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What is the Difference Between Yoga Pants and Leggings

Women wearing yoga pants

What is the Difference Between Yoga Pants and Leggings

Yoga pants belong to the activewear category. Yet, they are often worn for non-athletic events like school, casual work, and social events.

This trend created yoga pants, leggings, and footwear that look athletic, but dressier. So how did gym clothes become an everyday style choice? Some say the movement resulted from women wearing yoga pants more often. In the past, people only wore workout clothes for exercise. They carried an alternate outfit to wear at the gym after work.

But improvements in textiles made yoga wear comfortable and fashion-conscious. Today, these clothes are “functionally stylish”. There’s no longer a reason to change clothing between work and yoga class. Versatile colors, styles, and cuts make wearing yoga pants appropriate for many occasions. Add in relaxed dress codes, and you’ll spot people in activewear at work and social events.

Can you tell the difference between yoga pants and leggings? Is there a difference? Yes, there’s a difference. Keep reading to find out why.

Difference in Design: All Yoga Pants Are Not Leggings

Leggings or tights are the most popular type of yoga pants. Leggings cover your legs. Styles reach past your knee or all the way to your ankle. They’re made of stretchy materials like lycra, nylon, and polyester. Cotton leggings include spandex for stretch.

But let’s not forget that yoga pants can also come in many other styles and silhouettes.

Here are different types of pants that commonly called “yoga pants”:

Yoga Leggings or Tights

Emily Hsu-Designs Sun Moon Truth Legging

Emily Hsu Designs Legging

Yoga Sweatpants

LVR-Reverse Knee Sweatpant

LVR Reverse Sweatpant

Wide Leg Yoga Pants

Hard Tail-Rolldown Wide Leg Pant

Hard Tail Wide Leg Pant

Yoga Capris

Goldsheep-PDX Carpet Capri Legging

Goldsheep Capri Legging

Difference in Purpose: Leggings Are Not Only for Yoga

The best way to see the difference is to look at the reason for wearing them. Let’s break down the differences between leggings and yoga pants.

While yoga pants are designed with yoga in mind, not all leggings are suitable for a workout.

Women wearing black leggings

Faux Leather Black Leggings

Leggings used to be a layering piece. Today people wear them alone or in combination with other pieces. Some women wear tights as casual pants.

Choose thicker cotton leggings if you wear them alone in public. Thinner materials are perfect under a skirt or long shirt. You can find leggings in skin tight or loose fit styles.

The waistband on leggings is usually a fold over single band. This type of waistband won’t stay in place during vigorous movement. Some leggings are see-through which means they aren’t suitable for sweaty exercise.

A pair of traditional leggings would stretch beyond recognition if you wore them for yoga. They also wouldn’t move sweat away from your skin.

Yoga pants on the other hand, are made to perform well throughout a vigorous yoga session and match specific athletic goals. Yoga enthusiasts intend to perspire. The plan is to bend, stretch, sweat, and repeat. Yoga clothes must transition between positions with ease.

The thick waistband stays in place during exercise and yoga poses. Yoga pants are tight in the butt area so they remain secure in any position.

They have double fabric in certain areas for support and modesty. Some yoga pants are looser down the leg to the foot. This cut makes complicated poses easier. Yoga pant styles include ankle, cropped, and booty lengths.

While most modern leggings will do well for a night out, not all yoga pants will be appropriate.

Emily Hsu-Donut Delight Legging

Emily Hsu Donut Delight Legging

While a pair of faux leather black leggings or denim look leggings can do wonders during a night out, the Emily Hsu Donut Delight Legging featured above are clearly more suitable for the studio!

Difference in Materials

Yoga pants are for athletics.

Yoga pants are made of flexible, technical fabrics like polyester, spandex, and elastane stretch. They are made to bend and move during physical activity. The flexibility of yoga pant tech material works well for a variety of activities. They are on point when lounging on the couch or biking the neighborhood.

Thanks to technology these pants are lightweight and sweat-wicking. The material wicks away sweat to keep you cool during exertion. Moving sweat away from your body also prevents chafing. The stretchable material and waistband provide a secure fit.

Yoga pants are opaque so they aren’t see-through. You can wear them without anything over them. Materials used can be more expensive than leggings as yoga pants are also made to endure vigorous exercise.

Not all leggings are flexible.

Traditional leggings may come in less flexible materials and are not necessarily comfy in physically challenging situations. They can also be thin and transparent. Anyone wearing sheer leggings should combine them with other pieces to avoid exposure. While the waistband on yoga pants is secure during physical activities. Don’t count on leggings to stay in place after running a mile or performing Pilates.

Leggings are also available in a wide variety of materials. You can find them in 100% cotton, synthetics, and fleece. The most fashionable ones can also be made of faux leather or stretchy denim.

Difference in Shapes and Colors

While traditional yoga pants were tight at the butt and thigh, and more open at the bottom of the leg, the days of all black yoga pants are gone. The popularity of daily wear led to yoga pants styles in a variety of cuts and colors. From floral to galaxy prints, there are options for every taste. Printed yoga leggings represent now a big share of the market and offer women the possibility to let their personality shine! The fashion-forward designs elevate your style. Fashion plus comfort makes them a popular choice for every day. People wear them everywhere. You see them at the gym, grocery store, classroom, and even on dates.

Leggings tend to cover the entire leg from waist to ankle. Yet, styles in knee and shin length are available. Leggings also come in a wide variety of colors and patterns but because they are primarily made to be worn outside a yoga studio, we tend to see more traditional plain colors. Since leggings are not all made for exercise, they can be embellished with sparkles, embroidery, and textures.

Are You Wearing Yoga Pants or Leggings?

At first glance, leggings and yoga pants look alike. But, their materials and purpose make them very different. Traditional leggings are thicker than tights but are still lightweight. They’re considered functional fashion. Leggings are available in a variety of patterns and colors. They keep your legs warm in cold climates. They also add color and interest to an outfit. Many business dress codes now accept leggings instead of stockings or tights.

The best way to find out might be by answering these two questions:

  • Would you feel comfortable going on a date with your pants? If yes, we can consider them leggings.
  • Would these pants do well throughout a vigorous yoga session? If yes, they are yoga pants.

The Merging of Two Worlds: Repurposed Yoga Pants and Leggings

Many companies rebrand their athletic wear to meet the most current fashion trends. Materials and styles evolve to match what consumers want. For example, now yoga pants aren’t all flared at the bottom.

Shapes, styles, and colors are changing. It’s easier than ever to purchase yoga pants that look good at the gym or coffee shop.

Leggings companies are adding spandex to fabrics. More leggings are available in opaque materials. Cuts ranging from tight-fitting to Kundalini are available.

As a consequence, it is becoming increasingly harder to dissociate yoga tights from classic leggings.

Choose the Best Option for Your Activity

The main difference between yoga pants and leggings is the wearer’s activity. Both are fashionable in a variety of situations.

One thing to keep in mind: while you can be assured that yoga pants will serve their purpose during your daily session at the studio, not all traditional leggings will do the job. So when buying your new yoga outfit, our advice would be to choose pants – whether they are tight yoga leggings or sweatpants – that are actually made to yoga.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 22, 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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