Is it okay to drink water during yoga practice to quench that burning thirst, or do you better wait until class is over before you have your next refreshing sip? This has been an ongoing debate among yoga students, teachers, and gurus.
Both advocates and opponents have presented strong arguments, which I am going to summarize in this article. At the end, you will find some helpful tips you can apply, that will make it easier for you to stay properly hydrated during yoga class.
Pros of Drinking Water during Yoga
- If you've ever attended an Ashtanga yoga class, you know how that a series of poses can make you sweat heavily. Bikram yoga is even more intense because it's practiced in a hot room heated to around 100 °F (38 °C), which makes your muscles more flexible. During a 90-minute practice, you sweat out a lot of water and minerals. So from this standpoint, it only makes sense to have one or two sips of mineral-rich water every 10 to 15 minutes.
- Especially when you are a beginner, yoga can be really demanding. If you start to feel nauseous or dizzy, this could be a sign that your body is overheated. Apart from taking a break, the best way to cool down is to drink something cold.
Cons of Drinking Water during Yoga
- Drinking during yoga practice is a distraction for your mind and interrupts your breathing and flow. What's more is that slurping and gurgling noises may disturb other students in class.
- If you drink way too much before and during practice, you eventually have to leave class and rush to the bathroom. But sweating is a much more effective way to detoxify than urinating, so it's always better if water leaves your body via your skin.
- Certain forms of yoga increase the ushna (heat or inner fire) inside you, which again helps you to detoxify. By drinking cold water, the inner fire is put out and the system cools down. “You will become more susceptible to allergic conditions, excess mucus and such things. If you are doing intense asanas and you suddenly drink cold water, you may catch a cold immediately.” – says well-known Indian yogi Sadhguru.
- Having a lot of water moving around in your stomach can be uncomfortable, especially if a certain pose requires you to lie on your front, or if you have to twist or squeeze your abdomen.
- On a subconscious level, you might be using frequent water breaks to avoid doing your least favorite and most strenuous poses. Because whenever something feels uncomfortable, instead of simply observing that feeling, we as human beings want to get rid of it.
Many practitioners that are serious about yoga often prefer to not drink anything during class, even if they experience an intense feeling of thirst. Here are a couple of tips for you to apply, that will help you to stay well hydrated and might even prevent thirst from coming up in the first place:
- Remember to drink a sufficient amount of water up to two hours before class starts, so your cells can store all the fluid they need, and meanwhile, your body has enough time to exert everything superfluous. How much water is the optimum for you depends on your body weight, your tendency to sweat, and the intensity of the practice. Simply put, a 200 lbs (90 kg) man participating in Bikram yoga can store and is likely to lose more fluid than a 110 lbs (50 kg) woman in a recreational class. So, there really is no way around finding out yourself by trial and error, although 1-2 glasses are always a good starting point.
- Shavasana (Corpse Pose) is a pose usually done at the end of a yoga session to relax and regenerate. But if your teacher doesn't mind, you can use it in between to slow down a bit.
- If you can't help yourself, it's okay to have a quick break and consciously drink a couple of sips without filling your whole stomach. Try to stay present where you are and don't let your mind sidetrack you. Also, learn to differentiate between being truly thirsty and only looking for an excuse to stop.
- Isotonic or slightly hypotonic drinks are most efficient in replacing fluids lost by sweating. If you think that buying is too expensive, you can make your own drink by mixing 4 to 6 oz of concentrated orange juice with a quarter teaspoon of salt and 34 oz of high-quality artesian or spring bottled water, or tap water that was thoroughly filtered.
- Don't forget to drink plenty of water well after class to replace all the fluids you lost.
Practice Makes Perfect
As you become a more experienced yogi, you get to know your body and learn how to discipline yourself. Also, you get used to the physical exertion and thirst starts to play only a minor role, if any at all. Nevertheless, yoga and meditation are about listening to your body. If your body tells you that it lacks water, in my honest opinion, I don't see a problem in taking a short drinking break. Just try to not make it a habit.
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