As some of you may know by now, I’m more than just a baldie who writes about being bald. I’m also a yoga and meditation teacher who writes about…well, yoga and meditation! Because both of these things have saved me, in so many ways.
Emma’s ‘not a doctor’ disclaimer
Hi there, I’m an alopecian, I’m not a doctor! Any advice I give is based on my own research and personal experiences. This site is however reader-supported. When you buy through external links, I may earn a tiny affiliate commission. Learn more here.
All things we alopecians could do with more of, right? I used to be wracked with shame about my hair loss, angry at my body for ‘failing me’ in a way that seemed out of my control. Nowadays, I’ve learned to accept what I can’t change. Sure, sometimes I can’t control what happens. But I can control how it affects me.
I can choose to respond, not react. A more mindful, less stress-inducing skill that takes time to hone – but trust me, it’s a valuable one!
In general, yoga improves my mood, boosts my energy and makes me feel confident in my body…just as it is. 🙂
LA Says: In this post, I’ll talk about the physical and mental benefits of yoga for hair loss – then share the best inversion poses recommended for alopecians.
There’s more to yoga than stretching. Or trying to wrap your leg around your head in imitation of every pretzel you’ve ever seen. Yoga involves “function over form” – so it’s not the shape you make but the experience you have while making it that matters.
LA Says: The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit “yuj” – which is also the root of the English word “yoke”. It means to join or to unite. So yoga is the union, or the connection, between your mind, body and breath. Without that union, you’re just stretching! 😉
In fact, long before the physical practice (known as asana), yoga was more about breathing exercises (known as pranayama) and meditation. And it’s these aspects that are most successful at lowering stress and inflammation.
So good news! Because even if you’re unable to do the physical postures you can benefit LOTS from the other aspects of yoga. Remember, yoga is for everyone – and it’s ESPECIALLY great for those with a stress-related autoimmune condition like alopecia.
Autoimmune conditions often indicate chronic stress and inflammation in the body. The kind that’s linked to elevated cortisol and adrenalin levels, blood sugar spikes, digestive issues, bouts of anxiety and mood swings.
Now, sometimes we need inflammation, and stress. They’re all part of our sympathetic nervous system, our ‘fight or flight’ response that protects us from danger. Stress – and the subsequent autoimmune response – is what helps us to fight off bacteria, get over viruses and in short, survive.
But when we can’t learn to let go of that stress, when it lodges itself in our bodies and the autoimmune response keeps happening, attacking healthy cells and hair follicles by mistake – that’s more problematic. And it’s why alopecians might also suffer from a weakened immune system in other aspects, with symptoms like gut issues, headaches, breakouts and more.
When you’re in a state of inflammation – and you might even notice an irritated scalp, redness or itching if you are – the shedding stage will still be active and you’ve little hope of regrowth. So you need to lower that inflammation, pronto.
Pranayama (breathwork) has been around for thousands of years. And it’s one of the BEST ways to reduce inflammation in the body – not just in the short-term, “take a few deep breaths to calm down” way, but long-term, too. The respiratory system is the only one you can control and if you can use your breath wisely, well, you can change your body’s chemistry – how you respond to stress, how you process it and how you can release it, unaffected.
The breath is the most powerful healing tool you possess. And it’s free!
Yoga is the most breath-focused form of exercise I’ve come across. You match the breath to your movements during the physical practice, plus normally there’ll be a specific breathing exercise at the start or the end to calm your nervous system and send you into that parasympathetic, ‘rest and digest’ response.
This in turn leads to better circulation, improved digestion (remember, gut health is key for regrowth) and overall immune support.
Finally, meditation has been proven in studies to lower inflammation and stress levels in the body. When combined with regular asanas and pranayama, you have a winning stress-busting strategy to stop hair loss and boost your chances of regrowth!
Once again linked to that inflammation and stress I mentioned above – if we’re in a state of stress, our non-essential systems start to fail. The body’s prime focus is on keeping us alive, not ensuring things like our hair follicles are getting all the essential vitamins and nutrients they need.
I’ve always had terrible circulation. Freezing hands and feet; sometimes my fingers go white for no reason at all and only after clutching onto a mug of hot water would the sensations – painfully! – come back.
If you’ve got poor circulation too, your scalp isn’t getting the moisture and minerals it needs for healthy hair growth. You’re likely getting less oxygen throughout your cells too, meaning you may feel sluggish, less energized and more irritable.
So how can we boost circulation? Well, a massive way is through breathwork – and although I love the typical pranayama exercises in yoga, I’ve recently found the Wim Hof method to be incredibly effective, too – so I teach that in my classes and in my Yoga for Alopecia online course.
Our bodies are designed to move. And they’re designed to heal. Even if they don’t always act that way, even if sometimes it feels like our bodies are fighting against us, they’re always trying to restore balance.
Yoga aids this natural healing process by getting you moving again – without stress, with a lot of breathwork – boosting blood flow to vital organs in your body.
Specifically, poses like inversions (with the heart above the head) sends more blood, oxygen and nutrients to the scalp – creating a better environment for hair growth. Plus, you’re benefiting your other systems, such as your cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous and endocrine system, by turning things upside down!
Since alopecia is an autoimmune condition, it’s not a stretch to say that those of us who experience hair loss have some immune issues going on. And sometimes we need extra help to support our immune system.
While some dermatologists will recommend immunosuppressants (often with toxic side effects), I’d argue that you can boost your immune health in a far more holistic way – like through lifestyle and diet.
Research shows that 70–80% of our immune tissue is located in our digestive system. So in order for the rest of our bodies to be healthy, our guts need to be happy. Yoga offers a way to keep the internal organs functioning properly, with twists and forward folds, plus breath exercises that bring amazing benefits for digestion, detox and de-stressing.
Even the simple act of breathing deeply and more mindfully stimulates the vagus nerve – which moves us into that parasympathetic nervous system I mentioned before, in which we ‘rest and digest’. The result? A healthier digestive system, a stronger immune system, a calmer mind…and a healthier body to support hair growth.
We’ve looked at how yoga can help inflammation and chronic stress on a physical level. But what about our mindset, our attitude and our mental stress levels? Since stress is one of the main causes of hair loss – and since the more hair we lose, the more stressed we can get – it’s very important we learn practical tips to handle stress, on a daily basis.
This doesn’t just mean taking a few breaths when something bad happens (although that is helpful, too!) Rather, by using certain mindfulness techniques, and practising yoga and meditation regularly, you’ll build a tolerance that’ll help you face whatever challenges life throws at you.
Not that you’ll never feel anxious again, or down if something bad happens – but rather you’ll be able to look at those thoughts and emotions more objectively, rather than letting them consume you. You’ll also learn to feel good about yourself again – so important for us alopecians, when our self-esteem can take a massive knock.
Practising yoga regularly reduces the stress response and even our reaction to pain in a way that no other exercise can quite achieve. And if you’ve already been to see a GP or other specialist about your alopecia, no doubt they’ll have recommended yoga to reduce stress. It’s not just because it’s ‘in trend’ – it really does work.
When I taught my first Yoga for Alopecia course in November 2020, both of the ladies were quite active. They practised Pilates regularly, one was a runner…but neither had practised yoga before and for both of them, the stress-relieving benefits were a revelation. “I never realized how powerful my breath could be, how much difference it could make to my anxiety!” one remarked.
They found that yoga offered them something completely different – and the mindfulness tools we learned would help them cultivate more gratitude, acceptance and even joy in their lives, even without hair.
LA Says: In my own experience, yoga is what finally helped me to accept my alopecia for the first time. I would never have found the confidence in myself to bear my bald head without it, and it’s still what keeps me grounded in times of stress.
Now that we’ve covered the physical, mental and emotional benefits of yoga for hair loss, let’s talk about some of the asanas (yoga poses) that are best for hair growth. We’ve already learned that the top postures for alopecia involve inversions. With that in mind, here are 5 simple inversions you can try at home to get your blood flowing and to boost circulation to the scalp.
About/Benefits: You’ll see this post in most forms of yoga, whether it’s Hatha, Ashtanga or Vinyasa. It’s a great way to stretch out the shoulders, loosen your hamstrings and practise slow, mindful breathing – plus, it’s an inversion that’s great for beginners.
Downward dog allows the blood to flow down into your scalp, stimulating blood circulation to strengthen hair follicles and over time, promote regrowth.
How to do it:
About/Benefits: This is one of my favourite poses for lowering stress and anxiety, plus helping me get to sleep! It’s super-relaxing, easy to do and you can practice a soothing breathwork exercise while you do it.
In this one, your head’s on the ground but it still counts as an inversion as your legs are raised above your heart. Meaning the heart has less work to do to pump blood around the body – this calms your nervous system down into that parasympathetic response while lowering your heart rate and bringing more ease to body and mind.
How to do it:
About/Benefits: Another great inversion for beginners, you can do this anytime you need an energy boost – even 30 seconds can work wonders! For me, it’s a pose that keeps me grounded, helps me stay focused and boosts my mood.
Like downdog, your head is hanging down towards the floor. And since the blood flow goes straight to your scalp, you get essential nutrients and minerals faster. So skip the scalp massage and try a forward fold instead…or better yet, do both every day!
How to do it:
About/Benefits: I won’t go too into the full pose here as it’s quite advanced – but when I’m teaching beginners, I show them a half-headstand, which has the same great benefits! With a headstand, your entire body is above your head, meaning even more blood flow going down to the scalp. Headstands are incredibly energizing, they improve focus and concentration and, once again, revitalize hair follicles for optimal health.
How to do it:
About/Benefits: This is another fairly advanced position so if you’re a beginner, I’d suggest sticking to the legs-up-wall pose for now. If you do want to practice it, make sure you use a folded-up blanket under your shoulders to reduce the strain on your neck.
Shoulder stand is a wonderful pose – not only is it an inversion that calms your heart rate and increases blood flow to the upper body, but it’s especially good for your thyroid. And since thyroid issues are often linked to hair loss, you’ll want to keep yours as healthy as possible.
How to do it:
I appreciate that not everyone has the time to do a full hour and a half of yoga when they wake up (I certainly don’t!)… But even doing a little a day, or a few times a week, makes all the difference to my physical and mental health.
Sometimes I only notice how much I benefit from yoga when I don’t do it for a while. (Cue anxiety, stress, irritation and headaches!) And so, even on my worst days, I try and bring myself to the mat – even if it’s only for a few minutes, and even if I remain breathing in a single pose.
I never regret practising yoga. Because when I’m ready to step back off the mat and into the world, it always looks brighter when I do.
Simply put, yoga makes me smile. And I’m sure it can help you smile, too.
Plus all the other great things it can bring to your life? Then why not join my Yoga for Alopecia 4-week course? It’s available to do online at your own pace, including pre-recorded classes and meditations, plus a 30-minute Zoom chat with me to get the most out of the content. Find out more on the course description page or go ahead and save your spot below!
I loved this course. Emma is such a fantastic instructor, I learned so much and just really enjoyed being guided by her. The content was good and easy to navigate and understand and also very timely for what I’ve been personally going through.
– Michelle T, California
A complete novice to Yoga, it has been an amazing journey – both physically and spiritually. Emma is a wonderful teacher, knowledgeable and generous in her help and information. The course itself is so beautifully put together. The benefits of yoga and connecting with others in the same position has been empowering and enlightening. I’m stronger going out of December than going in!
– Patricia O’Malley, Dublin / London
Awwww, that’s nice. Thanks guy!
Love & hugs (and namaste!)
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Alopecian. Yoga Teacher. Copywriter. Here to share information, offer support and show people the adventures that can lie in hair loss. I’m proud to have alopecia and I want to help others embrace their baldness, too!