What to Wear

Ashtanga pigtails

So this one is dedicated to my fellow ashtangi James, who is also a teacher in the ashtanga & vinyasa styles and specifically requested I cover this topic.

For the last 5 years, I have shown up to ashtanga class with my hair tied in pigtails. When my hair is about shoulder length or longer, I make those pigtails into little buns. Not quite Princess Leia above the ears, but just low and out of the way.

The reason?

Pigtails circa 2003, which is pretty close to my ashtanga look today

This is certainly NOT a fashion statement, unlike the pigtail phase I went through at the end of college. (See pic. Don’t ask me why. I just didn’t know better, alright?)

No, I don’t show up to ashtanga in this hairstyle for the cute factor. I’m not even sure you could call it cute considering that I’m no longer 4 years old and work up quite a sweat in the end. It is purely functional.

The primary series is divided into sections: sun salutations, standing postures, seated postures, supine postures, backbending, inversions and meditative postures. From the supine postures (on your back) through the inversions, your hair can really get in the way of being comfortable.

I have tried a super high ponytail to get it away from my neck when I’m flat on my back. However, when you get into matsyasana aka fish posture or sirsasana aka headstand, the high ponytail makes having a flat surface to place your head on the ground lumpy. No good when you’re trying to balance.

I’ve also tried a low ponytail at the nape of my neck. That makes those flat-on-the-back postures as well as the shoulderstand postures extremely uncomfortable and probably unsafe. Nothing’s worse than feeling a lump of hair and rubberband poking into the sensitive neck area.

So my only solution is to pull my hair to either side of my head, toward the bottom of my ears. It keeps it out of the way for the latter half of the primary series. The buns only further pull hair out of the way and help contain the sweat. Yes, sweat can soak into the hair and drip at the ends. Super gross.

The funny thing is, pigtails seem to be just an ashtanga thing. I have only ever seen other women in an ashtanga class who have figured out this very functional style. I find that in other classes (hatha, vinyasa, restorative), I probably should have put my hair in pigtails for comfort, but no one else does it there. And then I’m messing with a ponytail that gets pushed around my head, depending on the posture. By the time I get up from savasana, I look like I’ve wrestled a bear with half my ponytail falling out.

Who knew hairstyle choice could be such an essential part of the yoga practice?

Update: Found another mention of pigtails for ashtanga on the interwebs! However, if you do a search on Bing for ashtanga pigtails, you end up with some nude yoga sites. (Yikes!)

Yoga Wear and Yoga Hair

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  1. I’ve actually never thought to do pigtails – I usually french braid my hair, which would be fine if my hair was roughly shoulder length, but it’s actually about two longer than where my bra is, so when I’m doing sun salutations (and lots of vinyasa – I think you were on to something with us now having figured out the pig tails), my braid ends up going everywhere. In my face, over my shoulder, stuck on my earring, etc, etc, etc. I also get that bear wrestler look. I may have to try this out!

    • Terri says

      for sure, try it out! i always feel goofy going in, but it gets my hair completely out of the way so i can just focus on the practice. and now, it’s just the norm.

    • Terri says

      go for it. i think we’re on to a comeback trend here. 🙂

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