The Hugger Mugger Catalog: A History

This entry was posted on Oct 19, 2016 by Charlotte Bell.

hugger mugger catalogBack in 1986, when Sara Chambers founded Hugger Mugger Yoga Products, she couldn’t have predicted its future. From its humble beginnings of a single strap and pair of shorts, the company has cultivated a worldwide community.

In order to build that community, Sara knew she had to get the word out. Back then, the flagship for any mail-order business was their catalog. But how to begin?

Sara and I knew each other from public classes she attended and I assisted. At the time, my day job was as a darkroom technician for a photographer, Butch Adams. Sara enlisted me to help her shoot the photos needed to illustrate her growing list of products.

hugger mugger catalog

A Page from the Original Catalog

Hugger Mugger’s budget was very limited at the time. So Butch, generous soul that he is, set up a backdrop and lights so that Sara could hook her own SLR into his system and shoot the photos herself. Then I developed the film and printed the photos to fit into a layout she’d created. She Xeroxed the pages, put them together, and the first HM catalog went out to her growing mailing list in the spring of 1987. HM distributed that first catalog for several years, updating the cover as needed.

I also modeled in all the catalogs in the early years (note the ’80s hairstyle!). Back then there weren’t all that many people practicing asana, and since I was, at the time, just barely starting to teach yoga, Sara enlisted me to demo the poses. I became a “cover girl” by default. Between the two of us, those catalogs were truly a homespun operation!

hugger mugger catalog

How to Order Your HM Shorts (in 1987)

Included in every catalog in those early years were instructions on special ordering Sara’s custom Hugger Mugger shorts. Each pair of shorts was made to order back then. As the business grew, it became impractical to custom cut and sew each pair of shorts. By the early 1990s, she began to sell the shorts in standard sizes and multiple colors. Hugger Mugger shorts are still popular among Iyengar yogis.

Hugger Mugger Catalog Takes a Step Up
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From 1991: Introducing the Tapas Mat!

By the early 1990s, HM had become well-known in the U.S. yoga community. So Sara decided to upscale the catalogs. Butch began shooting the photos. Color photos were still out of reach financially, but Butch’s expertise added drama to the black-and-white photos. It would take another 10 years before a full-color catalog became a possibility. The full-color cover pictured above still used the tried-and-true black-and-white images inside.

Now, in an effort to stem the environmental impacts of sending out printed catalogs, Hugger Mugger’s website has become our catalog. We still enjoy setting up occasional photo shoots to highlight new products, and occasionally the silver-haired version of me still appears in those photos. But the days of developing film and printing photos are gone. Everything changes.

Do you remember any of these old catalogs? Write to us and tell us about your yoga history!

hugger mugger catalog

HM Bolsters Back in the Day

About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.