Yogis who adhere to the traditional yogic philosophy and tradition proposed in Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras often carry those values both on and off the mat. One of the core aspects that Pantanjali urges yogis to practice is the act of self-love or self-compassion. This teaching is related to his first teaching (otherwise known as the first Yama) known as ahimsa in Sanskrit – the act of non-harming.
One of the most hotly debated issues in the world of yoga apparel today is whether or not shapewear violates this first core teaching proposed by one of the forefathers of yogic philosophy. Does sliding on a pair of high-waist capris with built-in shapewear to make you appear slimmer means that you don’t have self-compassion and unconditional love for the body you have?
On one side of the argument, it’s true that shapewear fundamentally alters your appearance by concealing unwanted fat or jiggly areas. Many individuals may view this as hatred towards their own physical appearance, a clear violation of one of the core principles of the practice.
As in most debates, there are other yogis who take a slightly different view of this sometimes-controversial clothing choice.
Shapewear does assist in concealing trouble areas of your body, but it does not actually cause physical harm to the wearer. Your body is no worse for wear as a result of donning these items. In fact, some yogis find shapewear to be more comfortable than items without additional support. This can be particularly true for yogis who have excess skin, which can hang painfully during inversions regardless of how mild the pose truly is.
For these individuals, it would seem that shapewear is actually a commitment to practicing self-compassion by allowing them to find a more comfortable way to enjoy their yoga practice.
Some yogis prefer shapewear because it gives them a confidence boost compared to ordinary street clothes or workout clothing. Taking their focus off their self-consciousness allows them to focus more on their intentions, cultivating a life that truly embraces all of the yoga sutras that Pantanjali proposes.
Ultimately, the desire to purchase and wear shapewear can stem from a number of places. Your intentions in wearing it can often determine whether you may need to return to the more basic fundamental principle of self-compassion and self-love.
If it allows you to focus more on extending your practice to places beyond the mat and achieve a more well-balanced lifestyle, then shapewear doesn’t have to mean that you don’t love your body. Likewise, you may find it more comfortable which is certainly an indicator that you do care for the body that carries you. By making it as comfortable as possible, you are practicing self-care, compassion, and love.
Before you pass judgment on your own decision or someone else’s decision to wear shapewear for his/her yoga practice, you may want to evaluate the intentions behind it. They may not be as clear as they first seemed.