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  • Writer's pictureChristina V. Mills

Benefits of Wearing a Head Covering


Photo by Ziphaus

Covering the head or hair has been a practice that both men and women have partaken throughout documented history, across the world, for various reasons. I recently started covering my hair and wanted to discuss reasons that people may choose to do this and the benefits they may gain from doing so. I began to cover my hair simply out of an instinct, dare I say personal conviction from God. Those of you who know or have perused the site may have seen many images or videos of me with my hair uncovered and wearing various styles of dress. I was totally comfortable showing myself in all kinds of yoga poses and attire into my mid 30s.


For those looking for a convenient label, I grew up Christian though now I'm a yoga teacher, and the founder of the most amazing Liveology Yoga Studios. If you spend any time on the site you might see that I've explored and written about pretty much all religions and aspects of God, so I'm not sure if I fit into any religion, if you're looking for one, or maybe I fit into many of them. And yet, one day I instinctually transitioned into a more modest look and experienced its benefits. After this, I began to explore this tradition and the reasons people cover their hair.


It took me a long time to feel comfortable wearing a head covering in public because it is so uncommon amongst people in my community, so I thought it would be helpful for me to explain the benefits of head covering outside of any specific religious context.



Freedom


One of the things I love most about being born in the United States of America is the level of freedom we experience. This country is known for being the birthplace of movements for civil rights, for the right of people to have religious freedom, to live how they choose without the intervention or imposition of the state or unwanted religions. Women born in this country often have much fewer restrictions placed upon them than in some other countries, and we celebrate the ability for women to vote, have careers, and live totally independent lives.


Throughout history, the trajectory seems to have been that as women become increasingly free, their attire began to reflect that. Around the turn of the century, as we came upon the 1900s, and the industrial revolution brought many more women to the workplace, corsets became increasingly out of fashion. Slim dresses with a shortened hemline replaced full length gowns and corsets. Hemlines continued to shorten as women became comfortable showing their legs in swimwear, and this trend progressed throughout the 1900s into short skirts and dresses. At the same time, as women were commonly out of the house and working, women began wearing pants, which, for the most part were traditionally only worn by men through the 1800s, though there are always exceptions.


As of today, American women experience some of the greatest freedoms in the world. Except for leaving the house totally bare chested, women can wear pretty much whatever they want. I think this is a huge win for society to allow women the freedom to choose what they want to wear and how they want to carry themselves.


And nowadays, we collectively seem to equate increased freedoms with less restrictions and the rejection of traditional, historical values, including things like head coverings. Even today, in many countries where head coverings are required, women are fighting for the freedom not to have to wear them. Ultimately, it's simply rooted in the desire for women to be able to decide for themselves what they want - or do not want.


I, for one, am grateful for the ability to fully express myself. I have worn my hair in various ways, colored it, braided it, cut it, loc'd it. I have worn various styles of dress, experimenting with more conservative dress during my 20s when I was heavily in the church and expressed my freedom to wear less and often sexier clothes as I got older and pursued the spiritual path of yoga, exploring my shakti energy.


However, I decided to write this because at some point, I felt an instinct, dare I say a conviction from God, to cover myself. No one has ever told me to cover myself or my hair. I hadn't read anything telling me to do it. It was, quite simply, an instinct. I have had various types of headwraps and have played with covering my hair at times throughout the years. This would always feel like fashion and was never consciously steeped in religiosity. Though I did perceive some level of what I would call "mental clarity" while wearing a headwrap, it was never enough for it to become a daily practice. In addition it seemed like head covering was always looked at a little strangely by those around me. It's ok to do it every so often, but once it becomes frequent, people start asking questions about what's going on with you.


Now, I feel much differently about the subject. When I first started covering my hair and wearing more modest clothing, I asked my mom to come with me to Goodwill to see if I could find any long skirts or dresses. The best way I could describe it is quite literally, I suddenly felt "naked" or "uncovered" and felt the need to cover myself. While we were standing in line with my new haul of three skirts to the ankle and one beautiful casual wrap dress to the ankle, my mom, who is a former Christian pastor and today reads the Qur'an, though would never identify as a Muslim, asked me why I was doing it. I just said it felt right.


Of course, there is scriptural tradition to support the wearing of head coverings in both the Bible and Qur'an and many other traditions, such as Kundalini yoga. You can read about that separately, but I am refraining from adding scripture to this discussion because I feel that scripture can actually complicate things, confuse or scare those who are not really "religious," and because now that I have begun covering my head every day, I feel there are practical benefits much deeper than religiosity that many people, not just women might appreciate.


For me, covering my head is an expression of freedom. Just as I am free to wear short shorts and a tank top in public, which I have done many times and looked amazing, I am also free to choose to cover up. I am free to wear shorts one day and a long dress the next - or in the same day. I am free to wear a head covering today and not tomorrow. It's up to me. I am free to do what I want, and I love that.


As of today, I feel the desire to express my devotion to God and to offer gratitude for God's hand on my life, which is one of the reasons I first began to cover my head. As I said, it felt instinctual, and only after I began to do it did I remember that there is actually scriptural precedent for this practice in the Christian tradition - it's just not followed by pretty much anyone in the West. I also do it as a reminder to myself of how I want to carry myself in public and as a way of conserving my energy.


I also choose to cover my hair as an expression of my sexuaity. In the West, sexuality is often bold. Varying levels of nakedness are common and accepted. I have no problem with this and have displayed myself in various levels of nakedness - again, looking amazing especially during the peak of physical Ashtanga yoga practice. Perhaps it is a reflection of simply getting older, but as of today, I choose to express my sexuality in a different, more subtle way.


Let's explore each of the benefits I, and others, experience from covering their heads in greater detail.




Benefits of Covering the Head


Conservation of Energy


Photo by Surinder pal Singh

The first thing I experience every time I cover my head is a significant feeling of conservation and focus of my energy. This is one of the reasons I would cover my hair sporadically throughout the years. There were times, when I would feel scatterbrained or would feel a desire to grow in my spiritual walk. Simply covering the hair was an act of mindfulness. If the headwrap is tied in a turban style, the slight pressure from the headwrap is stimulating to the brain and the Ajna, third eye chakra, also known as the pineal gland, or the seat of our intuition and spiritual insight. And with the head contained, the energy that might escape from the crown of the head is retained. Anyone who has explored the use of bandhas or energy locks would appreciate head wrapping as a way of conserving and recycling the energy in the body.


As we know, energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can flow and be transmuted. When we interact with others, we share energy. Even when watching people on television, there is an energy exchange, where we are receiving energy. When we go out in public, even without shaking hands, simply looking someone in the eyes can be an exchange of energy. Before I pursued the path of yoga, I was totally unaware of the degree to which we give and receive energy with many different people throughout the day. Unconsciously exchanging energy can be tremendously energetically draining. If you are someone who is highly receptive, empathetic, or sensitive, it can be even moreso, as you are constantly picking up on energetic signatures, even from strangers. I am one of those highly sensitive people.

When I was in the workplace, I would experience depression and drained energy quite frequently. I never knew what it was and thought I just had "anxiety." It turns out the anxiety had a source, and frequently it was that I was picking up on many different energetic signatures without realizing it and without a way of removing or clearing that energy from my mind and body.


Wearing a head covering in public has been practiced by both men and women for the purpose of the conservation of energy and can have dramatic effects on a person's ability to remain "clear headed," peaceful, calm, and focused on a given task.




Expression of Gratitude & Devotion


Photo by Muhammad Aldi

The primary reason I began to cover my head on a regular basis was out of a wellspring of positive emotion and gratitude to God. I had been christened into the Christian faith as an infant, baptized by immersion at 13, began preaching at 23, and began to pursue the path of yoga at 30. By the time I was 36, I felt a newfound clarity about the trajectory of my life and could see that God had a hand on my life, every moment. God's divine plan was unfolding perfectly, and even in moments when I felt depressed and couldn't perceive it at the time, God was always with me, protecting me, teaching me, and providing for me. Where I still was holding onto fear and anger, it felt as though God fixed my heart. I felt a feeling that I had been forgiven for everything, that God's love was unconditional, that God is so merciful and gives us better than what we deserve. I had a sudden feeling of immense appreciation for my life and gratitude that God never forsook me, even when I would curse God, and turned from God.


Each day, during this time, it felt that God was so kind to me, gently showing me the truth of who I am and the things I do. Each day, I felt a response in my heart to be just one step better, which continues today. Each day, this looked different. One day, I decided to get up earlier. One day, I added a particular mantra to my meditation. And one day, I decided to cover my hair. I continued playing around with this most of the time, but particularly during spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation.


Covering my hair became an expression of my gratitude and devotion to God, but more than anything it was reminder to myself of my submission to God, an acknowledgement that God is my covering, the head of my life. Submission is an interesting word in the English language, and often provokes some type of feeling. Many people balk at the idea of submission, or at least submission to large entities like corporations or the government. And as we have increasingly expressed our freedom and rejected the patriarchy and religious systems, especially in the USA, submission almost sounds archaic.


But submission isn't something that someone can make you do. A person can never force another to submit, though people often try to force submission in various contexts. It is impossible. Submission, by definition, is freely given. Though I understand that God can have many expressions, God, in His masculine sense, can be seen as the ultimate gentleman. If God were embodied as a man, he would never force himself upon a woman. He would never peek under her skirt or take anything without her permission. If God were embodied as a man, he would simply present himself as one who is of such a good character that a woman would desire to be within his presence and may even desire to offer herself to him. Even as the mighty Creator, who literally created us and our environment, God never forces us to submit. God gives us total free will to do what we want. We can obey or disobey. Submit or go our own way. God remains a gentleman, all the while, standing at the door, eagerly waiting for anyone who will come. The moment you knock, He throws the door open. And stands with open arms, waiting to hug you. But God will never force the issue. It's up to you.


Once I began to perceive the degree to which God has been looking for me, calling to me, eagerly waiting for me - once I began to perceive the degree to which I had strayed from God - and once I returned to God's arms and realized that there was no judgement there, no anger, no "I told you so" - it was then that I realized how truly spectacular and merciful God is. I felt humbled by God's grace. I felt unworthy of God's forgiveness and abundance. But it was given anyway out of God's tremendous love. It was out of such gratitude and conviction of the goodness of God that I began to express that gratitude and reinforce my desire for a close connection with God all the time through covering my hair.




An Expression of Privacy & Boundaries


Photo by Anastasia Nelen


Nowadays, privacy is lacking. With social media platforms everywhere, there is an insistence that we must share our lives publicly. I have even experienced times when I stop posting so regularly, people finally begin to check on me in real life. "Are you ok?" "Yes. Just not posting on Instagram." Social media has blurred the lines between what is private and what is public. As of today, there is really little difference. When we post, we post at work, or at home, or in the car, or even in the bathroom. Attire historically, pretty much across the world, separated clothes worn in the privacy of the home from clothes worn in public. With social media and the publicizing of our lives, there is little difference. Pajamas, can now be worn to the grocery store. Everything is just whatever.


In the assertion of freedom, of course we should be free to choose, though I, for one, made a choice to create increasing separation between my private life and my public life. When I made this decision to keep some things more private, the headscarf was an essential marker in the expression of my freedom to do so. I began to assert that no one is entitled to see my hair unless I decide to show them. This was immediately so empowering for me! Even basic things like going to the grocery store felt empowering because even though I was in public I felt that I was able to keep some things private. This, alone, made me feel more confident being in public, especially in settings with a large number of people.


Additionally, with social media being so pervasive in our lives, it also allows me to create some level of privacy. As a business owner, I have used social media for marketing for a number of years, and often feel the need to post more than I probably would if I did not have a business. I have often struggled with with the phenomenon of social media because you see that people who you have never even met have a window into your life. I have seen strangers in public who called me by my Instagram name, and though the ego may be stroked, it really begins to hit home what "public" actually means. Any woman who has ventured into the world of posting yoga pics on Instagram would know the experience of constant DMs, follows from suspicious pages, and even requests for pornography - at least those were my experiences and those of many women I know. Over the years, I have tried to walk the line - display enough to show what I can do and perhaps draw some attention to my business, while not being too overtly sexual. Obviously, people draw their line in different places, but I never found a balance to this with which I was really satisfied.


Beginning to cover my hair created a level of privacy that I felt I had previously lost with social media. Even when posting, by covering my hair, it makes a statement that you may see me, but ultimately, we don't know each other like that. It also makes a statement to those who may find me attractive that I'm not posting this for DMs. I'm ultimately posting to teach something that I believe may be beneficial to someone or to market my business. This has created what I consider to be a very healthy boundary for me.



Subtle Sexuality

Photo by Favour Anyula

As a woman, wearing a head covering certainly has an effect on your expression of sexuality and the way males perceive your sexuality. As a yoga teacher with a strong slim body, comfortable wearing pretty much whatever, I grew comfortable with receiving attention in public. Anyone who has followed me on Instagram or perused this site has seen many pictures of me in short shorts in all sorts of yoga poses, some provocative. I always saw it as marketing. But I experienced a major shift in the way I express my sexuality and in the way men (both close to me and strangers) perceive my sexuality when I began to cover my hair. For me, this has been tremendously positive all around.


Immediately, when I began covering my hair, I felt that strangers treated me a little differently. Perhaps it was the way I was carrying myself. Perhaps the scarf makes some type of statement to people. Either way, I found men especially to be more respectful and almost deferential. Things like letting me go before them in line that would happen sometimes became more frequent. And though I was surprised to still receive compliments in public, they had a very different tenor, being much more respectful, with far fewer instances of things like people following me to my car. The most surprising to me, was that some people seemed to really like it. I got the biggest smiles from some people. At first I was self conscious wondering why they were smiling so big at me, but the energy seemed to be saying, "Good!" or "Yes!" One day, a man in a Chick-fil-A actually shouted "Queen!"


Among men I know in real life, covering my hair has become an element of mystery, and I've received positive feedback. "What does your hair look like under there?" They want to know so badly. There immediately becomes a divide, and everyone who sees me in the headscarf knows what side they are on of the divide. To me, this is a good thing, especially when there is one man, in particular, who I really want to see my hair, and my everything. It is an expression to this one man that the fullness of my sexual expression is totally reserved for him and no one else, and that when I am in public I am making an intentional statement that even though I look beautiful, I am not seeking sexual attention. It also makes a signal to anyone I have dated in the past that even if we have been very friendly previously, that today, something has changed. Especially before having an obvious marker of being "off the market" in the form of a ring, I find head wrapping to be a beautiful signal of maturity, devotion to God or a partner, and an expression to the world that I am a woman who respects myself and is to be respected.


I find that having made this distinction or divide in public, it actually allows me an increased level of freedom to be engaging with the males that I am not romantically involved with without it being misinterpreted. Before head wrapping, I would always feel the need to be kind, but a little cold. I love smiling and talking to people, but with such a gregarious personality, this would often be misinterpreted as, "She likes me!" and so I learned to be a little less friendly with strangers. All of a sudden, with my head covered, and the divide created, I felt more comfortable being my natural gregarious self and there is no longer misinterpretation of what that means.


In a subtle way, head wrapping is a full recognition and expression of a woman's sexuality. While a man's body is physically built to be more extraverted, a woman's body is built to be more introverted, more subtle, softer. While boldly wearing skimpy clothes is obviously sexually arousing to a man, wearing more clothes can be more sexually interesting. While a man will certainly enjoy something delivered to him for free on a platter, he will be instinctually much more stimulated by the effort of having to try to get it. Simply keeping one element covered can actually make him more interested to figure out how he can uncover it and may begin to put forth increased kindness and generosity as a result, which I have certainly experienced.



Countercultural Expression of Feminist Choice


Before anyone comes for my head, I love feminism. Feminism is why women have the right to vote, be fully educated, and that I have the freedom to have my own business and work for myself. Feminism is extremely important. For a long time, feminism upheld women's right not to have to do certain things. Women shouldn't have to wear head scarves or long dresses. Women shouldn't be required to get married and birth children for the man. Women should simply be free to choose how they want to live their lives. As of today, there are still countries where women cannot be freely educated or simply live the lives that they want, and so the need for the feminist movement across the world continues.


Now that we have asserted what we don't have to do, I find it fascinating to choose to do some of those things anyway, of my free will. No, I don't have to wear a headscarf, but I like it, so I choose to. I don't have to submit to a man, but if I find one I like, I might choose to. Interestingly, in a society that is increasingly free, choosing to readopt some of these principles we have thrown away is exceedingly countercultural.


Wearing a headscarf certainly isn't intended to be a political statement, but it is an expression of my ability, as a feminist, to choose.









 

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Peace & Pineapples!




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