Yoga creates opportunities to be okay with who you are and where you are right now.

But sometimes we become so complacent with where we are that we fail to see the small superficial tweaks that can make all the difference in our happiness.

Like cutting bangs.

Oh yes, I went there. Yesterday, after two years of stylist surfing and not caring about my hair’s appearance, I found the perfect match. Coincidence that she’s a Kundalini yoga instructor?

A lot of us who follow the yogic path often downplay our looks because we know that ultimately the body will fade. In the same breath we talk about self love, but we often only love parts of ourselves (e.g. our spirits) and hold dissatisfaction against the rest (e.g. our bodies).

Do you really, right now, love everything about yourself? Maybe the better question is: Do you really want to love yourself or are you convinced it will never happen?

Maybe you just need a change. A superficial, physical change that can shake up that internal energy and replace it with the spunk of being You.

When I walked out of the salon yesterday, I felt like I tapped into that secret superpower. Suddenly, this new, improved Caren could do anything because hair was hiding her forehead.

But it’s not the haircut. (Okay, it’s partially the haircut.)

You don’t need anybody’s permission to feel better about who you are and where you are right now.

You just need your own.

The view from the outside

Whether you’re teaching or practicing yoga, it’s impossible to get everything aligned. There’s bound to be a rib or a toe or a breath out of place.

The trick is not to look the part. The trick is to be the part.

To understand that you and others will inevitably move into and out of alignment — just like the planets and traffic patterns and how you feel about yourself — is to plant the seed for happiness.

There are times when you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see.

That’s okay.

There are times when you play catch up with your exhales and times when you can’t seem to take enough inhales.

That’s okay.

There are moments of myopic gazing and wishing you knew then what you know now.

But if you wish you had done something sooner you’re forgetting about the necessary process  that brought you to a space of actually doing something. These moments are signposts for your life’s deeper journey.

Remember: Pain is a precursor to growth.

The view from the inside

I’m always coaching my yoga students to drop judgements about their bodies and what they “should” look like, so I feel a little odd about my new hairstyle love affair. Am I placing too much emphasis on the physical? Am I being superficial?

No. And don’t let yourself even go there. We are a beauty-driven people and for good reason: It can be an ugly world.

Here’s my perspective. However you choose to appear in the world, take care of your body in relation to your mind. Before considering a physical or soul-level makeover, ask yourself:

  • Am I truly stuck because of my body or because of my perspective about my body?
  • Will this bring me greater happiness or is this just a quick fix, non-lasting solution?
  • Do I really want this for me or because someone else wants it for me?
  • Am I a tiny bit scared about the consequences? (If yes, you’re on to something.)
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?

I asked myself this last question right before my hairstylist/yoga teacher/new friend snipped my bangs.

The answer? Like a starfish, you can always grow it back.

Try it: Gate Pose, Parighasana

This pose stretches the hamstrings, torso and spine, but more important than these is it feels gloriously great. Like, “I’m so glad I did that even though it was kind of uncomfortable at the time” great.

In other words, pretty much like any new change in your life — whether superficial or not.

  1. Kneel in the center of your yoga mat, hands on your hips (pad your knees if necessary). Step your right leg to the side, toes pointing forward and all four corners of the foot anchored on the mat. Align the toe or inner arch with the left knee and ensure your left hip remains above your left knee.
  2. Drop your right hip down so that your hip points are level, using your hands as a guide. Inhale your left arm up and lengthen the pelvis down. Exhale and slide your right hand down the leg as you reach for the ceiling with your left fingertips.
  3. Take a smooth inhalation to lift the right side body; exhale and root into the outer edge of the right foot as you extend through the fingertips. Breathe into the inner right thigh and soften your shoulder blades down the back.
  4. Stay for six deep breaths. Inhale and sweep your left arm back up, then place your hands back on your hips. Step your right leg back in and pause for a breath before moving to the other side.