Recently a studio member forwarded a blog written by the esteemed San Francisco Bikram Yoga teacher Mary Jarvis in which she describes drinking water during class as a an unnecessary distraction.
Okay, I’m going to go way on a limb & say that Mary’s position is extreme. First, a little perspective for folks who’ve never practiced Bikram or other HY variety. By its nature, Hot Yoga is meant to kick your ass. It’s designed to be an extreme emotional-spiritual push-to-the-edge cardio physical challenge.
Discovering facial patterns in streaks of dried sweat on the front mirror … checking out whose body/outfit looks sexy … cataloguing the many parts of the human body that scream “I AM UGLY” … competing with your neighbor to kick a leg higher in Standing Bow … these are distractions in a yoga class. Wondering if the teacher will ever open the door … fanning yourself … compiling an inventory of what’s in the frig to make for dinner … guessing where the stock market is heading … worrying about whether your honey picked up the kids … These are typical distractions.
Isn’t Mary Jarvis making a mountain out of a molehill by declaring the act of drinking water during class as a distraction? The mind has so many other higher grades of distraction on which to dwell. Isn’t one of the main purposes of hatha yoga to purify the body? And isn’t sweating alongside Ujaya breath the surest way to eliminate toxins? Now I don’t know how much sweat Mary drops in a 90-minute class. But when I’m in the groove of an intense practice, I drench my towel with so much sweat that I have to carefully wrap it up inside my mat & sprint to the nearest sink to avoid dropping a river in my wake. And, yes, I pay much more attention to the quality of my breath than guzzling water. At the same time I typically drink 1.5 before class and 2 liters during class. Usually I add electrolytes to a liter of water. As a matter of standard procedure, I advise studio members to drink plenty of water before, during & after class. I even commit the heresy of allowing studio members to leave the studio to get H2O refills during class.
What I have observed about visiting students who refrain from hydrating during class is that this absence of distraction doesn’t make them inherently more attuned to their bodies or better yogis. What it looks like to me is that they are suffering under a concept that if they refrain from hydrating, it makes them a more serious yogi. But maybe they ought to relax and get properly hydrated rather than adhering to Mary’s concept. I confess that my sample is small. Bikram certainly doesn’t tell anyone to leave the water outside the studio.
In Mary’s blog, she claims her refined awareness of yogic breathing trumps all secondary issues including any perceived need to hydrate. She also claims to only take 1 breath per posture. Okay, so Mary Jarvis must be one extraordinary yogi because my heart rate spikes up intensely in these postures & part of doing the asana is holding it. Like I said, she is either a supremely amazing hatha yogi. Or she is stretching the truth here. Or she doesn’t hold the postures very long or work from her core. In my practice I take anywhere from 3 – 5 breathes per asana. And I make every effort to extend the duration of my Ujaya breath by engaging the whisper muscle at the back of the throat & drawing up mula & uddidha bandhas to relax my nervous system & breath with my energy body. And I can’t get anywhere near taking only 1 breath per asana. So Mary Jarvis must be in an elite league of Hot Yogis.
Anyway it’s a great topic. And I won’t be surprise if lots of Mary’s students rush to her defense. During my Bikram’s Spring 2000 YTT, Mary Jarvis was the most inspiring visiting instructor to guide our class of Bikram Yoga Teacher Trainees. One thing’s for sure. Mary doesn’t need anyone’s protection. This yogini is a fierce warrior who stands tall in the breech of her convictions. And I don’t pretend to be THE Authority on Hydration. I just know what my experience is after hurling sweat time after time on a yoga mat. The few seconds is takes to drink water 3 – 4 times in a 90 minute class doesn’t represent a distraction to my yoga meditation. What’s more the risks of refraining from hydrating are: 1. Retaining toxins in the body 2. Being unable to give 100% effort because the body is not working at optimal capacity 3. Quitting on Hot Yoga because it’s just too extreme.
Regarding The Hot Yoga Question … I definitely DRINK PLENTY OF WATER DURING CLASS! What about you? BTW: Mary, Isn’t it time you put out a Yoga DVD with you & your TopGun Yogis practicing this AMAZING BIKRAM YOGA?