The best yoga pants in 2021, according to a yoga instructor who’s tested dozens

  • As a yoga teacher and decades-long practitioner, I live in yoga pants.
  • I went on a proper search for the best yoga pants and the top choices on the market.
  • I’ve rounded up my favorites, including my top maternity leggings, below.

There are few clothing items as versatile as the yoga pant. They’re not only great for yoga class but also ideal for running errands-and sprints. This is why they’re a staple in so many of our wardrobes. All yoga pants aren’t created equal, though. And the difference between poorly and expertly-made leggings can determine whether your yoga practice is distracted and fidgety or calm and blissful.

As a yoga teacher and decades-long practitioner, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of yoga pants with my fair share of ill fits and too-thin see-through fabric. These years of informal testing led me to know exactly what to look for when formally sampling the yoga-pant market. Specifically, the material’s comfort and cut are the two most important factors.

As a yogi watches their breath and tackles challenging physical postures, a nagging fold of fabric that needs to be adjusted (and readjusted) can take them right out of the peaceful moment that they were working so hard to achieve. That’s why the best yoga pants are the kind that you don’t notice you’re wearing.

The ideal material, on the other hand, can vary based on what you want your yoga pants for. For example, the ideal hot yoga pants won’t be made from the same fabric as those for a fall outdoor class. And maternity yoga pants’ material won’t compress as a performance pair might.

With these considerations in mind, we scrutinized some of the most popular and newest pants on the market. The details on our testing process are below.

How we tested

To assess how the cut and fabric felt and moved in different situations, I wore each for a diverse range of activities. I sported each pant for three yoga sessions and one non-yoga workout. Each pant was also my attire for one full day of varied activities, from running errands to watching Netflix. Each bottom was washed twice.

The best yoga pants in 2021:

The best yoga pant overall

Best yoga pants   Best Overall Yoga Pant   Everlane 4x3

Everlane’s Perform Legging is comfortable for all-day wear, yoga, and other workouts. Its high quality and relatively low price distinguishes it from comparable pants.

Pros: Comfortable, ethically made, affordable

Cons: Thin material, so these aren’t great for outdoor yoga (or wear) in cold weather.

When most people think of yoga pants, Everlane isn’t among the first brands that come to mind. But since discovering this legging, I have been recommending it widely.

As a nod to their focus on ethical production, the bag that housed the leggings announced that it “is made from recycled plastic,” and the tag on the pants invited me to visit their website to learn more about the “ethical manufacturing process.” I took them up on the offer and the site took me to a factory in Sri Lanka and told their story. Yoga is more than a physical practice. It’s also a philosophy and way of life, which has a strong focus on ahimsa, or non-harming. It felt good to know that the pants’ production was aligned.

But it wasn’t just the backstory that made me fall in love with these pants. They’re thin and sleek with few seams and made from recycled nylon and elastane. The light compression from the extra-high waist, reminded me to use my ab muscles, even in simple poses like tadasana (mountain pose). And, most importantly, when I put them on, they felt so good that they made me want to get on my mat and practice yoga. Not all pants can inspire a workout.

During my yoga practice, the leggings checked all the boxes. They were flexible, so easy to move in, and they were comfortable. They lived up to the hype of being made from a “premium performance fabric from a renowned Italian mill.” 

I also appreciated that these pants have no visible logo. My yoga practice is a time to step away from the material world, and the absence of a small symbol of consumer culture was a nice touch. They’re also well below the $100+ yoga pant price point at $58 per pair, leaving more cash to fit in the cute pocket in the waistband.

The best outdoor yoga pant

Best yoga pants   Best for Outdoor Yoga   Alo 4x3

The Alo High-Waist Lounge Legging is ideal for outdoor yoga classes in cooler climates, or for indoor low-intensity yoga classes and workouts. 

Pros: Warm, soft

Cons: Not great for indoor high-intensity yoga or exercise

As the pandemic has shuttered studios, many teachers have moved classes to parks and parking lots with socially distanced mats. This has been great for those of us who need to practice with others so can’t just Zoom a class. But what do we wear? Thin yoga pants are great for feeling free and agile during practice, but they’re not great for winter walks or outdoor classes in cooler weather. 

Of all of the pants that I tested, the Alo High-Waist Lounge Legging was the only one that had a level of thickness to provide strong protection from the wind chill of cold days. They’re still flexible, though, with Alo’s signature four-way stretch. 

When I wore these outside, they were perfect, and for lounging indoors or doing light movement, like restorative yoga or stretching, they were also great. But when I wore them indoors for more intense workouts, they were too hot for my comfort. 

Overall, these pants with Alo’s “velvety” Alosoft fabric are a dream. As the name would suggest, they feel incredibly soft against your skin, and the ribbing at the waist and ankles make them even cozier and more flattering. 

The best non-legging yoga pant

Best yoga pants   Best Non Legging Yoga Pant   Sweaty Betty 4x3

The Sweaty Betty Gary Yoga Pants are a great alternative to leggings on days when you don’t want to feel constricted.

Pros: Comfortable, great for modesty

Cons: The thin material is not great for outdoor classes or colder climates

While you may be questioning your decision to ever wear skin tight jeans after months of quarantine, the question about why we wear tight pants is especially relevant in yoga. When I went to India to study with my yoga school, they warned us Americans that our idea of “yoga pants” wouldn’t be acceptable attire there. Looser pants were the norm. 

But the problem with baggy yoga pants can sometimes be that the fabric flies all around and makes movements clunkier. And in inversions, loose trousers may even succumb to gravity and fall down from your ankles to your hips. 

I love Sweaty Betty’s Gary Yoga Pant because they’ve thought of all of that. These pants are loose, comfortable, and lightweight, but they also work well for practice. They’re tapered at the ankles, so they didn’t fall when I was upside down. Plus, the polyester/elastane blend fabric was roomy and stretchy enough that I could move into deep poses carefree. As Sweaty Betty advertises, they’re “100% squat proof.”

When in-person yoga becomes the norm again, I’ll probably mostly wear traditional leggings, but on days when I want to feel less constricted, these would be my go-to pants.

The best pant for hot yoga

Best yoga pants    Best for Hot Yoga   adidas x Karlie Kloss 4x3

The adidas x Karlie Kloss Primeblue High-Waist Long Tights‘ thin and airy design make them perfect for sweaty sessions. 

Pros: Light weight, affordable price, sustainably crafted

Cons: Prominent branding, too thin and airy for cold weather, can’t be tumble dried

Even with most hot yoga studios temporarily closed, many aficionados find ways to get in a heated practice at home by blasting space heaters and shoving blankets underneath doors. For these steamy classes, the right yoga pants can make a big difference. When drenched, certain fabrics’ compression and thickness leads to too much weight and cling to be comfortable. The adidas x Karlie Kloss Primeblue High-Waist Long Tights are a great thin option that avoids those pitfalls.

The pants are great for any workout, but especially good for sweaty activities like runs and heated classes. They’re made from primeblue, a material partially made of upcycled plastic, which would have otherwise ended up in oceans. They also have elastane.

These pants were comfortable for cardio workouts and unheated yoga as well. But they were less ideal for outside wear, at least in the fall and winter. Each leg has six small holes about half way down, and there’s a thinner, ribbed fabric interspersed with the main material. These touches made the leggings ideal when my heart was pumping but less so for running errands on a windy day.

Also, the branding made these pants feel less able to switch from a workout to a dressier engagement. The branding, a small “Aeroready” on the back waist, and 10 inches of “Karlie Kloss” and the Adidas logo down the hip make it clear that these are exercise leggings.

The best high-waisted yoga pant

Best yoga pants   Best High Waisted Legging 4x3

If you love high-waisted yoga pants, the Alo High-Waist Airlift Legging is a great pick for comfort and style. 

Pros: Versatile, comfortable

Cons: Have to be hand washed separately

When I first tried on the Alo High-Waist Airlift Legging, I felt like I was getting dressed up. The double-knit Airlift fabric’s silky sheen and high waist made them feel more sophisticated than the yoga pants I had been wearing every other day. 

High waists vary. Some land below my belly button while others nearly reach the bottom of my sports bra. I appreciated that these pants were of the higher variety. Having a higher waist supports my yoga practice because the touch of pressure on my stomach nudges me to engage my core. I’m not sure if it was that engagement, the micro-performance fabric, or both, but the pants did smooth my mid-section. And with the higher high waist, I didn’t have to worry about the pants rolling down during forward-folding poses like uttanasana or paschimottanasana. 

Another advantage of these pants is that they’re thin, but not too thin. The light fabric and its four-way stretch is great for postures that call for deep stretches, like split pose, but they’re not so light that they expose what’s under them — in other words, no visible underwear lines. The front smoothing panel is great for that protection or, as Alo says, “commando comfort.” 

The best maternity yoga pant

The Best Maternity Yoga Pant - Beyond Yoga

If you’re a yogi with a bump, these pants will give you a fit that rivals those of your pre-pregnancy pants. 

Pros: Soft, comfortable and great fit

Cons: Limited duration of usability; the extra high waist is great for a bump, but with this extra fabric, they may not be ideal far beyond pregnancy

Maintaining my yoga practice during pregnancy was crucial, not only because I’ve been practicing daily for years and wanted to keep up my strength and flexibility, but also because a prenatal practice has been shown to reduce labor pain and length. As my bump grew, however, my yoga classes—and pants—had to change. Traditional vinyasa flows became too intense, and the waists of my favorite leggings kept getting lower and tighter. It was time for prenatal classes and new yoga wear. 

Of the maternity pants that I tried, the Beyond Yoga Spacedye Love The Bump Midi Maternity Legging stood out as the best. Most yoga apparel companies don’t make maternity pants, but Beyond Yoga is one of the exceptions. Their expertise in the space showed. 

These leggings are buttery soft and fit exactly like my favorite pre-pregnancy pants. The one exception, however, is the super high waist. This top portion can be worn up, reaching just below your bra, or folded down for a more traditional yoga pant look. Personally, I preferred wearing the waist up, so that during practice, the pants would stay in place perfectly.

As I sat in squats and reached my limbs into bird-dogs, the leggings’ Spacedye fabric, which delivers on its promise of an “ultra soft feel,” stretched with me like a second skin. And as my belly has expanded over the past few weeks since I first wore them, the fit has remained just as good. I’m excited to have these pants see me through the rest of my third trimester and beyond.

What else we considered:

Best yoga pants 4x3
  • Lululemon Groove Pant Flare Super HR ($98, sizes 0-14): As expected from Lululemon, these pant’s Nulu™ fabric is light and soft. They’re great for all day wear, and the high waist adds to their comfort. They weren’t a top choice, though, because their flare cut makes them less ideal for a fast-paced yoga practice. In inversions and seated forward folds, the excess fabric was a bit distracting.
  • Outdoor Voices Springs 7/8 Legging ($78, sizes XXS to XXXL): These were the only yoga pants that I got compliments on. Outdoor Voices’ signature color block design helps these leggings to stand out from competitors and is a creative way to have their pants be immediately recognizable as Outdoor Voices without needing a logo. I was comfortable in these leggings working out, running errands, and practicing yoga, and I also loved how they looked. But they didn’t make the top list, because I found the textured polyester and spandex fabric less comfortable than that of the other pants.
  • Beyond Yoga Heather Rib Jogger ($110, sizes XS to XL): These are another great option for a non-legging yoga pant. They’re very comfortable, and when I put them on I didn’t want to take them off for days. That said, they didn’t make the top choices, because they’re more fitted than I would like when I’m looking for a non-legging pant. A large part of the appeal of the non-legging pant to me is to not have a form-fitting shape, and these felt a little too close to leggings for me.
  • Seraphine Maternity Activewear & Yoga Power Leggings ($59, sizes XS to XL): At nearly half the cost of the other maternity leggings we tested, these are a great option if you want to invest less in pants that you’ll only be wearing for a couple of trimesters. Though I didn’t find the fit as ideal as that of the top maternity pic, these were comfortable and held up across activities. The pant legs are made of a sweat-wicking material, which made it feel like there’s some distance between me and the fabric. (This was nice at a time when I’m already feeling constricted enough!) And, the belly band is made of soft jersey material, which was comfortable to wear over my bump all day long.
  • HATCH Before, During, and After Legging ($98, sizes XS to XL): I loved these leggings. Made of 92% modal and 8% spandex, the fabric is super soft. Though they feel as cozy as pajamas, they don’t look like them, and can be easily dressed up with a nice top and non-athletic shoes. These aren’t explicitly yoga pants, but they worked well in maternity-style yoga classes, which exclude sweaty, vigorous sequences. What these pants lacked in yoga-pant-perfection, they made up for in their versatility.
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