The Yoga of Hair: When Extreme Color Change Leads to Extreme Self Study

I did something crazy this past week. I changed my hair color. A lot. Thirty years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that was a crazy thing to do. I did it all the time. My hair has probably been just about every color that comes in a box. Well, except the extreme rainbow colors that are available these days, but had those been available back in the 80s, I guarantee you, I would have used those too.

A natural brunette, I was a blonde for big chunk of my early adult life. At some point, I got tired of the upkeep and went back to brunette shades that were closer to my natural color so I wouldn’t have to color as often. Over the past year, the door has started to swing the other way. More and more silver started creeping into my hairline. So with silver and grey hair on trend, and admiring the naturally silver hair of women just slightly older than me, I decided to help Mother Nature along by stripping all the color from my hair. I expected to be shocked. I expected other people to be shocked. I just wasn’t as prepared for it as I thought I was.

The first thing that occurred to me was “What the hell are you doing? You’ve been making this shift to less makeup, more natural soaps, shampoos and deodorants, and now you’re applying some really damaging chemicals to your hair and scalp????” Well, yeah. But I’ve kind of been doing that anyway, just in a less obvious way. AND this time it’s for the purpose of hopefully not having to it at all for much longer. (A tentative excuse, I’ll admit.)

The next thing surprised me. I felt like a bit of a fraud. I wasn’t prepared for that. For someone who has always colored her hair and who is living in a world where most women color their hair, feeling like a fraud is a bit of a shock. And even though I have had a few moments in the mirror when I thought the color looked “fun,” I’m still kind of struggling with this one. I’ve been on this quest for authenticity over the past couple of years. Can I be authentic with drastically different hair color? My brains says, “Of course! Authenticity comes from the heart, not the scalp.” But still, I’m kind of struggling.

And then there are other people’s reactions. A few haven’t reacted at all. That speaks volumes. A few love it. Most react the way I have: they’re just not sold on it. A few reactions have bothered me. One person gave me the “blondes have more fun” line. That irked me because that’s not why I did it. (It also irked me because the hair isn’t quite silver yet. There’s still a lot of yellow in it that won’t come out until the next process.)

But one of my older friends said something in response to my hair that really made me question my motives. She said, “I remember when I stopped being noticed on the street. That really bothered me.” Apparently she thought that’s why I had bleached my hair. So I had to ask myself whether that was the case. Was I hiding under the illusion of “helping Mother Nature along” because I wanted to be noticed on the street? My answer came pretty quickly. “No. I still get noticed, even when my hair is a mousy brown.” Usually I don’t care to be noticed on the street. My husband still thinks I’m “hot,” which is more than enough for me. But I will admit that every once in a while getting noticed makes me smile, maybe more than it should.

So what does all of this have to do with yoga? Well, yoga is self study. Yoga is the ability to step out of the base reactions of fight, flight, anger, regret, defensiveness and into a space of inquiry, deeper knowing and understanding. I don’t recommend drastic hair color change to test your yogi brain, but I do hope you’ll join me on the mat some time this week for some less extreme self study.

See you at the studio.