drinking water in yoga

Water and Yoga: When Is the Best Time to Drink?

Published on January 11, 2021

Look around at the start of any yoga class: Mats are rolled out, blocks, belts, and bolsters are at the ready, and invariably at one corner of the mat, you’ll find a water bottle. If the class is an hour, or at most 90 minutes, how necessary is that bottle of water? Is it actually good to drink water before yoga? And how much should you drink after your practice?

No doubt we’ve become a nation of water guzzlers, urged for years by health pundits to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. We take water along with us in the car, on our bike rides, and to the office. But do we really need that bottle at the ready for a short vinyasa class? A four-hour marathon aside, few of us in industrialized nations are in danger of keeling over from dehydration in a yoga class (thanks to diets abundant in fruits, salads, veggies, and well, yes, sports drinks, coconut water, herbal teas, and even vitamin-fortified water).

Your body and breath should flow, but your water bottle should not—at least not throughout your yoga practice. Not drinking water while practicing yoga may sound strange and counterintuitive, but there are many physiological and energetic effects of water consumption on your body. Maximizing hydration while maintaining a regular yoga practice is a bit of a balancing act. Still, it can be achieved by following simple tips on when and how much water to drink before heading off to the yoga studio.

How Much Water Should You Drink in General?

drinking water before yogaFor water consumption, the simplest advice is straightforward: drink when you’re thirsty. While helpful, this advice is often too simple since thirst is a signal that your body is already headed towards dehydration. Previously, studies recommended drinking eight glasses of water per day, but now most health advisors recognize that individuals require different amounts of water due to various internal and external factors, including gender, body type, environment, and lifestyle. For example, people who exercise frequently or who live in hot, dry, or high-altitude environments generally need more water. It is also recommended to drink in proportion to your body size, and men are likely to need more water than women. If you want to calculate a specific amount of water that works for you, keep in mind that nearly all food and beverage intake contributes to your daily liquid consumption.

Fortunately, your body will let you know if you’re not consuming enough water. Frequent light-headedness, headaches, or dryness (whether in your skin, mouth, eyes, or lips) all indicate that you should increase your water intake. Dark urine, infrequent urination, or constipation could indicate that you should drink more. Signs of dehydration during asana practice or other forms of exercise include lack of sweat, cramping, and muscle stiffness.

On the other hand, it is indeed possible to over-hydrate. When you drink too much water or consume it too quickly, frequent urination depletes the electrolytes that your body needs to properly digest food and stay hydrated. Some signs that you’re drinking excessively include clear urine, frequent urination, excess mucus, and an inability to quench thirst. Heaviness in the abdomen and bloating are also signs that you may be drinking more water than necessary.

Ayurvedic Tips For Drinking Water

If you drink an adequate amount of liquid and still feel thirsty, there’s a chance that your body isn’t absorbing it properly. Ayurveda advises certain practices for drinking water that can help to achieve optimal hydration.

First of all, although it can be tempting, don’t drink chilled water! Cold water is an enemy of the concept of agni, the digestive fire that we need to circulate prana (life force energy) throughout our bodies. Ayurveda expert Dr. Vasant Lad goes so far as to call cold water a poison to the digestive system. If your water is warm, that’s even better. Boiling water stimulates digestion and circulation, making it easier for your body to absorb nutrients and flush out toxins. Ayurveda also recommends a practice called ushapan, which is simply drinking water (about one whole liter) first thing in the morning. For maximum absorption, practice sipping slowly and in a seated position to ensure that your body and organs are relaxed.

Water and Yoga: When to drink?

If you start each day by drinking warm water and sip before meals (not right after them) and occasionally throughout the day, it’s likely that you will not need to hydrate during your yoga practice. With a fast-paced yoga class, slowly drinking eight ounces of water at least 30 minutes beforehand is beneficial to maintain hydration. If possible, avoid drinking water immediately before or during class. In addition to making our physical bodies feel inflated, consuming large amounts of water before or during a practice also interferes with our energy bodies; one theory says that sipping during yoga practice is akin to pouring water over our inner fire as we try to build it.

While participating in strenuous physical activity, we often mistake a need for water with a need for air. In fact, I’ve found that imaginary “thirst” is one of my most common distractions during both asana and meditation practices. If this rings a bell, resisting the unnecessary desire to drink water can be a good practice in tapas, or self-discipline, since using compassionate self-restraint against our urges helps us build strength through transformation. If you do indeed feel thirsty during yoga, take a moment to check in with your body. After a few deep breaths, if the sensation persists, make your water consumption part of your practice; sip mindfully and don’t let drinking be a distraction— to yourself or others.

Drinking Water in Hot Yoga

Hot yoga classes, which could mean room temperatures ranging from 90 to 117 degrees, pose different considerations.

At that thermostat setting, you are talking considerable heat combustion: in addition to the external room temperature, the body is generating its own internal heat during asanas. A few dozen rounds of downward and upward facing dogs, warriors, and handstands in a hot room can render a yogi the ego-satisfying sweat drench—as it tries to cool you down—but with the room temperature high, you suddenly have the potential for heat exhaustion and dehydration. We’re losing fluids through our breath too! It’s not uncommon for yogis to have a dizzy spell or even pass out in a hot yoga class if they are not adequately hydrated.

When you know you’re going to take a hot yoga class, do like World Cup players or marathoners: hydrate before the event. Drink enough water in the 24 hours leading up to hot yoga to avoid feeling faint as you start to sweat. If you wait until just before class or the middle of a warrior sequence to chug some water, you’ll be unable to deliver an adequate amount of fluid and electrolytes (minerals, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) to your body. When you drink water in class, do so mindfully. Slowly sip water instead of chugging it.

Sports performance research shows that losing just two percent of your body weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 25 percent. At that rate, you stand to lose your mental edge and ability to perform the asanas optimally. Higher percentages can be potentially life-threatening. And two percent of body fluid isn’t a lot for, say, a 120-pound yogi who may have eaten light the better part of the day in order to have an empty stomach for yoga class.

Your best strategy to prepare for a hot yoga class: drink plenty of fluids the day before class. Make it water, nutrient-rich clear drinks or juice blends even sports drinks. Add to your day plenty of fruits and vegetables. And most of all, with any class, make sure to drink plenty of water to rehydrate after.

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13 responses to “Water and Yoga: When Is the Best Time to Drink?”

  1. Bonnie Bloom Avatar
    Bonnie Bloom

    thanks/ this seems like solid info on the hydration issue in general and in practice. I can pass along to students and clients as a handout, how crazy that how much water to drink is even an issue?

  2. fitoru Avatar

    This is excellent read! I love how the information were presented and discussed. More power!

  3. fitoru Avatar

    Great content and informative read. More power to articles like this!

  4. Amanda Kainz Avatar
    Amanda Kainz

    This is an interesting question because water is one of the most important things that we need to stay healthy. There are so many conflicting opinions when it comes to water intake. Some say drinking too much water makes you bloated and others claim drinking too little water causes dehydration. What do you think?

  5. Michael Bubre Avatar
    Michael Bubre

    I always drink water when I am thirsty but do not think much about drinking water while practicing yoga. I guess I just assumed that since I was already doing yoga, I would get enough hydration through my practice. However, I recently read an article about dehydration and realized that I should probably pay more attention to hydrating myself during my yoga sessions.

  6. Robert Adedo Avatar
    Robert Adedo

    As I have learned more about water and its benefits, I am starting to understand why drinking enough water is so important. In fact, I think that most people don’t drink enough water because they are not aware of just how much water their body needs. There are so many different opinions out there, but I think the best time to drink water is when you feel thirsty.

  7. Jodi Ettenberg Avatar
    Jodi Ettenberg

    This is an interesting question because water is essential for life but not everyone drinks enough. We are often told to drink more water but when should we actually do so? There are so many factors involved, including what kind of water you use, whether you have any health conditions or not, etc. But one thing is certain – drinking enough water is essential to good health.

  8. Ethan Miller Avatar
    Ethan Miller

    I’ve been practicing yoga for years, and I remember how much of a difference it made to drink water before a session. It helps me focus better, and I don’t feel as dizzy during the poses. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to hydrate during a yoga session. It’s like fueling your body before you go on a long run.

  9. Johannes Bauer Avatar
    Johannes Bauer

    I’m someone who struggles to stay hydrated throughout the day, but this article has motivated me to be more mindful of my water intake. Thank you for sharing these insights!

  10. Meagan Avatar

    I am curious to know more about the different types of water that are best for hydration during yoga practice.

  11. Madison Collins Avatar
    Madison Collins

    This is a great reminder that we should always pay attention to our body’s signals and respond accordingly.

  12. Sujin Park Avatar
    Sujin Park

    Losing just two percent of body weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 25 percent? That’s a great reminder to stay hydrated!

  13. john Avatar

    I’m definitely guilty of being a water guzzler. Sipping water mindfully during yoga sounds like a great way to stay hydrated without it becoming a distraction.

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Rachel Markowitz Avatar
About the author
Rachel Markowitz’s yoga practice facilitates her understanding of both stability and flexibility throughout changes in place and time. She has lived in spiritual communities in Guatemala, Colombia, and Northern California, all of which she considers home. Rachel completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training with SchoolYoga Institute in 2012 and currently guides asana and meditation classes to travelers from around the world, often in front of an active volcano.
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