Yoga Pants vs Leggings and Tights: What’s the Difference, and Which Should You Choose?

yoga pants vs leggings difference
An obvious example of printed yoga leggings, which are skin-tight but comfortable.

What’s the difference between yoga pants vs. leggings? And where do tights and capris fit in? While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are some qualities that distinguish each type of garment from the others.

Folks performing yoga in public, such as at a studio or in the park, want to be dressed appropriately for the activity. So having an understanding of this clothing can help you make smart purchasing choices for your yoga wardrobe!

I this article, we’ll discuss the differences between yoga pants, leggings, tights, and the various other forms of clothing that you may wear for yoga. We’ll make purchasing recommendations for some of the top yoga pants for women, and we’ll also touch on the often-overlooked leggings and yoga pants for men.

Yoga Pants vs Leggings: What’s the Difference?

First, it’s important to note that language is always changing, and different people have their own interpretations about the meaning of each of these items. So there’s no one “right answer” for how every person refers to these types of active wear clothing.

woman exercising - should yoga pants be tight or loose
An example of traditional, loose-fitting yoga pants.

That said, let’s start with leggings, since those are the easiest ones to describe. What are leggings? These are the skin-tight garments that cover your lower body from the waist to the ankles. They’re usually made from Spandex or stretchy elastic material that is comfortable but still fits tight, rather than baggy. The material tends to be on the thin side.

There are different types of leggings. The more traditional type is thinner and probably not the most appropriate for public use. But the type you see a lot these days is a style of athletic leggings, which are specifically designed for exercise. They don’t get excessively stretched out, and they handle sweat better than the old style.

Leggings are comfortable and they are an easy fit for any type of athlete to wear during active movements. In the past, leggings might have been relegated to the gym or yoga studio, but these days, it’s become socially acceptable to see them just about everywhere. Jennifer Lopez and Kendall Jenner are among the numerous celebs who rock the leggings look.

Lately, I’ve also been seeing lots of guys wearing leggings too, especially under shorts when they go jogging. That’s a way to add a little extra warmth during exercise without adding any bulky clothing.

Now, where do yoga pants fit in? This is where things get more complicated. Traditionally, what we call “yoga pants” are a bit more loose-fitting and often flared at the bottom. Sort of like if you gave khaki pants an elastic waistband, widened the legs, and made the material slightly stretchier.

Yoga pants are usually made from cotton, polyester, nylon, or similar materials. They can go all the way to the ankles, or they can end mid-calf. Capris are basically pants that go just past the knee.

Leggings seem to be as popular in yoga studios these days as traditional yoga pants. Leggings are especially preferred more by younger folks in their 20s, while yoga pants seem to be more common among the soccer mom crowd.

Leggings also fit better into a non-yoga wardrobe. They can be worn to the grocery store or to just aout anywhere around town. That’s another reason leggings seem to be currently winning the leggings vs yoga pants battle in terms of overall popularity.

women wearing yoga pants - leggings
Another woman wearing yoga leggings during home practice.

Performing the many stretching movements that are part of yoga can stretch traditional leggings to the point of being ruined. So just check the label to make sure you are buying an athletic style of legging. Or, try out yoga pants first, to see if you can find a pair you like.

Yes, yoga pants are typically not as fashionable as leggings. But there are some yoga pants that look cool and feel good. See our recommendations later in this article.

Ultimately, both leggings and yoga pants are similar enough that you shouldn’t get too concerned about the differences between them.

What About Tights vs Leggings?

What about leggings vs tights? Well, tights are pretty similar to leggings, except that they typically cover the feet as well. Tights are more likely to be made of thinner material and to have more of a sheer design.

Tights are designed more for wearing under other clothing, such as a dress. You wouldn’t wear tights as pants, though you could easily wear leggings as pants. Leggings tend to be more comfortable, as tights can sometimes be a bit too, well, tight.

Despite these distinctions, some people use “tights” and “leggings” as interchangeable terms. So don’t get confused if you see someone wearing leggings refer to them as “tights.” The differences are not really a big deal.

The Best Yoga Leggings

Best Affordable Leggings: CRZ Yoga Leggings

crz best cheap yoga leggings

If you’d like the most budget-friendly, no-frills legging, this CRZ Yoga Legging is our recommendation. Made from spandex and polyamide, the CRZ leggings have a drawstring and a small side pocket for your cell phone.

While comfort is more important than fashion, the CRZ leggings do come in a huge variety of colors and designs. That includes basic colors like red, black, purple, and blue, plus leopard print, camo, and heather designs as well. These leggings are totally appropriate for both the yoga studio and for everyday wear around the city.

Coolest-Looking Printed Legging: Teeki Clouds Yoga Hot Pant

teeki yoga hot pants

We love this Teeki Clouds Yoga Hot Pant, which is mostly gray with swirls of pink, orange, and green sunsets and clouds. The Teeki hot pant is more costly than some others, but it may be worth it for women who really want to have this design. It also features a lower waistband than some other leggings. The Teeki waistband is below the belly button, which we happen to prefer.

Another cool thing about Teeki is that the company’s active wear is made from sustainable materials, including recycled water bottles! It’s nice to know that all those bottles are being used for something cool. This is our top choice if you’re looking for leggings or yoga pants with designs.

Best Moisture-Wicking Legging: Manduka Essence Printed

manduka printed legging

The Manduka Essence Printed Legging is a camo tie dye design that comes in green, black, or blue varieties. It’s a nice-fitting garment with a high waist.

The Essence Printed Legging is also eco-friendly, as it’s made from 78% recycled polyester and 22% spandex. The high-rise legging is moisture-wicking, so it won’t bunch up and awkwardly stick to your skin when you sweat they way cotton does.

Top-Rated Yoga Pants

Best Baggy Yoga Pant: Manduka Assuage Pant

manduka yoga pants

The Manduka Assuage Pant is plenty loose, allowing or maximum comfort when you’re performing those complicated poses that stretch your limbs.

As Manduka primarily sells leggings, this is one of the few yoga pants they offer. While these pants are a bit more expensive than some of the other items on this list, you know that you’re getting the highest-quality possible with that brand name. Manduka also makes some of the most popular yoga mats, cork blocks, stretching straps, and bolster cushions.

Best Plus Size Yoga Pants: Nirlon BootCut Yoga Pants

thick thighs yoga pants with designs

We’ve found that the most stylish and functional yoga pants for thick thighs and fuller figures are these Nirlon Bootcut Yoga Pants. Don’t be alarmed by the super-skinny model in the photo – Nirlon makes these pants for everyone, ranging from sizes S through 3X.

Read the reviews and you’ll see that plus size women are gushing about how well these pants fit. They’re mostly cotton, without 8% spandex to allow for some stretch. They’re perfectly snug, without being too tight. They come in several different dark colors, with various lengths of inseam as well.

Yoga Pants and Leggings for Men

Top Compression Leggings For Men: Under Armour HeatGear 2.0

under arour mens leggings

There are a ton of yoga benefits for men. For guys who want compression-style leggings for yoga, running, or any other type of athletic activity, we highly suggest the Under Armour HeatGear 2.0. These mostly-polyester leggings are lightweight but sturdy, and they do a nice job of wicking away sweat.

Under Armour is obviously one of the biggest brand names in men’s athletic apparel, so it’s no surprise that these leggings are so popular. They are currently available in white, black, gray, and navy blue. Usually guys will wear these underneath a pair of shorts.

Best Loose Yoga Pants for Men: YogaAddict Men’s Fitness Pants

yogaaddict mens yoga pants

The YogaAddict Men’s Fitness Pants are the best traditional yoga pants for men available. They feature pockets, a drawstring, and an elastic waistband. In some ways, they resemble sweatpants, but they’re a bit looser.

The downside of these yoga pants vs leggings is that these are made from heavier material, so you’re obviously more likely to sweat. The upside is that they’re looser and perhaps more comfortable than a tighter compression legging. It all comes down to individual preferences in terms of loose material vs tight-fitting.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tights, Leggings, and Pants

Should yoga pants be tight or loose?

This is really a matter of personal preference. As noted, some folks prefer a baggy, loose fit when they’re doing yoga since it makes them feel more relaxed. Others like the athletic fit of the skin-tight pants. Both are acceptable for yoga at the studio or at home.

There isn’t necessarily a performance advantage to either, except that loose pants may have a tendency to soak up more sweat because of the nature of the material. If you’re going to be sweating a lot in a hot yoga class, the spandex-like leggings might be better. Or just get a good yoga towel.

mens yoga pants leggings
Male yogi wearing compression leggings.

Are there see through yoga clothes?

You’d be surprised how often people ask this question. Some leggings and tights are a bit sheer, and you can sometimes see the underwear beneath them. Those garments would not be ideal for a busy yoga class. Search for something with more color and thickness to avoid this problem.

What are jeggings?

Jeggings are in a completely different category than the yoga pants vs leggings question. Jeggings are basically “jean leggings.” They’re skin-tight leggings designed to look like blue jeans. While you could wear them in a yoga studio, they’d look a little silly. It’s probably best to save the jeggings for your personal errands outside the studio.

Which type of garment is best for aerial yoga?

With aerial yoga, you want tighter clothes, so there’s no chance they’ll get caught in the hammock swing as you perform aerial maneuvers. So we’d suggest leggings or even spandex tights, although a tight-fitting pant would also be fine. Of course, if you’re performing aerial yoga at home, then you can wear whatever feels most comfortable, since nobody else will see you!