Years ago, before Sienna Miller was a Vogue cover star, I once found myself standing next to her in a yoga class. All civilian women will know this is a position in which you hope never to find yourself.
Sienna Miller is one of life’s fit fairy women and, naturally, she was wearing body-con yoga gear, looking lithe and prepared. (I was wearing washed-out sweat pants and a baggy T-shirt, looking a bit like Bridget Jones at the start of a half-hearted health kick.)
This is relevant because 15 minutes into the class, we were asked to team up for a stretching exercise (imagine) and as we linked arms, I would have paid any money to have been wearing the Sweaty Betty three-quarter-length stretch leggings and racing-back vests pictured here.
In that moment, suddenly I got it: I might have been a beginner, I might not have been a fairy woman, but in the proper yoga gear I could have felt and looked the part.
Style expert Shane Watson revealed how to embrace the latest trend for yoga wear. Pictured: Vest, £20, underarmour.co.uk; Leggings, £24.99, H&M (in store only)
So the second the class was over, I bolted to the nearest sportswear shop and paid for some top-of-the-range yoga wear, and I’ve never looked back.
The moral of the story? Yoga kit matters. It changes everything.
In spring 2018, we’ve reached a point where there are as many yoga and Pilates classes as there are artisan coffee shops, and what was once a niche activity has become the midlife exercise of choice.
You might never have taken an exercise class in your life, but now, pushing 60, you think nothing of buying a purple yoga mat and an Under Armour two piece and heading off to your local church hall or gym to practise Ashtanga or Hatha or Iyengar yoga.
What the boho Siennas were into back in the Nineties has become the accessible, entry-level exercise of choice for anyone over 40.
We like the idea of gently stretching, often lying down. We like the soothing, slow-paced discipline of it, the fact that it’s as far removed from a spinning or a step class as you can get.
No need to sweat and go purple in the face in the name of getting fit. No Billy Idol blaring at full volume. No machines to work when you haven’t got your glasses.
And we really like striking those poses while wearing mysteriously flattering, body-contouring yoga wear. Would yoga have taken off like prosecco (at the last count there were an estimated 10,000 yoga teachers in the UK) if it involved wearing high-visibility salopettes and sou’westers? No, it would not.
Yoga (and matwork Pilates) have hit the sweet spot because they make us toned and fit and clear-headed and we can look good in the process.
It definitely helps that every Jennifer Aniston and Beyonce owes their figure to yoga and Pilates, that Nigella attributes her weight loss to yoga and that Meghan Markle, of the perfect lean-but-not-too-defined arm, owes it all to her daily practice.
But what puts this exercise craze in a league of its own is the gear, the kit that keeps on giving.
The state-of-the-art, sweat-wicking, fast-drying, hold-you-in exercise wear on these pages is designed specially with yoga or Pilates in mind.
You will feel better about yourself saluting the sun when wearing them, that’s for sure. But then you may glance in the mirror and think: ‘Well, my bum looks better in this . . . no point in changing.
‘I’ll just throw on a Puffa coat or a gilet and meet the girls for coffee, then I’ll walk the dog and nip to the supermarket.’
You don’t want to keep these clothes only for classes and, as of now, you’re not expected to.
Pictured left: Crop top, £55, and leggings, £95, both sweatybetty.com Pictured right: Striped tank top, £24, and striped leggings, £21, both South Beach at asos.com
It’s officially cool to take your yoga-bunny look on to the street.
The figure-enhancing properties of yoga wear in 2018 are almost magical, that is a fact. All the firming, supporting and lifting technology, plus the trompe-l’oeil tricks with various coloured panels and mesh inserts can make you look like you’ve dropped a dress size.
Not all of it works for the practising midlife yogi, though — exercise bras, for example, while giving support, are best worn under a T-shirt unless you’re a pro.
But a loose-fitting vest with cutaway shoulders (such as the GapFit Breathe Banded Hem Tank Top, £24.95, gap.co.uk) can be super flattering.
Who knew a trawl around Sweaty Betty, now all over the country, would be our idea of shopping heaven? Or that a Stella McCartney for Adidas Yoga Tank Top (£62.95) and Yoga Seamless Space-Dye Tights (£79.95, both adidas.co.uk) would be top of our birthday wish lists?
But that’s where we are.
What are the rules for styling yoga wear?
- Acceptable footwear for yoga kit is trainers or FitFlops. Don’t get carried away and pop on some heels. That’s a posing step too far.
- The trend is for bold, contrasting knee bands and outer leg stripes. Go on, make a statement with your leggings.
- Don’t be intimidated by skimpy, cut-away tops — but leave the midriff-baring to the pros.
- White is only for pictures, as are drapey cardigan tops and mesh cover-ups.
- Everyone should also own a pair of cropped black leggings — still the most flattering. Meghan Markle favours pairs from Under Armour (£45, underarmour.co.uk).