The gray miracle | How I reduced gray hair with Ayurveda and Yoga


By guest contributor Shannon Wianecki

I wouldn’t have believed it if it hadn’t happened on my own head. Reducing an imbalance in pitta dosha had dramatic results—some of my gray hairs returned to their original reddish-brown color.

Long before I knew anything about Ayurveda or doshas, I was wrestling with my friend’s five-year-old son. He had me in a headlock when he stopped. “Shannon, I see a grey hair,” he said gravely. “Pluck it out,” I laughed. “I can’t,” he said. “There are too many.”

I was 23 years old. Already, numerous grey hairs sprouted around my temples. They weren’t just lacking in melanin, either. They were disobedient little wires poking from my scalp: coarse and hard to smooth down. Sigh. I didn’t want to use toxic hair dye, but I didn’t feel quite ready to rock life as a lady silver fox.

Years later, I began practicing Yoga and incorporating the principles of Ayurveda in my daily life. I took a three-month teacher training with Hale Pule. I learned that my fair skin and auburn hair are characteristic of pitta, my dominant dosha. Early graying or hair loss and skin conditions (which I also suffered from) are symptoms of pitta imbalance.

Pitta is the fire dosha. People with exaggerated pitta tend to be impatient, irritable and impulsive. When we call people “hot heads,” we’re zeroing in on an Ayurvedic principle. They’re literally burning up! Once I began to recognize that my regular bouts of annoyance and frustration with the world were symptoms, and not justified responses, I was able to cultivate patience, detachment and trust.

Mind you, I didn’t see myself as an angry or impatient person. But a sense of urgency certainly drove my thoughts and behavior. As I began to embrace the tenets of Yoga, I relaxed into a deeper knowing that everything is unfolding in perfect time.

To rebalance pitta dosha, I reduced pitta-provoking activities:

  • Eating spicy foods and sugar

  • Engaging in debates

I also incorporated calming and cooling practices:

  • Drinking aloe vera juice

  • Drinking coconut water

  • Daily meditation

  • Yoga poses that release anger

  • Abhyanga

  • Rubbing neelibringadi oil into my scalp

One day I happened to pluck out a long grey hair. To my surprise, I discovered that it had an inch-long reddish-brown root! Miraculous -- my grey hairs were growing back their natural color! I didn’t know such a thing was possible. Now, let me be clear: It wasn’t every single grey hair. My entire head did not change color. But it showed me that gray hair isn’t permanent and aging isn’t predestined. My actions play a role in how my body evolves and changes.  

In the eight years since this discovery, my Yoga practice has gone through many changes. Sometimes I feel more engaged than others. Increasingly, I’m learning to accept myself and view my feelings with equanimity. I know what I can do to support my optimal health. I also know that my grey hairs (which have diminished but not disappeared) are nothing to fear.

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