Yoga Pants vs Leggings: What’s the Difference?

Yoga Pants vs Leggings: What's the Difference?
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With the rise in popularity of activewear not just because of our modern day obsession with working out and keeping fit but also because it’s eminently comfortable and stylish, a new word has made it into the vernacular. That word is athleisure, and it’s a trend that’s set to be with us for a long time to come.

Center stage to this latest obsession is the humble yoga pant, legging, and even workout tights. Call it what you may, there’s no doubting the importance of those black lycra bottoms. Whether they’re fitted with a straight leg, flared bottoms, stirrups or Capri length, there are seemingly endless variants on this one piece of functional clothing.

You can wear yoga pants and leggings to work, on the school run, for a night out on the town and yes, for a gym session. So what exactly is the difference between yoga pants vs leggings, and how come they’ve become a current fashion obsession?

Categories and Definitions

It’s a topic of hot conversation. With so many styles, shapes, and sizes of yoga pants and leggings being brought out by many emerging new companies in the yoga apparel and fitness clothing industry, there are blurred lines.

What exactly are yoga pants? How does that differ from what we used to just generically describe as leggings? What about jeggings? Let’s not even go there! For now, let’s try and clear up the key differences between yoga pants and leggings if we can.

Let’s start with a quick overview of the difference between yoga pants and leggings.

First up, leggings were originally intended to be worn underneath your main clothing to provide an extra layer of warmth and comfort. Yoga pants, on the other hand, are designed for use when exercising and in particular, practicing yoga.

Of course, these days they’re all entirely interchangeable, and the fashion rules have changed, which is why the lines are blurred, and there’s so much open dialogue about what characteristics define leggings as opposed to pants.

Yoga pants are intended to be more comfortable and flexible because they’re being used to support your body during exercise and as such, typically will feature a more structured waistband. Quite often they also have a waistband which can be folded over to deliver even more support and compressions around the mid-section. Further, a pair of yoga pants should, therefore, provide you with more confidence and comfort while engaging in those challenging asanas without fear of exposing your derriere or your muffin top hanging loose.

Leggings, on the other hand, are made from much lighter and thinner fabrics and more likely to be see-through. That’s no good whatsoever, whether you’re squatting in the gym or doing the downward dog on your yoga mat! The one thing you want to retain is your dignity.

The traditional yoga pants were originally designed with a flared bottom, which very much set it apart from the casual leggings. These days that’s not the case with many yoga pants now featuring tight ankles and even stirrups. Again, this is where some of the confusion has arisen in terms of the definitions of yoga pants vs leggings.

You may also see these referred to as yoga leggings, essentially evolving into a whole new category of functional fit wear. Leggings tend to be favored by dancers while you got it, yoga pants are the preferred choice of those among you practicing one form of yoga or another.

Yoga Pants vs Leggings: The Full Low Down

Yoga Pants

Yoga pants are traditionally much thicker in their construction and tend to be a looser fit than the other types of fitness bottoms. Brands such as Victoria’s Secret popularized the flared bottom which became so synonymous with your idea of a yoga pant. It’s this trendy and stylish design that could have contributed to the yoga pant becoming so popular away from the mat too.

So flattering and flexible, these flared pants are often worn as part of a casual daytime look. From running errands around the house to heading out for coffee and brunch with the girls, yoga pants have become a trendy and far more stylish version of sweatpants. In fact, many credit the yoga pants with being every bit as fashionable and far more comfortable for everyday wear than a pair of jeans.

What sets a pair of yoga pants apart is just how much freedom and flexibility they deliver as well as providing full coverage and in some cases, body-slimming compression elements. They’re also made from technically performing fabrics which give these garments enhanced features. We’re talking moisture-wicking properties and even UPF protection for those of you who like to practice their asanas outdoors.

Yoga pants are also likely to be designed with an anti-chain fit so that they are supremely comfortable no matter what poses you put them, and your body, though.


Leggings, on the other hand, are recognized as being tighter and thinner in construction. They can be worn alone; however, they are most likely to be worn under longer shirts and tunics or even dresses.

Back in the day when they were first introduced, they were thought of as nothing more than an item to wrap around your legs to fight off the cold. That’s no longer the case, and they’re a popular choice for a range of activities and occasions.  They can be worn literally anywhere and aren’t just an extra layer of clothing designed for the chilly winter months.

You’ll find leggings in a wide range of fabrics, but most commonly thin leggings are made from cotton and thick ones from a fleece lined fabric. If you do want to wear a pair of leggings rather than pants to workout, make sure that you go for something that’s constructed from a breathable fabric which can wick away sweat and moisture and keep you cool and fresh while you exercise.

The Bottomline

In the end, the main difference comes down to the activity of the wearer. They’re both highly fashionable and functional, but yoga pants are designed to be a technically performing and supportive garment.

While it’s entirely possible to wear your yoga pants outside of the studio for a coffee date, it’s not possible to always wear your leggings for an intense and sweaty workout session, be that yoga, Pilates or a barre class. If you require a pair of bottoms that will support you during a vigorous Vinyasa yoga session, then go for a pair of purpose-designed yoga pants and leave those leggings for lounging in.

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