Yoga! Yoga! Yoga!

Yoga's popularity has spawned a world of fashion choices

By , Contributor

I have yet to be greeted on the street by "Namaste" rather than "Hello!" but the studios are full of newly-minted devotees who might just make this the new "Hey!" The zeal with which yoga has been embraced by all manner of folk is truly astounding. While I am not currently 'practicing' I have participated in a number of classes where I've observed the results of the aforementioned enthusiasts.

Men, who historically couldn't touch their toes, are now exhibiting a perfect triangle pose.  Women, genetically more flexible creatures, could vie for a spot on the Cirque-it de Soleil with little competition. I have been told more than once that it will "change my life" and judging from the unique results, it just might.

yoga-downward-facing-dog-pose.jpgThe best example of how this ancient practice has been infused into our culture is the conversation I recently overheard between married friends of mine. He had just returned from a business trip to China and his wife cheerfully inquired as to whether he was able to get any exercise. His response? "I did a few downward dogs in my hotel room." Obviously, the masses are onto something.

The word "yoga" means "to join or yoke together" - a noble endeavor meant to harmoniously meld body and mind whether on a business trip or in the studio proper. I'm the first one to celebrate any activity that tones body and soul in tandem with a befitting wardrobe.

A practice that has stood the test of time for 5,000 years has, of course, experienced its own sartorial evolution. The carvings found in the Indus Valley on the Pakistan border depict early gurus swathed in trappings we might associate with Mahatma Ghandi: loose, natural fabric wrapped around the body for modesty and comfort. We've evolved to a point where there's little loose, barely modest and everything wrapped about the "new" yoga wear.

Companies such as Lululemon, Elisabetta Rogiani and Hard Tail offer up a plethora of exceptional choices to grace every sinew and curve. Granted, there are still the holdouts who arrive in the Gandhi-esque loose tees and shorts and I love them for it. No fashion slaves are they.

Then there's the coterie of limber-limbed, Lycra-clad participants for whom the choices are limitless.

lululemon.jpgLululemon has become synonymous with yoga wear. This is the company that prides itself on educating the consumer about the physical and mental aspects of healthy living. It's as much a culture as it is a company. Founded by a Vancouver surfer/snowboarder, Chip Wilson was hooked after his first yoga class. His understanding of technical fabrics, borne out of 20 years in the surfing business, created the template for these well-designed pieces that come with their own affirmative spin.

A glance at the website will tell you that this company is as emphatic about their positive philosophy as it is some very chic and practical clothing. Just look at the bag that holds your purchase and you might consider eschewing your weekly therapy if you just expand upon one of their suggestions:

"Your outlook on life is a direct reflection of how much you like yourself."

"The pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness."

"Creativity is maximized when you're living in the moment."

How can you not love a company that shrinks your head and your body?  I find Lulus best suited to a more streamline figure. They are the Spanx of yoga wear given the concentration of Lycra in each garment. Their colorful and sleek pants, tops and wonderfully fitted jackets can make even a beginner better stand and stretch. Lulus have become street wear in some towns and while I encourage everyone to embrace your curves, I also subscribe to leaving something to the imagination.

rogiani.jpgMore on that anon...

Conversely, Elisabetta Rogiani's roots lie in Italian fashion houses, a little less zen and a lot more zip. As an early designer for Fiorucci and Claude Montana, her work is for those who love to bare their well-toned bodies. She incorporates the glam factor with fabric, graphics and silhouettes that tend to enhance the curves and accentuate the anatomy. It's no wonder that Rogiani is the choice of Sheryl Crow, Cameron Diaz and Eva Longoria; they who love to exude that "come hither" look. Similar to Lululemon, the quality is there.

hardtail.jpgStevie Nicks might gravitate toward Hard Tail. Its urban cool feel has a much more bohemian-rocker quality that tends to accommodate a greater breadth of body types. We've had a surfer, Italian stylist and now, a former Air Force pilot who have jumped into the fray. Dick Cantrell's concept for Hard Tail is California sexy/casual with an edgy twist. Asymmetrically cut, uniquely dyed, softer fabrics lend themselves to those who aren't necessarily hard bodies however, approach every pose with the same verve as their more experienced partners. The roll-down pants and tie-dyed tanks can make any yoga neophyte look the part.

bellatutunic.jpgAnd when all is stretched and balanced, and the last "Ohhhmmm" uttered, I maintain that those sculpted derrieres be offered a befitting cover before you re-enter the world. Start a trend in your town and leave your athletic look in-studio and dress for the street. There are fabulous, simple, wraps, tunics and cover-ups that offer style and sporty elegance as you comport yourself from studio to store. Bella tu has a beautiful line of hand-beaded tunics in fabrics, diaphanous and opaque. Put those painted toes in a simple sandal, slip into a bella tu and your yogic glow will light up everyone's path, especially yours.

Hey! Namaste.

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Cynthia Carr Gardner is a free-lance stylist in New York, Los Angeles and Boston. She began her career at Glamour Magazine as a sportswear editor and arbiter of the famed 'Do's and Don'ts.' Her work spans 33 years incorporating feature films, commercials, and currently, personal stylist for ESPN Monday…

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