I personally will never tell one of my students not to drink, but instead I like to use that moment to inform them as to why it is recommended to not drink during your yoga practice.
One main reason is that we are building up “fire” in our practice, also known as ushna. If you are drinking during your practice you are cooling yourself down, bringing down the ushna and in turn making you more susceptible to colds, allergies and the build up of excess mucus. During asanas, we are trying to sweat to help the body naturally cleanse/detox through the pores of the skin, our largest organ.
Another reason is that it can be distracting to yourself and to others in the class. Patanjali says we learn through pain, by avoiding it with non-attachment. Distractions are obstacles with painful consequences, like having to go to the bathroom. So instead of letting drinking distract you from your asana, if you really get too hot or tired, slow down by resting in a more calming asana like child’s pose (balasana) for a few breaths. This is a better alternative for reducing the heat/ushna than drinking water, which brings you out of focus.
Eating should also be avoided up to 3 hours before your practice as a general rule. Yoga gurus have advised practising yoga on an empty stomach. Having food in the digestive system can interrupt with the rhythm of the body while doing yoga. A light stomach also helps you follow your asana practice more easily, distraction-free.
While practicing yoga, your energy is focused on poses and transitions. This reduces the capacity of the digestive system to manage the process of digestion. Food in your digestive system may also cause nausea, bloating or gas during practice. With an empty, clean stomach, your energy will be focused on the your yogic poses, maximising the benefit.
Some tips and general rules to follow on eating before yoga:
- The ideal time to do yoga is early morning on an empty stomach (like my Tuesday class at 7:30!)
- If you are to eat before doing yoga, try to practise 3 to 4 hours after a heavy meal, 1 to 2 hours after a light meal, 45 minutes after tea, juice or fresh fruits and 15 minutes after drinking water.
- Try avoid heavy foods like meats, processed grains, fried foods, and spicy foods.
The goal of yoga is to be free from distraction, fully aware, and present 🙂