When I was at High School, two large chunks of my hair thinned, and then fell out… because of stress. I remembered this just today when I saw reports of women losing hair due to menopause or COVID19 stress, or both.
In my case, the stress was final year exams. I had long, auburn hair. I was so embarrassed about the hair loss that I told nobody, not even my mother.
For an awfully long time, under my long hair, I had these bald patches on each side of my head. Even worse, when the hair finally grew back, it was white. It never darkened.
Many decades later, the white patches are still visible on each side of the back of my head. In the picture with this post, you can see the remains of these white patches.
Thankfully or otherwise, I now have enough grey hair in other places so that the original white spots are camouflaged!
The irony is that the hair loss is now hidden by short grey hair instead of the long, auburn hair that I could brush over it.
Whenever I went to a hairdresser, they knew immediately what the patches were. I guess they see it regularly. Even now, they still always notice the original hair loss.
Years later, it was a hairdresser who told me it’s called alopecia areata… or alopecia for short.
Stress causes hair loss
Although it’s not yet fully understood, medical authorities say this hair loss is triggered by:
- hormonal change
- emotional or physical stressors.
As I prepared for final exams at school, that’s exactly all of the things that were going on for me in some combination.
At Flametree Yoga Studio, I now teach Women Only yoga. It’s about how to use yoga for female wellness, especially around the particular challenges that women face, like stress, exhaustion, menopause, fertility, menstruation, and post-menopause.
Until I saw the new study about menopausal hair loss, and also the impact of anxiety about COVID19, I had not connected stress, menopause or the pandemic with my own experience of hair loss.
First, I turned to Healthline. It was able to tell me this.
“Research suggests that hair loss during menopause is the result of a hormonal imbalance. Specifically, it’s related to a lowered production of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones help hair grow faster and stay on the head for longer periods of time.
When the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, hair grows more slowly and becomes much thinner.
A decrease in these hormones also triggers an increase in the production of androgens, or a group of male hormones. Androgens shrink hair follicles, resulting in hair loss on the head.
In some cases, however, these hormones can cause more hair to grow on the face. This is why some menopausal women develop facial “peach fuzz” and small sprouts of hair on the chin.
For women going through menopause, the cause of hair loss is almost always related to hormonal changes. However, there are many other factors that can contribute to hair loss during menopause. These include extremely high levels of stress…
Healthline’s top tip on dealing with hair loss, or the risk of it, is to reduce stress.
In another post on my own menopause, I’ve told how I totally avoided any impact of menopause, including thinner hair or loss of hair. When I read the above extract from Healthline, it reminded me that the yoga I do (and did during menopause) both reduced stress, and increased estrogen production.
Menopause and COVID19 stress causing hair loss
On today’s podcast, the new study of menopausal hair loss also points to stress. It looked at the impact of both menopause and corona virus stress.
To my surprise, Dr. Sophia Kogan, who did the research, says women are about four times more susceptible to hair loss than men.
Women have different hormonal pathways and factors that contribute to what they need for hair growth. Women also have phases in their lives, like menopause or pregnancy, that make them more susceptible to hair loss.
She again says that stress is a major factor that contributes to hair thinning and loss.
The interview explains that stress effects our hair throughout our entire lifetime, but during this past pandemic year, it’s been worse than ever. Dr Kogan says:
“During stress, hair follicles are synchronistically shifted, a huge number of them, into that resting phase,…. the body says, ‘I want to pull the resources internally. I don’t really need or care about hair. I want to preserve my life.’ And so it goes to the vital organs…. and all of a sudden, we have a massive amount of hair shedding about three to six months later.”
Dr Kogan also seems to have a clear idea of the how mindfulness, such as you get via yoga, is good at reducing stress. She talks about how it’s generally important to take time in your day for something that brings you into that flow state.
Dr. Kogan says:
“Each person is going to be really different, but they’ve got to feel a feeling of calmness because that’s when you calm the nervous system.”
Yoga to reduce stress
All this new research made me feel even better about the numerous types of de-stressing classes we teach at Flametree Yoga.
It also reminded me that I do notice quite a number of menopausal women who have some degree of thinner hair. Even in my mother’s case, I think it was carefully disguised by the type of hair styling that was fashionable at the time.
As Westerners, we also often turn quickly to hair loss treatment, rather than at least also thinking about how to systematically and ongoingly reduce the stress or other issues that are the underlying cause of hair loss.
Regular yoga classes can be an alternative or at least feasible hair growth treatment that is worth trying, including for all the other many benefits of yoga.
In particular, all yoga poses are especially good at reducing stress. The longer I’ve done yoga, the more I’ve learnt how to feel the power of easy relaxing positions that just drain the stress straight from my body and mind.
A male yoga student also reminded me how he found that using yoga postures to relax was a learnt skill that took ongoing and regular restorative yoga. The more he did relaxing poses, the more he found he could let go and feel the stress just ooze out of him, including when he was preparing for sleep.
At yoga, we also do inverted (upside down) poses, and standing poses. In all of these poses, you absolutely have to focus in order to avoid falling over! This produces exactly the type of mindful flow experience that Dr Kogan is talking about.
Calming yoga classes for people who are initially stiff
At Flametree, we do a more than average number of slower classes that maximise calming.
These classes are especially able to be accessed by people who are stiff. You don’t have to be flexible to start or restart yoga. The whole point of slow or introductory yoga is to provide a yoga class on the assumption that people will initially be stiff, unfit, and not strong.
These slower and easier types of classes, both live online, and in-studio (in the Darwin, NT region,) include:
In the case of Women only yoga, we teach quite a number of restorative yoga poses, with particular focus both on calming and on managing the hormones that need attention due to the phases of a woman’s life.
How to start or re-start yoga
The type of Special Focus yoga classes that I mention in this post, as well as all other yoga classes, can be done as part of Flametree’s normal weekly timetable of classes.
These classes are also included within various packages, such as the beginner and non-beginner deals below.
At any time, Beginners can start via our week-to-week deal, including two weeks free. The new four-week beginner course can also be joined at any beginner class in the two weeks after the course starts. As soon as you get a pass, you can also start unlimited free classes at the beginner level. Learn more here.
NON-BEGINNERS, who are new to Flametree, or lapsed students, get 14 days of unlimited classes for just $29. That’s less than $2 a class for daily non-beginner yoga. Learn more here.