Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 27: Be Hair Now

Before growing a beard, this man couldn't touch his toes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Ashtanga Half Primary w/ Deb C.
7:00 – 8:30 a.m.

Practice was good today, although I think I'll need to take an Ashtanga day-off tomorrow — it's been a pretty intense 5-day stretch and I'm developing some symptoms of Pitta imbalance, so I could probably use a Yin class tomorrow. Nobody likes an irritable yogi.

I'm doing a lot of Yoga research these days and sometimes Google can send you down some fascinating, and often hilarious rabbit holes. Here's the latest:

Last night Debbie* sent me a stupendous (see, I'm using the word "great" way less) article on Yoga and hair. She's a hairstylist and yogi, so it makes sense that she would be researching this obscure subject, right? You can read the whole article here, but the gist of it is that, in Kundalini Yoga, it's believed that the hair on your head acts as antennae for prana energy, as well as a number of vitamins and nutrients, all transmitted from the sun through the hair.

Yogi Bhajan, the founder of what we know in the West as Kundalini Yoga said:
“When the hair on your head is allowed to attain its full, mature length, then phosphorous, calcium, and vitamin D are all produced, and enter the lymphatic fluid, and eventually the spinal fluid through the two ducts on the top of the brain. This ionic change creates more efficient memory and leads to greater physical energy, improved stamina, and patience.” Yogi Bhajan explained that if you choose to cut your hair, you not only lose this extra energy and nourishment, but your body must then provide a great amount of vital energy and nutrients to continually re-grow the missing hair.
The Hipster bun: energy or cringe inducing?

In addition to this function, when hair is coiled on the top of the head in a Rishi knot it is said to energize your magnetic field, or aura, and stimulate the pineal gland. Amazing! I wonder if all the hipsters wearing top buns know that they're actually fortifying their auras? For the record, the Rishi knot has a very specific construction (but also may be responsible for Turban Alopecia!).

The Rishi knot: root of energetic power or cause of Sikh hair loss?

As awesome as all of this is, it got her thinking about our relationship with hair, and she realized that we both have stopped cutting our hair around the same time a couple of years ago. Did we begin to grow our hair (or, Pranatennae?) long — subconsciously aiming to bolster our cosmic energy supply so we could have the power to uproot and change our life?

I know for me, it was probably interwoven with my inner transformation and awakening. It may have even been a tool to assist in creating more distance between me and the life I was getting ready to leave. When I started growing my beard past the 1/4-inch length I'd been sporting on-and-off for a number of years, the reaction of a lot of my co-workers was equally amusing, annoying and sometimes downright offensive. It's one thing to hear the same Amish jokes multiple times a day (come on guys, you're supposed to be creative! Oh wait, you're in advertising...), but when a senior executive told me that I was "starting to look homeless", I knew that I needed out. It was time for me and my beard to get the heck out of Dodge (or in this case, Mitsubishi).

The negative reaction to a beard longer than the mainstream-accepted 5-day growth was a bit shocking to me. I guess I never knew the kind of prejudice the homeless, the Amish and 2/3rds of ZZ Top had to endure until I grew a true chin muff of my own.

In a lot of other cultures, the beard is revered. Here are some interested beard facts from Wikipedia:
  • In ancient India, the beard was allowed to grow long — a symbol of dignity and of wisdom
  • The ancient Greeks regarded the beard as a badge or sign of virility.The highest ranking Ancient Egyptians grew hair on their chins which was often dyed or hennaed (reddish brown) and sometimes plaited with interwoven gold thread.
  • Mesopotamian civilizations (Sumerian, Assyrians, Babylonians, Chaldeans and Medians) devoted great care to oiling and dressing their beards, using tongs and curling irons to create elaborate ringlets and tiered patterns.
  • The Persians were fond of long beards. In Travels by Adam Olearius, a King of Persia commands his steward's head to be cut off, and on its being brought to him, remarks, "what a pity it was, that a man possessing such fine mustachios, should have been executed."
  • Among the Celts of Scotland and Ireland men typically let their facial hair grow into a full circle of beard, and it was often seen as dishonourable for a Gaelic man to have no facial hair.
  • The Lombards derived their fame from the great length of their beards (Longobards – Long Beards – Langbärte). When Otto the Great said anything serious, he swore by his beard, which covered his breast.
  • Jesus is almost always portrayed with a beard in iconography and art dating from the 4th century onward.
  • Prophet Muhammad said, “Trim your moustaches and let your beards grow.”
  • The Bible states in Leviticus 19:27 that "You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard."
  • The Zohar, one of the primary sources of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), attributes holiness to the beard, specifying that hairs of the beard symbolize channels of subconscious holy energy that flows from above to the human soul.
  • Sikhs consider the beard to be part of the nobility and dignity of their manhood. Sikhs also refrain from cutting their hair and beards out of respect for the God-given form.
  • A male Rastafarian's beard is a sign of his pact with God (Jah or Jehovah)
  • In Greco-Roman antiquity the beard was "seen as the defining characteristic of the philosopher; philosophers had to have beards, and anyone with a beard was assumed to be a philosopher."

So, all of this to say: beards are sexy, and will make you smarter, stronger and a better yogi. Just look at how much of an advantage the bearded and long-haired Chuck Miller displays in this vintage Ashtanga video. The clean-shaven Ray Rosenthal gets schooled by Guruji!

Do yourself, and the cosmos, a favour and grow a beard. God wanted you to have one. :-)))

*Clarification: due to the great number of "Debs" currently in my life, my wife will be know here forth as "Debbie". All other "Debs" are "Yoga Debs" and will be designated with a last initial if applicable)




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