Are Yoga for Exercise and Drinking Water Incompatible?
Aah. The ice cold refreshing feeling of water as it trickles down your throat. You’ve just completed your warrior series and that parched feeling has been replaced with satisfaction. In many ways, people argue that the effects of water on the body are perhaps the most powerfully healing of any substance. But, did you know that many yogis argue that those who you use yoga for exercise should avoid using water at all during their practice? As a Westerner, this is quite shocking since the thought of a class without water is likened to a listless search for an oasis in the Sahara. Here is an overview of why many well-respected yogis believe that water should not be used when doing yoga for exercise.
Despite yoga for exercise working the musculoskeletal system, it also works the prana of the body. In Hinduism, “prana” is the vital energy and life source coursing through our body. During a yoga routine, poses are created and carried out to create a fire, or “tapas” in the body. This inner heat is what we strive for in yoga because it works to eliminate toxins and other harsh chemicals that we’ve consumed. When we take water to that tapas during yoga instruction, we are putting out that beneficial inner fire we’ve worked so hard to build. The hope is that tapas will build and work through the energy channels in our body, called the “nadis.” However, when a person drinks water during yoga for exercise, they are extinguishing the flow throughout these channels, eliminating its powerful effects throughout the body.
Yoga is the practice of creating equilibrium within the mind despite any external opposition. We are apt to pay attention to discomfort in a stretch, to mind it, be curious about it, and then push ourselves deeper into the stretch on the next exhale. If this is so, then taking water really is no different. Every time we take a sip of water, we have chosen to no longer recognize the discomfort; instead, we just attempt to eliminate it, make it go away. Imagine a yoga practice where every pose we didn’t like, we just stopped doing. It’s the same thing. This is one way water is a distraction to a deeper practice.
Also, think about everyone around you and the steps involved in taking water during yoga for exercise. Stop doing the pose. Sit down. The metallic sound of the bottle top clinking against the bottle and then, the head tips back. Glug, glug, glug. Every part of that equation is not only taking you out of your practice, but it is also difficult for the other yogis to ignore.
So, next time you go into the studio, challenge yourself. Leave your water bottle at home and focus solely on your yoga for exercise.