What is the Difference Between Leggings and Yoga Pants?

This might seem like an odd question, in reality, however, if you are new to being physically active and considering starting a gym routine or yoga class you might want to read this article to make sure you choose the right attire for your activity.

At a very basic level, something sold as a yoga pant/ trouser should fulfill certain criteria that are not fulfilled by an item sold as a legging. The lines can now be blurred slightly however as activewear is increasing in popularity as a dressing style outside of the gym and off the yoga mat.

Below we will discuss differences in design, functionality and price to help you choose the best item for you.

Design and Functionality

Leggings are always skintight, the traditional use for leggings was an item that could be worn under trousers or with a dress/ skirt to help keep you warm. Although leggings can come in different lengths such as Capri, 7/8, or full length they will always abide by this.

 Leggings have become an increasingly popular item of clothing for casual wear and some people will wear leggings now in place of jeans or trousers as they provide more stretch and comfort. With this development, the materials used for leggings have changed to enable them to be worn as stand-alone garments. This means that with certain leggings the lines will be more blurred as to whether they can be used as yoga pants.

Yoga pants on the other hand can come in a variety of types and styles. Yoga leggings are skintight, while other types of yoga trouser can be more like a sweat pant or a hareem pant cut. They are however specifically designed with utility in mind, as a garment intended to be used during physical activity. The materials and specific design features used tend to reflect this fact.  

yoga pants

Materials used for yoga pants tend to have better breathability to help sweat dissipate faster keeping you more comfortable as you work out, they are also thicker to enable you to move your body without becoming see-through. Some companies even include features for anti-chafing. In terms of design, leggings designed to function as activewear more often feature a thicker waistband to avoid folding over during use.

Activewear and lounging style leggings have both seen significant changes in the last few years to be much more fashion conscious. The designs are becoming more elegant featuring elements such as mesh cutouts, patterns, layers, and pockets to help you keep you phone on you for example.

Not everyone wants to wear skintight activewear while exercising, as they may wis to feel more air through the fabric or due to feeling self-conscious. In those cases, a more relaxed design of yoga pants can be a good option. Important things to consider when choosing these would be the thickness and fit of the waistband, the type of yoga you will be practicing; if you intend to do a lot of inversions for example you may want something with an elastic band around the ankle to avoid your trousers flailing, on the other hand if you want to do yoga outside or on the beach to really feel the breeze, you may want a very loose fit to allow the material to blow in the wind making you instantly Insta ready.


Here is where the real difference lies; certain clothing companies will charge you an arm and a leg for activewear these days. We are not saying that their products are not great, but we are also saying that parting with $100 + can feel very heavy just for one pair of yoga or running pants. This is especially true if you are just starting out or if you exercise a lot and need a fresh pair most days. Luckily, you can probably find a decent but maybe not completely specked out pair of yoga pants for $20-$40. We will go through some things to look out for to make sure you are getting something that will see you through your workout without depleting your bank account fully.

Leggings are rather enigmatic in pricing as they can run from just a couple of dollars, to very expensive for the more fashionable end of the spectrum. Some legging can be used for yoga practice, so if you follow our guidelines below you might find a pair of leggings that you love and can use for yoga as well!

How to Choose a Pair of Pants for Yoga

Here is how to choose a pair of leggings/ yoga leggings that will see you through a workout:

  1. Check the material. It needs to be stretchy, so fabrics such a lycra, cotton, bamboo, nylon, polyester, or a mixture of the above can all be ok. Absolutely avoid faux leather finishes as these will not be breathable at all unless you have gone to a very upmarket clothing brand in which case ask to make sure. Soaking in a sweat layer that does not dissipate is no fun.
  2. Try them on in front of a mirror and check the following:
    • Does your underwear show through when you squat, you can also try a downward facing dog to make sure?
    • If you do some light athletics, such as jumping up and down or jumping jacks does the waistband stay in place?
    • Test the stretchability of the groin seams by for example trying a lunge or some warrior poses – can you do these comfortably or does the garment restrict your ability to stretch in full?
  3. Are you happy with how it looks, and would you feel comfortable wearing it to your yoga class?

If it ticks all the above boxes, then ace – these leggings are likely to see you through a normal yoga workout.

different styles of yoga leggings
Different styles of yoga leggings, all featuring wider waistband than you might see on traditional leggings

Certain styles of yoga might call for a more stringent set of criteria. Bikram (hot yoga) for example will be much more comfortable to perform in a more breathable fabric. A tighter and shorter fit might also be preferred for this type of yoga as you will sweat a lot. Shorts and a sports bra is also fully acceptable.

If you’re looking for looser fitting pants for yoga practice, then the sky is your limit, just make sure to check the stretchability of the groin seams, that the material isn’t too see through for your liking and that it flows in the way you desire – this will depend on your preferences.


While the lines are blurring in terms of yoga pants and leggings important differences remain such as in design and functionality. Not all leggings can be used to practice yoga, but you might be able to find a pair that does if you follow our guide. You don’t have to spend extortionate amounts for a pair of yoga pants that works well, and that you’ll love wearing. The more you are willing the spend the more specifically designed features you can expect. We wish you joy in your yoga practice whatever style of yoga pants you choose.