When Is the Best Time to Drink? • Yoga Basics

At the beginning of a yoga class, have a look around: mats are rolled out, pads, belts, and pads are ready, and there is always a water bottle on one corner of the mat. If the class lasts an hour or 90 minutes or less, how necessary is that bottle of water? Is it actually good to drink water before yoga? And how much should you drink after exercising?

Undoubtedly, we have become a nation of water-eaters, advised by health experts for years to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. We take water with us in the car, on our bike tours and to the office. But do we really need this bottle for a short vinyasa class? Aside from a four hour marathon, few of us in developed nations run the risk of falling over from dehydration on a yoga class (thanks to diets high in fruits, salads, vegetables, and of course, sports drinks, coconut water and herbal teas, and even vitamin-fortified water).

Your body and breath should be flowing, but your water bottle should not – at least not during your yoga practice. Not drinking water while practicing yoga may sound strange and counterintuitive, but there are many physiological and energetic effects of water use on your body. Maximizing your hydration while maintaining a regular yoga practice is a balancing act. However, you can achieve this by following simple tips about when and how much water to drink before heading to the yoga studio.

How much water should you drink in general?

For water consumption, the simplest advice is simple: drink when you are thirsty. While this advice is helpful, it is often too simple as thirst is a signal that your body is already headed for dehydration. Studies used to recommend drinking eight glasses of water a day. Today, however, most health professionals recognize that people require different amounts of water due to various internal and external factors such as gender, body type, environment, and lifestyle. For example, people who often exercise or live in hot, dry, or high-altitude environments generally need more water. It is also recommended to drink in proportion to your height, and men are likely to need more water than women. If you want to calculate a specific amount of water that will work for you, keep in mind that almost all of your food and drink intake contributes to your daily fluid consumption.

Fortunately, your body will let you know when you are not consuming enough water. Frequent drowsiness, headache, or dryness (whether in the skin, mouth, eyes, or lips) indicate that you should increase your water intake. Dark urine, infrequent urination, or constipation can indicate that you should drink more. Signs of dehydration during asana or other forms of exercise include lack of sweat, cramps, and muscle stiffness.

On the other hand, It is actually possible to hydrate too much. If you drink too much water or consume it too quickly, frequent urination depletes the electrolytes your body needs to properly digest food and stay hydrated. Some signs that you are drinking excessively include clear urine, frequent urination, excessive mucus, and an inability to quench thirst. Heaviness in the stomach and gas are also signs that you may be drinking more water than necessary.

Ayurvedic tips for drinking water

If you drink enough fluids and are still thirsty, chances are that your body is not absorbing them properly. Ayurveda recommends certain drinking water practices that can help achieve optimal hydration.

First of all, although it can be tempting do not drink chilled water! Cold water is an enemy of the concept of agni, the digestive fire that we need to circulate prana (life energy) in our body. Ayurveda expert Dr. Vasant Lad goes so far as to call cold water a poison for the digestive system. If your water is warm, that's even better. Boiling water stimulates digestion and blood circulation, making it easier for your body to absorb nutrients and flush out toxins. Ayurveda also recommends a practice called Uschapan, where the first thing in the morning is to drink water (about a whole liter). For maximum absorption, practice slow, sedentary sipping to ensure that your body and organs are relaxed.

Water and Yoga: When to Drink?

If you start with warm water each day and sip before meals (not immediately after) and occasionally throughout the day, you are unlikely to need to ingest moisture during your yoga practice. With a fast-paced yoga class slowly Drink eight ounces of water at least 30 minutes beforehand is beneficial for maintaining hydration. If possible, avoid drinking water immediately before or during class. In addition to making our physical bodies feel bloated, consuming large amounts of water before or during exercise also disrupts our energy bodies. One theory suggests that sipping during yoga practice is like pouring water over our inner fire as we try to build it up.

While participating in strenuous physical activity, we often confuse a need for water with a need for air. In fact, I have found that imaginary "thirst" is one of my most common distractions in both asana and meditation practices. When this rings a bell, resisting the unnecessary desire to drink water can be good tapas or self-discipline practice, as using compassionate self-control against our urges helps us build strength through transformation. If you are actually thirsty while practicing yoga, take a moment to get in touch with your body. If after a few deep breaths the feeling persists, make your water use a part of your practice. Drink mindfully and don't let the drinking distract you – for yourself or for others.

Drinking water in hot yoga

Hot yoga classes, which can mean room temperatures between 90 and 117 degrees, raise different considerations.

With this thermostat setting, you speak of considerable heat burn: In addition to the external room temperature, the body generates its own internal heat during the asanas. A few dozen rounds of up and down dogs, warriors, and handstands in a hot room can turn a yogi into an ego-satisfying sweat – when trying to cool you down – but suddenly high room temperatures present the potential for heat exhaustion and dehydration. We also lose fluids through our breath! It is not uncommon for yogis to experience dizziness or even pass out in a hot yoga class if they are not adequately hydrated.

When you know you will be taking a hot yoga class, do it like a world cup player or a marathon runner: hydrate before the event. Drink enough water in the 24 hours before doing hot yoga to avoid feeling weak when you sweat. If you wait until just before class or in the middle of a warrior sequence to chug some water, you will not be able to supply your body with adequate amounts of fluids and electrolytes (minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium). If you drink water in class, do it mindfully. Drink water slowly instead of chugging it.

Research into athletic performance shows that losing just two percent of your body weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 25 percent. At this rate, you lose your mental advantage and your ability to perform the asanas optimally. Higher percentages can potentially be life threatening. And two percent of body fluid is not much for a 120-pound yogi, for example, who ate light for most of the day in order to have an empty stomach for yoga class.

Your best strategy to prepare for a hot yoga class: Drink plenty of fluids the day before your class. Make it water, nutrient-rich clear drinks, or juice mixes, even sports drinks. Add plenty of fruits and vegetables to your day. And most importantly, drink plenty of water in each class to rehydrate afterwards.

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