Victoria Jackson ponders what to do with her long, thick locks during her yoga class
I f you know your yoga sutras, you’ll remember that Patanjali has a daunting list of ‘obstacles’ that might get in the way of practice. They are general issues like illness, doubt, laziness, carelessness. They’re so universal I think we can all identify with them at one time or another. We might also make a modern world addendum to this list involving more practical concerns like childcare, late-running meetings, traffic jams, not to mention boxed sets and comfy sofas. There are so many things that can make getting to yoga class more of an effort than it need be. We do love to complicate things. Perhaps there’s a human need to create obstacles for ourselves so we can then get the reward of overcoming them!
Just recently the difficulty I’m having with yoga is even more trivial than these mundane concerns. It’s my hair! Specifically
my very long, very thick hair. How do I tie it up so it doesn’t get in the way when I practice? As a braid or ponytail, it is now so heavy that it literally pulls me off alignment in standing poses — as I move it’ll suddenly swing past my eye and unbalance me. And the day
I put it up into a neat bun I went to a class was all about headstand and I had to rethink the topknot idea mid-sequence — or learn to levitate upside-down.
So in the modern way of things, I posted my dilemma on social media. Short of getting a haircut, what style would keep the hair out of my eyes and still allow me to do most postures without needing to fiddle with it? The recommendation was twin braids: they’d hang down my back, leaving the back and crown of my head free for headstand and supine postures. Plus the symmetry would be less unbalancing when I was flowing through standing postures. So for a while I went to class looking like a rather mature St Trinian’s reject and, despite the naughty schoolgirl look, I have to admit that it did solve a lot of the irritation I had been feeling during my yoga practice.
But now I’ve gone for a more radical solution and had it cut shorter, as I’d always intended once it was long enough for me to donate a good length of hair for wig-making. This shorter hairdo is much less distracting during yoga. It also eliminates other related modern hindrances to practice — I don’t waste time searching for hairbands and clips and it’s reduced blowdry time so I don’t ever go to bed with wet hair after late night classes. I like to think Patanjali would have approved.
Victoria Jackson lives and teaches in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance Professionals as a vinyasa yoga teacher