Coming Out of the Water Cycle

Water and hot yoga go hand in hand.  When a first-time yoga student comes to the studio one of the first things I ask them is, “Do you have water?” How else would you survive the traditional hot hatha yoga class (Bikram Yoga) without your water?  What does it even look like to not have your water bottle neatly pulled to the side of your yoga mat while you sweat out of every inch of of your body – as it pools on your back, in your ear, at the back of your knees, and even in your belly button, as you move from posture to posture? It can seem unimaginable and impossible.  You need your water.

I am a huge fan of water throughout class.  I love the new double lined water bottles that allow me to even have ice now in the hot room (something that used to be sheer fantasy for me in the beginnings of my yoga practice over 10 years ago).  I love the icy chill of it as it slides down my throat in the heat and maybe even slides off my chin and down the front of my yoga outfit, relieving me of the heat for that tiny moment. It is my one bad habit, my one vice, my one big cheat I have allowed myself since Teacher Training in 2011.

Before I went to Teacher Training, water wasn’t too much of an issue.  I took a sip twice during the 90-minute class – after Eagle Pose when everyone takes their first water break and right before Fixed Firm Pose.  That was all I needed.  And then… everything changed at training, as I braced myself against the wall of heat and the longer classes.  I suddenly wanted water all of the time, after every posture, as my mind screamed, “Please God, more water!!!

When I came home I thought I would go back to my twice a class sip of water, but the habit I gained at training seemed to stick with me like glue, as I was now in the heat for a minimum of 3-hours a day, teaching and practicing, and hydration became more of an issue than it was before.  As I told my students to hydrate properly before and after class, I was not always as mindful about my own hydration habits.

Back when I was working professionally as an actress, I was blessed to be able to practice from a wide variety of teachers at different studios located close to the theatres I was currently performing at all over the country.  One teacher in particular has stuck with me through the years.  His message throughout the class was, “Do you need the water, or do you want the water?”  Honestly, I hated him at the time with every fiber of my being, thinking, “Ummm, it’s a 105 degrees in here – I need my water, man!” as I grasped my water bottle and threw my head back to let the water slide down the back of my throat, while at the same time glaring at him out of one eye, thinking he couldn’t possibly know what I was going through.

His message stuck with me, though, and quickly I became mindful of when I was taking water breaks and scaled it down, knowing that all of the hydration should happen in preparation for class.  And then…Teacher Training happened. And then…teaching happened. My practice improved, but there were all of these sloppy grabs for the bottle – the distraction of that grab making me lose focus and avoid what was going on before or after a posture.

Slowly this year I realized this habit had to go.  If not now, when?  I always take my water bottle into the heat with me when I practice. I am not the teacher that would suggest you don’t.  I am simply aware that though it is there, I might not need it.  Taking water is not part of my asana practice. It is not carefully choreographed into the routine of it.  If all I am thinking about is water – I take it. It’s better to be less distracted by thinking about water by obliterating that thought with a sip and moving on.  What I’m finding lately is that I don’t touch the water bottle at all until class has concluded.  These classes have a greater focus attached to them and far less drama in the mind – it’s me, my body, my breath, and the postures.  It’s a lovely feeling, but it’s not to be forced. Some days it happens, some days it doesn’t.  The question that pops into my head is always, “Do I want the water, or do I need it?” I will always want it, but if I did the work to prepare for class, taking proper care of my body outside the room, I don’t always need it.

P.S. If you see me take a water break in class this week try not judge me too harshly – I am and will always be a work in progress….and I probably truly needed it. 🙂

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy reading:

The Grab Bag: What Are You Reaching For?

Unbreakable, UnShakeable, Unstoppable You

Off the Mat Chats Article:  Message in a Bottle

Off the Mat Chats Article: Electrolytes: The Spark of Life

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