Last Sunday, I was about to start teaching when I spied water bottles amid the mats, blocks, and blankets. It was hot, and I teach a rigorous class. One student claims that I can make her sweat in Tadasana.
“Put your water bottles against the wall,” I said, “otherwise I might kick them over. Strict Iyengar teachers wouldn’t let you bring them in the studio.”
Hey, I immediately remembered, I’m strict. I was also wary of messy spillage. “Actually, I changed my mind. Let’s not develop bad habits. Leave your water on the sink.”
“Drinking water during practice is generally not recommended,” I explained. “You build internal heat and energy doing asana, and the water puts out that fire. I don’t know if that’s medical truth, but I personally never drink water during yoga class.” (See Yoga Journal‘s blurb on drinking water during class.)
Unless I’m coughing, I have no desire to hydrate myself in the middle of physical activity. I hydrate myself before and after the activity. Not only would it distract me to chug water during the activity, but the urge to drink never even arises! I’m not talking about running marathons or going on 100-mile bicycle rides, but everyday stuff.
My practice is primarily Iyengar yoga, which is less sweaty than some other forms. But I attend workshop sessions that last three hours at a stretch… without water. I have tried Bikram and Ashtanga classes for fun… without water. When I ran, I’d go seven miles along the Berkeley fire trail first thing in the morning… without water.
Perhaps the “water break” is a mental break for some. At the gym, I might make a water-fountain pit stop to rally myself before my next set of pull-ups! It’s a ritual of sorts: do a set, stretch, take a sip, do another set. But in class the focus on yoga is constant, plus I’m loathe to miss a moment of my teacher’s teaching (or to need an extra bathroom break!).
If I drink lots of liquid during meals, my thirst is quenched for hours in between. Maybe it’s an individual thing. I’d hate to deny students necessary hydration. But part of me suspects that the bottled water industry has trained us to drink water 24/7! My dog and cat lap, lap, lap with gusto when they’re thirsty; they don’t take a gulp every 10 minutes. Isn’t that how we used to be?