Head Coverings 101

Back in 2010, I wrote an entry on my then-blog Blogalini about the subject of turbans and covering the head.  I reprint it here (with some edits) …as one can never get enough info about this sort of thing (including bad punning). As they say at the end of every recipe these days….”enjoy”!

Do you know how many times I get asked this? A lot.  Because I make, sell them and I wear them. Head coverings (in particular, turbans) have been around forever. I decided to do a little research on this subject because I love going on a treasure hunt and in the world of Kundalini Yoga, this subject almost always comes up.
But before I dive into a discussion on the subject of turbans and head coverings, let me share a little personal story with you: In my younger years, I would not wear a hat even though I lived in New York and went to college in Rhode Island where it can get very cold in winter. My parents told me I would get sick if I didn’t cover my head. My response was always “I can’t cover up my head because I get messages from the universe”. So even at an early age, before I did Kundalini or any other type of yoga, I knew that there was a connection between me and the heavens above.
Kundalini Yoga raises a lot of energy. Yogi Bhajan strongly recommended that teachers of Kundalini Yoga wear a white head covering of natural fabric while teaching for his/her/their own personal protection and elevation when handling these powerful energies. Even though teachers of Kundalini Yoga must cover their heads when teaching a KY class, it is not necessary for students to do so. Some people are more sensitive than others to the energy; for example some people get headaches or feel spacey if they don’t wear a head covering. I find that I when I wear a turban, I’m much more focused. By the way, I find that the BEST remedy for a headache is to tie one on… a turban that is. The solar centers on the skull get opened by the practice of Kundalini Yoga and I, like many others, find that it helps keep things together. So then…wearing a head covering is for personal protection and elevation when dealing with the powerful energies involved in this practice. Doing so commands the sixth chakra (the third eye located between the eyebrows) which is the center of intuition, concentration, and determination. For purely technological purposes, a turban or head covering can help with your meditative practice.
Many cultures have utilized turbans and head coverings since the beginning of time. The Jews, for example, whose religious and cultural orthodoxy employs many varieties of head coverings for both women and men, started out by wearing turbans, not yarmulkes.  Take this simple example: the daily prayers recited by observant Jews include a benediction praising God “Who crowns Israel with glory.” Though now the common practice is to recite this blessing in the synagogue, the original custom was to say it as one was getting dressed. The Talmud (the holy book) says clearly that one was to say it while wrapping the turban around one’s head.
The Hebrew word for “to wear” (labash) can be used for most garments, but a different verb must be used to indicate the wearing of a hat: habash. The verb habash actually means “to wrap” and is also the root-word for bandage. One of the commandments of God to Moses was to wear a turban as the symbol of prophethood, holiness and divine power. This was a command obeyed by both Jews and Muslims for centuries and its origin dates back to a time when the only thing a well-dressed Jew would be likely to be wearing on his head was a turban. If you would like to look into this topic further, you can get some more info here. 
To many religious groups throughout the world, Muslims, Sufis, Sikhs, and including some American Sikhs, the wearing of a turban is a sacred act and a symbol of humility. In India, it was not a custom for Sikh women to wear the turban, but many women have adopted the practice. The tenth and last Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), instructed the Sikhs, just as Moses instructed the Israelites, to wear their God-given, unshorn hair under a turban, and they have sacrificed their lives to protect its honor. The turban is part of the Sikh spiritual clothing, or bana, that includes a turban (dastar), modest attire, and the five articles of faith. The five articles of faith, or the Five K’s as they are commonly called are:  Kesh (unshorn hair), Kirpan (ceremonial sword), Kachhera (loose undergarment), Kanga (wooden comb) and Kara (a steel or iron bangle).

Guru Gobind Singh

Hair is an integral part of the human body that the Sikhs respect as having been created by God and Sikhism calls for its preservation as it is regarded as a symbol of saintliness. Guru Nanak started the practice of keeping hair unshorn because keeping it in a natural state is regarded as living in harmony with the will of God, and is a symbol of the Sikh faith.  The Sikhs are not the only group that keeps their hair uncut and natural. Here are some others who practice or have practiced letting their hair grow to its natural length: Coptic Christian Monks, Sufi Saints, Native Americans, the Nazarites, Hasidic Jews, Rastafarians, the Samurai, the Han Chinese, Lord Ram, Lord Shiva, Jesus, Orthodox Christians, Samson, Sarathustra, Prophet Samuel, Siddhartha, St. John the Baptist, and Ascetics, Sadhus, and many other holy ones.

Why do Buddhists, then shave their heads? Buddhist monks shave their heads to symbolize cutting off confusion, hostility, and attachment—what the Buddha called the “three poisonous attitudes” and members of the Hari Krishna movement shave their heads leaving a tuft of hair at the back;  to indicate renunciation and to differentiate them from the Buddhist practice of shaving it off completely.

guru_nanak.jpgGuru Nanak

Yogi Bhajan said that keeping the HAIR was the first technique to raise the Kundalini energy. When the hair is at its natural length and coiled over the anterior fontanel for men or the posterior fontanel for women, it draws pranic energy into the spine. The force of the downward positive energy causes the Kundalini energy to rise up for balance. This is why you always find grace and calmness in a person who has never cut their hair from birth. In fact the word “kundalini” comes from the word “kundal” which means a lock of the beloveds’ hair.

The turban is part of “the uniform” because it has immense spiritual and temporal significance. Not only is it a method of covering the hair and keeping it in place, wearing a turban symbolizes sovereignty, dedication, self-respect, courage and piety. All practicing Sikhs, as well as other turban wearing people wear the turban out of love and as a mark of commitment to the faith.

muslimturban.jpgMohammed’s tuban (relic)

Prophet Muhammad himself spoke strongly in favor of the turban, as can be seen from the following sayings: “The turban is a frontier between faith and unbelief.” “My community shall not fall away so long as they wear turban.” “At the day of the judgment, a man shall receive a light for each turn of the turban round his head.” “Wear turban, for thus you will gain in generosity.” “Wear the turban and thus distinguish yourselves from the peoples who came before you.”

With the rise of Islam, the turban came to be considered the “crown of the Arabs” and the “badge of Islam”. The Jews of Arab lands, with the exception of the Yemenites, finally had to give up the wearing of the turban and adopt the wearing of the yarmulke or kippah to cover their heads. It is required in Jewish law that the head be covered during prayer. The Talmud says that the purpose of wearing a kippah is to remind us of God, who is the Higher Authority “above us”. The Talmud states that external actions create internal awareness; wearing a symbolic, tangible “something above us” reinforces that idea that God is always watching. The kippah is a means to draw out one’s inner sense of respect for God. It’s easy to remember God while at the Synagogue, Gurdwara, Mosque, or Church, but a higher consciousness is meant to pervade in all aspects of our lives — how we treat others, how we conduct business, and how we interpret world events. Appropriately, the Yiddish word for head covering, “yarmulke”, comes from the Aramaic, yira malka, which means “awe of the King” .

In general it seems that the turban was viewed as the distinctive mark of scholars, holy men and women, and teachers who distinguished themselves with this symbol of special piety. Many cultures and religious groups (and not just the Sikhs, Muslims, Sufis and Jews) cover their heads…and turbans are just one of many kinds of head coverings used.

Now, regarding the wearing of a headcovering as a Kundalini Yoga student, let me repeat that it, in itself, is not required. Yogi Bhajan never insisted that his students cover their heads in class although it IS mandatory in White Tantric Yoga. The case is quite different as a teacher of Kundalini Yoga; it is necessary that we cover our heads when we teach for the reasons mentioned above.

And as a manufacturer of head coverings, and in particular, an informal natural fiber turban which I call a Kundawrap© and a natural fiber cap which I call a Kundabini©, I am concerned with the quality and the intent of making these products primarily for the Kundalini Yoga community.  Of course, anyone can wear them (I have furnished snowboarders, cancer patients, and everybody else for that matter), but I am a practitioner and teacher of Kundalini Yoga and so that is my target audience. I have found so many similarities in so many cultures with regard to the covering of the head (and the growing of the hair) that I think it is a lifestyle choice worth trying.

My main objective has been to offer a head covering that made students and teachers comfortable with the idea, because many who enter into the world of Kundalini Yoga are curious but skeptical. So two of my missions when creating the Kundawrap© were to provide easy instructions for adapting this practice and to make them user-friendly. Both products are completely washable and retain their shape because they are made of jersey and always come back to form after washing. They are sized so that a comfortable and easy to wrap turban can be achieved with minimal amount of preparation and labor. The Kundabini© is made in such a way that it imitates the cranial pressure of a turban and is a perfect sadhana head covering or a quick way to cover your head. Many people like to wear them in yoga class because they always look good and they rarely come off…even after rigorous yoga exercises!

I’m not making light of the beautiful art of tying a turban…because it is an art, but many people feel intimidated by the craft of it and this is a easy, quick solution that I personally practice.   Check them out and other things on my Kundalink page.

And here’s a video that shows how easy and fun it is to wear them: https://youtu.be/ctq9BSOcwjg


If you are as fascinated with this subject as I am, you will appreciate the blog, http://thoseheadcoverings.blogspot.com

Happy Times!

Sat Nam



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