stretchy pants, I’ve always struggled to transform the sporty look into anything other than what it is: spandex.
I used to be chic (can I say that?) — I used to be able to throw together an outfit with confidence, but after a decade of donning the comfortable choice, I’ve lost touch with my sense of style. Sure, I can put on a fancy dress and strut down the sidewalks of New York in a pair of killer heels, but when it comes to daily life, I’m a mess.
More devastating than my inability to break away from my yoga uniform was the fact that I lacked the confidence to try. Desperate to reconnect to the part of me I had loved and lost, I would walk into my closet and try on clothes only to feel utterly defeated by the process. Overwhelmed by the intensity of indecision, I would always choose the comfort of a familiar habit over the intentional practice of being true to myself.
My recent trip to France marked a turning point for me — it was the longest stretch of time where I didn’t have to wear stretchy pants. I arrived with a suitcase full of real clothes (with zippers and everything), but couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to wear them. I ran every outfit decision by my friend Estelle, who stared at me in confusion, likely wondering to herself, What happened to my super confident, fashion-savvy friend? After a few days of holding space for my insecurities, she opened a bottle of rosé and hosted an intervention.
As we sorted through the exclusively black and white wardrobe I brought with me to the very bright and colorful Côte d’Azur, I started to see the light. Estelle was horrified at my collection of elastic underwear and sports bras. Mouth agape, she asked me point blank, “Where is your lingerie?” I found it surprisingly difficult to explain to her that I couldn’t remember the last time I wore a real bra. She then dragged me into her room and showed me her dresser full of beautiful lace lingerie. “I wear them for me because I like knowing that there’s something special underneath.”
It became clear to me in that moment that I had been ignoring that something special underneath my yoga clothes: me. Seeing myself through Estelle’s eyes was eye-opening. I realized that my issue wasn’t just about my atrophied sense of style, but rather that I had started to identify with my yoga uniform. I let a dresser full of spandex swallow up my sense of self.
I decided to make a change. I bought some gorgeous shoes at Chatelles in Paris that make me feel very, very cool. On Estelle’s recommendation, I made a special trip to Galeries Lafayette and bought two beautiful sets of lingerie, which I’ve tried to wear just because. After eleven years of sporting stretchy pants all day everyday, I now leave my home in real people clothes and change into my yoga uniform when I get to work. I’m brushing my hair and wearing lipstick. I’m even playing with jewelry and (horror!) a bit of perfume!
My relationship with stretchy pants reminds me just how how hard it is to take action in the face of a comfortable habit. Just like everything else, it takes practice to change a pattern. There have definitely been a few obstacles along the way that made me reach for my stretch pants, namely exhaustion, hurricane-induced rain, and blisters (from my new faux horse hair leopard print flats). But I will not be deterred! Every day it gets a little easier to choose myself over my habit. Slipping from the ground gained on a day like today only reinvigorates my desire to keep trying, and this has taught me a lot about progress. Just because you feel yourself slipping backwards doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep moving forward.
Now when I look in the mirror, I see me. I’m learning that the comfort of a comfortable choice is not nearly as important as feeling comfortable in your own skin. I’m living my yoga by taking action in ways that honor the real me. How do you live yours?