New-age hippies and Hindu followers looking for a higher spiritual awareness aren't the only ones busting a tree pose nowadays. In recent years, yoga has morphed into something so mainstream, even the Christian-based YMCA is offering classes. From back bends to forward bends, arm balances to inversions, there are yoga poses for everyone. "If you can breathe, you can practice yoga," says Amanda Casgar, the Eastern Regional Manager for Lululemon, a yoga-inspired athletic apparel company.
With the recent popularity of yoga as a form of fitness, Charlotte yogis don't have to stray too far to find yoga gear and accessories. A wide variety of local companies have selections that can be worn on or off the mat.
Hardcore yogi Ashley Avilez teaches deep stretch (aka LSD, long slow deep), slow flow and vinyasa classes at PlanBreathe, Be Yoga and Y2 Yoga studios in Charlotte. The passionate instructor created her own yoga gear and aromatherapy business on etsy, called Lotus Rouge. Lotus Rouge sells eye pillows and therapy sets (neck and eye pillow sets) made out of organic flax seeds, organic lavender flower buds and lavender oil. They serve as cold or hot compresses perfect for soothing sore muscles after taking any class.
With the influx of new diehard yogis comes more versatile yoga wear. OmMade owner Brooke Carlson says people are becoming bored with the basic blacks and browns and are beginning to reach for more patterns and colors. "Yoga companies are offering a wider variety of clothing options — from solids, florals, animal prints, wide-legged pants and tight leggings."
To customize her products, Carlson dyes pants and tank tops in five-gallon buckets, tie-dyes with squirt bottles or stuffs them into pitchers for low-emersion dyeing processes. Each outfit has a unique dye pattern with colors as bright as those in a stained glass window.
A popular nationwide retailer for yoga gear is Lululemon, which opened almost a year ago in SouthPark Mall with the mission to make a difference in communities by promoting health and goal-setting. Lululemon sells men's and women's yoga pants, tops and jackets. "Our clothes are built by athletes for athletes based on feedback focusing on fit, function and technical performance," Casgar says.
Lululemon's yoga lines are made from their signature fabric, luon. According to the company website, luon is a four-way stretch fabric that will not "bag out." The moisture-wicking fabric is quick drying and feels cottony soft to the touch. Shoppers have a variety of colors and styles to choose from. The menswear line offers apparel in neutral blues, blacks and grays. Women have more options with bright pinks, purples, florals, and stripes. The daily tank, a reversible floral print tank top for women, is sold in stores and online, and has received superior customer reviews.
Another place to shop for those comfy yoga pants is the Charlotte-based website ActivewearUSA.com, which boasts that it has "the largest selection of women's activewear on Earth." The figure-flattering clothes are embellished with yoga symbols and prints that, according to the site, "have an appealing look you can wear all day, and high stretch fabrics which move with you as you work toward total body wellness." Options include v-neck tunic tops, roll-down cotton-spandex pants, and batwing sleeve T-shirts that incorporate images of Buddha, the Om symbol, chakra meditation symbols, eagles with prayer phrases, and peace signs on the garments.
Symbols at the heart of yoga are often showcased in jewelry pieces as well, like those designed by Artizen Studio co-owner Paola Quintero. "Within the spiritual yoga jewelry that I design and fabricate are the Om symbol with birth stones, malas (prayer beads), chakra jewelry, mantras and deities," she says.
At her studio in Pineville, Quintero creates each piece of jewelry with the notion of bringing peace and positive energy to its wearer. Artizen Studio jewelry is sold at The Boulevard at South End.
According to Avilez, the Charlotte yoga community is getting back to the true nature of yoga. "Yes, it can be hot, yes, it can kick your butt, and yes, it can have amazing playlists," she says. "But at the heart of yoga is finding stillness and inner calm."
Well, at least newcomers and veterans — whether Plaza Midwood hipster or Uptown banker — alike can look the part in classes that are sure to result in trembling and aching muscles for days to come.