This is not about how having a little cognac before yoga will make you relax a lot better in shavasana.
It’s about the growing presence of water bottles in yoga classes… and its direct relationship to the very thing you’re trying to accomplish with yoga.
I should confess I was never in the water-in-yoga-class camp. I felt that if you’re in a flow yoga class (or even in a static-poses class), you don’t want to break your concentration by stopping to unscrew your water bottle and drinking (and conveniently skipping that pose you don’t like).
But with the popularization of yoga, I started to see water bottles everywhere. And just as the sages of yore were silent on, ahem, your phone dinging with an incoming text, so were they silent on chugging down some fluids in the middle of a yoga session.
I didn’t discourage this, but I did internally frown on it. Now I’ve changed my tune. By all means drink in class.
It turns out that yoga and water support each other. After all, the joints, muscles and connective tissue that are aching or sore, are most likely that way from dehydration–not just today’s on this week’s, but sometimes years of dehydration.
Reversing the site-specific dehydration in your body doesn’t just involve drinking more water, since it can just pass through you unabsorbed, especially if you gulp rather than sip.
To remove the state of dehydration-induced pain or discomfort, you first need to stimulate the joints, muscles and connective tissue (how about with a little yoga?) and then they’ll be eager to soak up the water you give them. The neck or shoulder or hip discomfort (that brought you to yoga to begin with) will vanish much faster this way.
Now, this is a Visual Yoga Blog, so let me direct your attention to something that’s very simple to do and yet provides that stimulation to the muscles, joints and connective tissue to a large part of the body: the spine.
I call this Shavasana 2.0, or the Improved Shavasana, or the Precursor to Shavasana.
Shavasana, of course, is the relaxation/corpse pose that we typically do at the end of each class. How can anyone possibly improve on the corpse pose? With a yoga mat. A rolled-up yoga mat.
In two (very relaxing) steps:
1. Sit down. Take your tightly-rolled yoga mat and put it against your spine, as shown.
2. Lie down on the mat. Your head should find support on the mat itself. If you are very tall and your shoulders or head hang off the mat, take a yoga block (or, hey, a yoga book) and support your head with it. Relax your jaw, but breathe (slowly) through the nose.
That’s it. Stay here for two minutes. Or more. Don’t rush it. The lengthening effect of this pose on your vertebrae will increase with longer times: go for up to ten minutes if you wish. And then drink water.
Then follow this with the true Shavasana: remove the mat from under you and just lie on your back anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes.
Because of the time lag between drinking and the fluid being available where it’s needed most, it might be a good idea to sip water before and after this practice. And before, during and after yoga in general.
Benefits: Decompresses the entire spine, relaxes the diaphragm, helps to open up a tight chest (pectoral muscles), improves your posture, and generally feels good.
Avoid if: If your spine doesn’t feel comfortable at all in this position, try moving the mat higher or lower on your back. If this still doesn’t feel comfortable, try simply lying on your back without the rolled mat underneath you, or try some other gentle poses.
Final thoughts: It might still be a good idea to drink before class, and after class. Just not the libations from the neighborhood pub. That is, unless you want a reason to practice The Drunken Paschimottanasana.