Sri Patahbi Jois says that yoga is 99% practice 1% theory, this saying is true not only about yoga but also in the creative world we live in, this applies to hairdressing, tattoo artists, nail technicians, painters, and any other area of creative study. As a hairdresser I learned a lot from cosmetology schools, textbooks, classes, educational videos, and seminars, however all that information was useless unless I put it into practice. The practice of theory is what is powerful, scholars have studied the theories of yoga but cannot fully understand yoga without the practice. The same applies for the world of hair, chemists have designed hairstyling products, but do not fully grasp how it can change and shape hair since they do not practice hairdressing. The theory is a 1% of your life, to shift the other 99% you need to practice the theory and then 100% of your life can be changed forever, but it starts with 1%. A teacher and good friend of mine, Rebekah Cooper, says, “Start somewhere and it can take you anywhere.”
In 2008 I took a step, I dropped out of college, quit my job at the non-profit I was working for, and spent a summer drinking heavily, smoking a ton of pot, experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs, and bouncing from job to job. With having no direction, I could go or do whatever I wanted, however my parents were not thrilled about me quitting my salary job and leaving college, so I needed to act and do something. With nothing else going on I decided to enroll into cosmetology school, I figured I needed to get a trade, it would give me some sort of direction until I figured out what I really wanted to do. After one week in school I realized I found my passion! I loved hair, it was fun, creative, and gave me a sense of excitement I had not had in a long time.
To help get through school I got a part time job at Bath and Body Works, I would go to school for eight hours and then work nights for another four hours. A few months into this routine and something unforeseen happened, I got busted for possession of marijuana. It wasn’t enough quantity to get arrested for, but I was placed into drug court where I had to go in for random drug tests, attended narcotic anonymous classes, see a drug counselor, and go in for monthly court dates. Here I am at 19, in drug court, going to school full time, and working a part time job. This was one of the hardest times in my life.
Six months later I finished my drug court and cosmetology school. With being clean and sober for the last six months I decided to keep to my sobriety, however I did lose a lot of friends in those last six months, all we had in common was drinking and smoking. With having no friends and living back at home with the parents I needed to figure something out, I needed to start making friends and get involved in a community.
There was a yoga studio a few blocks from my parent’s house, I walked down one day after work and took a class, I had practiced yoga before in college but at the time I was already burned out on school, so I didn’t take it seriously. That night I had such a wonderful experience, the staff of the studio was friendly, and I had a friend from years ago who was teaching there, after that class I bought a monthly membership and would practice daily.
Life seemed full of possibilities and opportunities, I was starting a new career in hair and was becoming a yogi! About a year into cosmetology and into my yoga practice I landed a job with a product company called UNITE, where I would travel the country teaching classes and organize regional events. I also become reunited with some of my old friends from my non-profit days. Slowly I started practicing less yoga and begin drinking with my friends, going out to clubs and bars, slowly picking up old habits that I worked so hard to eliminate. Being out on the road with the new job had a sense of excitement and boredom, drinking in celebration within the work, but also drinking to kill time in airports.
In 2013 I moved to San Diego, California where I went to work for a salon and manage the UNITE Academy. When I moved out there I felt like it was a new start, I poured myself into my work, started meeting new friends and I felt like I was reborn in a different world. As I settled into my new life I began practicing yoga at home, became a vegetarian, and took time to enjoy the outdoors. It was living in paradise! In the beginning of 2014, that all changed, the salon let me go due to financial issues, UNITE offered me a fulltime job in their corporate offices as a program coordinator and with no other options I took the job. With the new job I had a long commute and I was no longer practicing cosmetology, I quickly became miserable, I began drinking more, smoking more marijuana, and pulling into myself. After working this job for only a few months I quit and moved back to Salt Lake City where I brought my alcohol and drug behaviors with me.
Fast forward to 2017, I had stopped practicing yoga, I was heavier than I had ever been, my boyfriend of 18 months had broken up with me, and I was drinking large quantities on a daily basis. Using alcohol and other substances to numb the pain of the breakup, to mask my low self-esteem, and to reinforce my story telling mind of my unworthiness and shame. I set up home in this dark place for a few months, feeling and experiencing one of the lowest times of my life. Then a breaking point happened, I couldn’t feel this way anymore, I couldn’t drown my sorrows into a bottle. I sought out help. In October of 2017 I started seeing a therapist to help me with my grief and substance abuse issues.
Beginning the road to recovery with my therapist I stopped drinking and began taking care of myself, learning to set boundaries within myself, my career, and my friends. I needed to nurture my own needs before others. Going through this growth had been incredibly helpful, I did find myself back where I was the first time I got sober. My social circle had slowly vanished because I pushed them away, I couldn’t be around alcohol or substances, I had isolated myself for the sake of my sobriety. Instead of falling into the sadness of being alone, I took that opportunity to focus on my needs and desires and to dive into the core of myself.
A few months into this process of self-growth and discovery I had found my way back to yoga, I heard about this gym called The Front, it’s a rock-climbing gym with a full yoga studio. After my first class there I signed up for a membership, it felt like I had come home. The teachers and staff were incredibly helpful and compassionate, I was embraced into the community the second I walked through the doors.
Coming back to the practice helped me more than anything in my path to recovery, I am able to continue to stay sober, attract likeminded friends, and yoga helped me become a better hairstylist. The yoga practice allows me to be more present and compassionate with my clients, friends, and family, the practice also has helped me with the physical pains I had acquired in the ten years of hairdressing, like tight wrists, shoulder problems, sore legs and feet, and my posture/stance is more comfortable when I stand behind the chair for eight hours a day.
Experiencing how yoga transformed my life in times of pain, grief, suffering and watching how from the dukkha (shit) I was able to create a fertilizer from which to plant new seeds and watch them grow and flourish. With this I wanted to share my story and the experience of my yoga practice as a hairdresser.
I committed to my sobriety in October of 2017, I have had three experiences with alcohol since and each time I remembered why I stopped drinking, it interferes with my well-being, my yoga practice, and my ability to work in the salon, but above all that, it makes my body feel like garbage the next day. I plan on keeping to my sobriety, but it’s a daily challenge, all I know is today I am sober and that’s enough.
Since joining The Front, I have signed up for my first yoga teacher training, upon completion this December I plan on teaching a few classes a week, continue to practice cosmetology, and strive towards sharing my knowledge and skill set to help others look and feel their best.
Throughout this entire journey I have learned many valuable lessons, but the one that carries with me everywhere is that I will always be a student first, a student in cosmetology, in yoga, in my sobriety, and of course in life. I share my story to hopefully inspire others, to show that we all have our struggles and sharing our stories can help others and help ourselves heal. I share my pain and struggle to say, “You’re not alone” and “You can do it”, you just have to start somewhere.
THE GEOGRAPHY OF HAIR
The Geography of Hair is devoted to share experiences and stories in cosmetology and how it has affected people, myself, or us as a society.