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“Room for the Holy Spirit: Yoga Pants and the Christian”

Yoga-Pants

There’s a lot of buzz in the air about yoga pants, female modesty and male lust. Whether you’re tuned in to the talk or this comes as news to you, we think this piece, co-authored by Christian writers Paul Maxwell and Lore Ferguson, will give you a thing or two to think about.

We encourage you to check out what Paul and Lore have to say, which is less about yoga pants and more about what they understand to be the greater issue at hand, and that’s the preservation of “conversations with a biblical ethic.”

Finally, we’d like to extend a special thank you to Paul and Lore, who were generous enough to grant Project Inspired permission to repost their extremely engaging piece on our site.

So, without further ado—dig in! And be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

 

She comes [into] the coffee shop like she does every day. In every shape and size and age. She just worked out, she just had a baby, she just got out of bed, she’s headed out for the night, she is running errands. She is every woman—she’s you and she’s me. And she’s wearing yoga pants.

“There’s just not much left to the imagination,” thinks the guy sipping his coffee. “Not much extra room for the Holy Spirit.” He works hard to exercise discernment and accountability for the issues he had with porn in past years. He has a wife who isn’t getting younger. He has a fiancée with whom he is trying to maintain purity. He is inundated with flashy ads intended to wire male brains to think one thing about the female form. He is every man—he’s you and he’s me. And he’s surrounded by women in yoga pants.

The question of whether yoga pants are appropriate attire to wear in public has swirled online in recent years, following the garment’s rise in popularity as a casualwear staple. For millions of women, yoga pants are “the new jeans,” worn well beyond the yoga studio and gym.

Among Christians, these form-fitting pants get wrapped in the modesty debate, most recently with a viral post from a blogger sharing her conviction to stop wearing yoga pants and leggings. Then came responses with treatises on freedom and morality and lust and modesty culture. And defenses. And cynicism. And hysteria. And spite.

And here we are, fighting about yoga pants.

Rather than taking sides and settling for boundaries or restrictions, we—as women and men—can talk about what it means to approach these conversations with a biblical ethic that respects the people involved, their bodies and their sexuality, all of which were made by God and declared good. As a girl and guy following the back-and-forth, we see how parts of this debate aren’t actually up for debate.

Our Words and Tone

Whether we are referring to the women wearing yoga pants or the guys who war to keep their eyes on the proper things in the proper times, how we enter this discussion matters. It’s less about pants, no matter how thick or how tight, than it is about people—people who choose what to wear each day, who weigh their personal comfort and social responsibility, who negotiate liberty and care for others.

Debates over what women should and shouldn’t wear tend to frame female “modesty” and male “lust” as dueling principles, often at the expense of these real-life people involved. Modesty refers to what’s “appropriate,” an explicitly contextual word. Any discussion of modesty depends on the setting, so it’s difficult, perhaps even impossible, to declare universal rules.

Similarly with lust. If a man notices a woman and what she is wearing, it does not mean he is objectifying her. There are appropriate ways for man to be drawn to a woman’s beauty or to acknowledge her body without sin or temptation. The ambiguity in the vocabulary central to this debate highlights for us an important reality—generalized prescriptions or boundaries matter less than operating with wisdom and virtue.

Remarks such as “I don’t respect a woman who wears leggings” or “I would never marry a man who can’t help but lust after every woman with form-fitting clothing” come off as extreme and accusatory. There is one accuser (Rev. 12:10), and we have been mirroring his accusations since our fall into sin (Gen. 3:12). Christ gives us a better image (Col. 1:15).

We should avoid issuing blanket statements about others’ character, regardless of what they are wearing. As James reminds us, “Beloved…everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (1:19). What is the motivation for patience with the opposite sex here? “Beloved.” We’re beloved by God. We have nothing to prove—no love to gain by arguing. We can therefore speak in a loving tone with and about our neighbor—nay, even our enemy (Luke 7:47; Matt. 5:44).

Sexuality and Sexual Desire

In the midst of the back-and-forth over yoga pants (or bikinis, [midriff] tops, miniskirts or whatever the current style), we easily get the impression that both a woman’s sexuality as well as a man’s sexual desire are evil. Men who lust are Amnonic monsters (2 Sam. 13), and women who wear form-fitting clothing are Jezebel seductresses (Rev. 2:20).

But sexuality and sexual desire on their own are not evil, they are expressions of God’s generosity to his creation and a natural, biological part of our lives. A woman’s attractiveness and her form will inevitably be visible to some degree. Likewise, men will be surrounded by the female form, and it is not evil that he is attracted to it (1 Cor. 7:9). God created us as beings with sexuality (Gen. 1:26–28), and to shame that is to shame the plan and providence of God.

These realities do not make us sinful. Instead, we sin whenever we desire anything more than we desire God (Rom. 14:3), and what God calls most beautiful, himself. Whether yoga pants are involved or not, if we find ourselves longing to be the object of anyone’s desire apart from our spouse or find ourselves longing to own beauty that does not belong to us, we have sinned.

Our Responsibilities

Men remain exclusively responsible for their lust. As one blogger recently wrote, “Men cause men to stumble, not leggings. When the gorgeous behinds pass by, we always have a choice. Either a) look away and think nothing else of it, b) appreciate the female form while you sip your half-caf, or c) visualize scenarios that run the prurient gamut.”

It’s difficult to live in our culture today, and we do not envy the man who lives in constant temptation and wars with his flesh in this area. Some have warred and won, some are warring and winning, some are struggling and sinning, some indulge and sin.

To objectify and sexualize a woman is sin—one for which Christ died, and which prompts a call to repentance—one for which the Christian man will face judgment and salvation (Acts 17:31). Apart from the cross, there is no escape for sinful men. They will not be able to blame Eve on the last day.

To live in the body of Christ is to live as a social citizen—not in isolation (1 Tim. 5:2). Modesty, lust, sexuality and objectification involve both beholder and subject. No sex can pass the buck to the other sex. It’s ethics that tells us we can’t wear anything we want, or that we can’t gaze and think anything we want.

Women are always called to consider their brothers in Christ. We bear the burden of living in a world broken by sin, waiting for a Savior. We get to shoulder the burden with our brothers, and they with us. We’re compelled to take the perspective of the other into account, because we’re not rogue Christians…we’re in this together.

The Holy Spirit

My friend commented there wasn’t much room for the Holy Spirit in those yoga pants, but we disagree; we think there is. We think the forgotten element in this whole conversation is the Holy Spirit.

We all want to protect our rights or protect our eyes, protect our brother’s rights or protect our sister’s, and we’ve demanded lines to be drawn, but we think there’s a better way and that’s the way of leaving room for the Holy Spirit to convict and to confirm, to comfort and to control (John 16:13).

The issue of the morality of dress is not one of prescription only, but of virtue and wisdom also—and the Spirit works in all three. Each sex should defend the right of the other sex to make decisions for themselves, while maintaining a social responsibility as members of the body of Christ to help the other.

For the woman who wears yoga pants and the woman who refuses to—leave room for the Holy Spirit.

For the man who wars well and for the man who has won the war—leave room for the Holy Spirit.

Lore Ferguson is a freelance writer and graphic designer living in Dallas, Texas. You can follow her on Twitter at @loreferguson and read more of what she’s saying at sayable.net.

Paul Maxwell (@paulcmaxwell) is a PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and philosophy professor at Moody Bible Institute. He writes more at his blog, paulcmaxwell.com, and pretends to like coffee.

Image: Lightstock | Prixel Creative

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26 Comments

  1. rebecca-eve

    Posted by rebecca-eve on March 26, 2015 at 19:18

    I found this article very interesting and it inspired me to write in my blog. It would have been a comment, but it was getting long… lol http://pretty-little-things-jeane.blogspot.com/2015/03/modesty-and-lust.html

    If you could check it out and tell me what you think, that’d be fabulous.

  2. Project Inspired

    Posted by bookworm98 on March 26, 2015 at 17:02

    I’m not very good at Grammer so please ignore any incorrect punctuation. I’m good at math not writing. Haha

    I think that we need to quit thinking about what we want and think about what’s pleasing to God. Wearing something revealing and/or extremely form fitting is not pleasing Him. My mom has always said that your heart will show in the way you are dressed. If you are dressed in a way that could cause a guy to sin then it would appear your heart might not be in the right place. It feels like Christians are coming at this subject with a feminist point of view wanting “rights” instead of wanting to please the Man who died for them. If wearing yoga pants, bikinis, crop tops or whatever the heck you can think of is a sin or not, I don’t really care because I’m want to stay as far away from that line as I possible. If I have any question I automatically don’t wear it. I know how much it sucks when there is a really cute piece of clothing but you have to say no because it’s not modest (I know that I used M word. Please forgive me.)

    Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion. If you don’t like it that’s OK but this is what I believe. 🙂

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by KristenLove17 on July 27, 2015 at 19:56

      It’s sad to think a women is responsible for a man’s lustful thoughts. Yes, women shouldn’t wear very revealing clothing just because they should care enough about themselves to not be showing just anyone parts of their body that should be mostly/fully covered depending on what it is. But a man is very well responsible enough for his own actions especially lustful thoughts. If a man sees a woman who is wearing whatever revealing piece of clothing and he all of a sudden is having trouble not lusting after her he has issues in his OWN heart to repent and get healed of. Blaming women for any other man’s or woman’s lustful thoughts is very shallow and cowardly.

      • princessladk

        Posted by princessladk on November 3, 2017 at 14:09

        I do believe bookworm98 is not saying it’s a woman’s fault a man lusts. But she is right in the fact that our actions affect others. So yes, by dressing immodestly is does affect the way a man thinks. We are to look out for the interest of others and that includes our brothers. It’s more than just respecting ourselves and our bodies, it’s about respecting our brothers AS WELL.

        The point is, we are responsible for our own actions, but we are also to look out for the best interest of others. A woman controls how she dresses and a man controls how he responds. But lets help out our fellow brothers, shall we?

  3. BridgetteMarie21

    Posted by BridgetteMarie21 on March 25, 2015 at 09:50

    I’m getting super sick and tired of this debate, I’m glad this guy doesn’t sound too judgmental. What really grinds my gears is the whole “you should make it easier for guys to avoid lust”. Seriously? What are they doing for us to help us as girls “avoid lust”? Am I not supposed to wear form fitting clothes anymore or something? I’m going to wear yoga pants because I don’t want to wear jeans, simple as that. I wear them almost everyday because I work out. I don’t wear the ones that are so skin tight you can’t wear underwear, and if I do, I’m wearing them with a long hoodie or tank top. You can’t just say yoga pants in general are bad because they really aren’t, the problem is when everyone wears pants that are two sizes too small! In my opinion, we have much bigger problems as Christians. If half the people griping about yoga pants would gripe about the fact that ONE MILLION children are killed by abortion each year in the US or that girls around the world aren’t allowed to go to school because they are female there would be a lot less of this garbage going on. People need to get their priorities straight.

    • martial_artist_for_Jesus

      Posted by martial_artist_for_Jesus on April 19, 2015 at 13:50

      I agree, but I think both girls AND guys should be doing their part to not let each other stumble…. believe it or not, I’ve heard that tight-fitted tees on really muscular young men can be considered immodest for them because it flaunts their abs, muscles, and it’s tempting some girls to want to see them shirtless, I guess… (if that makes any sense) but in a nutshell, I believe both genders should do their part in helping keep one another’s mind pure. 🙂

    • Makayla_Esp

      Posted by Makayla_Esp on April 6, 2015 at 22:26

      Totally agree with your though process! In my opinion it’s the motive of your heart, if your wearing anything that’s 2x to small or your wearing low cut shirts or booty shorts what is the motive? Are you wearing those yoga pants to grab some boys attention? I personally do wear yoga pants or leggings but I make sure it’s it a modest way. We can’t walk around wrapped in a blanket. It’s a choice to be lustful…. We have the choice to allow our minds to wonder. Yes, I agree wearing a low cut shirt and tiny booty shorts opens up a greater opportunity for a man to lust but it’s still a choice. I agree the topic of yoga pants is way over talked about.

    • bbgirl2000

      Posted by bbgirl2000 on April 5, 2015 at 13:27

      Preach

    • Pinkypie2017

      Posted by Pinkypie2017 on March 26, 2015 at 17:20

      Yes thank you so much for saying this I agree 100% ! I don’t know when Christians got so judgemental now it seems like everywhere I look online people are telling you not to wear something, because it’ll cause guys to stumble. This writer said it right nobody causes them to stumble except them. If that were true we could say the same thing about rape, when the fact of the matter is if you’re curvy or just have a good shape guys can still see your body even if you’re not wearing yoga pants. I’m not saying walk up to some guy and flash him, but I don’t think we as Christians should be shaming girls into bearing the responsibility and wracking their brains in constant paranoia of whether their bum looks good in their dress and somebody might look at it. If we’re being honest I don’t think there is anything wrong with a guy noticing a cute bum in front of him for like 2 seconds just as long as they don’t stare excessively or turn around then it becomes creepy lol. The problem usually comes from them looking and having sexual fantasies about the girl. My personal rule of thumb is if you look good and feel comfortable wear it if it makes you look like a sloppy tramp then don’t it’s that simple.

      • bbgirl2000

        Posted by bbgirl2000 on April 5, 2015 at 13:29

        I agree

      • bbgirl2000

        Posted by bbgirl2000 on April 5, 2015 at 13:26

        The reason why girls are supposed to watch what they wear is not just cause you dont want guys to stumble. Its just that you dont want to present yourself just any old kind of way. I mean, its not antifeminist or blaming to tell young girls not to dress like they run a corner. Cause tbh, even though men are responsible for their own actions, there is such a thing as decency, and even though its fine to enhance features that you think are beautiful (I do it all the time), its not ok to walk out of your house looking fast. Yoga pants, in my opinion, are no big deal. We all have those lazy days. Just dont get it twisted between good advice and judgement. That’s just my two cents.

  4. Project Inspired

    Posted by JeSuisSmitty on March 22, 2015 at 21:25

    Personally, I believe that women should be able to wear what they wish to wear. Men must be taught to respect women, no matter what they are wearing. That being said, I don’t always think it is necessary or appropriate to wear something extremely tight or low-cut. However, I do believe that the choice of clothing should be left to the discretion of each individual woman, and that her choice should not be admonished or attacked by others. What a woman wears has no bearing on what kind of person she is or how devout of a Christian she is. As long as a woman is comfortable with her clothing choices, and prepared to fend off any unwanted advances if her clothes provide her with more attention than she is looking for, she should be able to wear whatever she pleases, whether it be skin-tight leggings or loose khakis.

    • princessladk

      Posted by princessladk on November 3, 2017 at 14:16

      The point is selflessness – in all aspects of life – that is what love truly is and we are told to show love to our brothers and sisters. It’s just plain selfishness when you say you can wear whatever you want because you want to wear it it’s also selfish to say you are entitled to respect from a man when you aren’t looking to respect him at all by dressing in a way that would help him avoid lust.

      Philippians 2:3 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by Allison616 on March 23, 2015 at 16:01

      Here’s the thing, though. As a woman, it is YOUR job to make purity less of a challenge for boys. Why? Because “it would be better for one who has cause little ones (aka any child of God) to stumble to have a millstone tied to their neck and cast into the sea” according to Matt. 18: 6-9. It’s on you if you deliberately do something, KNOWING that it could cause a man to stumble.
      I’m getting real tired of hearing about how “sexism still exists because girls aren’t allowed to wear what they want. Boys should be taught that they need to respect women.”
      I get that, I wish I could go out in public and not be cat-called at, just because I’m a D cup.

      But the issue isn’t sexism or lack of women’s rights. The issue is that girls aren’t giving guys anything to respect. The majority of girls don’t care if they’re looked at like a piece of meat.
      Do YOU care? Are you willing to go to prance around in a bikini **A GLORIFIED BRA AND PANTY** and KNOW that you’re going to be looked at sexually? I’m not. I’m not going to wear a low-cut shirt, ever, unless it’s just me and my husband and/or immediate family. Why? Because I want to do what I can to keep my Brother’s eyes on the Lord, not on my butt or my boobs.

      I love yoga pants as much as the next chick. If my butt is covered, I’m all for leggings. But if not? I’m not gonna wear them. Why? Because I have respect for myself, and because I have respect for boys.

  5. Project Inspired

    Posted by Milana on March 21, 2015 at 22:43

    I am grateful for this article on Yoga Pants because I have struggling with my own “yoga pant-wearing-boundaries” lately 🙂 So far, I have figured that I will wear yoga pants outside of a gym/dance studio IF AND ONLY IF I have a long sweater on or have a sweatshirt tied around my waist… my focus is on covering my behind!

    I also want more of an explanation for exactly what “leave room for the Holy Spirit” means in this article. Does it mean intention or something more?

  6. Project Inspired

    Posted by Precioustime22 on March 19, 2015 at 16:35

    This is a fantastic article.

  7. mkay77

    Posted by mkay77 on March 19, 2015 at 12:10

    This may sound like a stupid question, but I have to ask what our definition of yoga pants are. I’ve always thought they were these: http://baldyogi.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/skinny.jpg

    But apparently we are getting the impression we all think they’re leggings.

    Moral of the story: please please please dress for the occasion! I wear yoga pants (like the link I posted above) mainly when I’m chilling at home. Sometimes the waistband on my jeans will feel too tight or I’ll get too bloated and thus retreat to yoga pants, so I’m not an avid yoga-pant wearer. That being said, I’m not going to stop someone from wearing yoga pants because it’s not my place to dictate (unless they are wearing yoga pants at my wedding. Which in that case…sorry bud).

    In conclusion, if boys get distracted by a shoulder, how are we gonna let them do things like…DRIVING? Obviously if they are going to be distracted by a couple inches of skin, they won’t be able to concentrate on the road, and I’d like not die in a car accident because some kid couldn’t focus on the stoplight. Juuuust saying.

    • princessladk

      Posted by princessladk on November 3, 2017 at 14:52

      you are right, those are yoga pants, but they are just as immodest as leggings because they are tight fitting around the butt and really accentuate it. I don’t believe they are talking about distraction in the same manner you are. A man gets “distracted” or really just notice something that they find appealing and could potentially start thinking sexual thoughts, but that wont prevent them from being able to function by doing things like driving. I wear leggings all the time and I totally understand the whole wearing them when your uncomfortable because I do it too! but it’s essential that you do it in such a manner that is still modest. I wear long sweaters that go mid thigh or dresses/skirts overlaying the leggings. Like you said, there are ways of wearing yoga pants modestly too. You can wear them but it should be in a modest manner, then everyone would be happy! Also, if a man tells girls their honest opinion about clothing, it’s wise that we heed what they say. Men understand the way their brains work more than we understand them. We think differently because we’re women and we’re not “turned on” by the same things they are.

  8. Dancer3721

    Posted by Dancer3721 on March 19, 2015 at 07:58

    I definitely agree the issue is with the people and not the pants. I have plenty of Christian friends who have only the best intentions and who wear yoga pants. However, I don’t think it’s a good idea to wear them outside your home or gym. As a girl, I might innocently wear them to the coffee shop simply because they are comfortable, thinking nothing of it. By wearing them, even if it is unintentional, I am putting myself at risk of being the object of some random guy’s lust. As women, I think it is important that we protect ourselves from this by wearing clothing that is appropriate. Not to mention, if I were to wear yoga pants in a public setting, I would be providing a venue for a man’s temptations, which in my opinion would make me a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 8:9). I do not believe that every girl or woman who wears yoga pants around town has considered all this and in spite of it all made the decision to wear the pants. While I am sure there are some women and girls who intentionally wear yoga pants to show off their bodies, I believe most do it out of a desire for comfort and simply because it is a modern trend. So I certainly do not believe it is right to assume a woman or girl who wears yoga pants is promiscuous, but I do believe it is important for us as women to protect ourselves against the evils of this world. We live in a world where sex trafficking, rape, and lust happen every day, so why allow ourselves to become even more vulnerable?

    • martial_artist_for_Jesus

      Posted by martial_artist_for_Jesus on April 19, 2015 at 13:57

      I fully agree, Dancer3721! 🙂 Girls and guys should both make an effort to respect one another and keep their thoughts clean!

    • BridgetteMarie21

      Posted by BridgetteMarie21 on March 25, 2015 at 09:54

      Seriously? It’s not your fault if a guy can’t control himself, it’s his problem NOT yours! It’s a no win situation, no matter what you wear SOMEONE is going to “lust” after it, that’s the way it is. I don’t let anyone but me control what I wear and how I act because that’s what adults do, it’s ridiculous to think about what everyone else thinks about what you wear. I dress for myself, not for anyone else and if I want to wear yoga pants and a tank top, I’m going to wear yoga pants and a tank top because I want to.

  9. patientlywaitingforGodsplan

    Posted by patientlywaitingforGodsplan on March 18, 2015 at 19:24

    🙂
    I like

    Now, I don’t wear yoga pants but I know people who do (a ton) and I don’t see some things wrong with them, but all depends on the setting.

  10. luciegundlach

    Posted by luciegundlach on March 18, 2015 at 18:52

    I think that wearing yoga pants is totally okay (I wear them from time to time) but you should try your hardest to get the kind that aren’t see-through. A lot of brands make yoga pants/leggings be partially see through, which I think is something a christian girl should do her best to avoid.

  11. giwaffe

    Posted by giwaffe on March 18, 2015 at 16:03

    There’s a rule that I’ve always gone with that is “if you are wearing leggings/yoga pants, be sure to cover your butt”. But that is for my own comfort-level. I see nothing wrong with wearing yoga pants without long shirts either. The way I see it is that you can wear whatever you want. Some people are concerned with modesty, but the fact is that some couldn’t care less. I don’t think that women should dress themselves in the morning and think “will this tempt my fellow brothers in Christ?”. They should wear what makes them feel beautiful.

  12. kstrenk

    Posted by kstrenk on March 18, 2015 at 15:05

    I wear yoga pants from time to time and I don’t see anything wrong with it. I don’t wear super tight yoga pants because that isn’t being modest. You can wear yoga pants and still look modest.