When Is the Right Time To Drink Water in Bikram Yoga Class?

It’s the start of the year, so there are a lot of new students in class lately. Sure, that can be inconvenient — super-crowded classes, lots of extra explanation up-front from the teacher — but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to re-examine your practice through a new lens. Many times new students can question the norms and provide an interesting insight.

That happened for me in class today when there was a dispute about drinking water during the warm-up. A new student (2nd class) started to drink during awkward pose, but the teacher stopped her and asked her to wait until the first water break. While I have seen this happen before, and the student usually sets aside the water and waits, this particular student said, “But I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be allowed to drink water when I wanted it. That is a problem for me.” The teacher further explained that it was proper Bikram etiquette to wait for the first drink until after the warmup, and the student decided to wait.

A little disruptive, but it got me thinking — when do I drink water in class and are those the right times to be drinking? What I discovered is that I have a very regular pattern for drinking water during class. I drink at (1) party time (of course!), (2) before standing separate leg stretching, (3) before the first savasna, (4) before cobra, (5) before fixed firm, (6) before head to knee pose with stretching pose, and (7) before final savasna. All of this adds up to one 40 oz flask of water per class.

I also noticed a few other interesting things.

1.  I drink more often during the floor series than during the arguably more strenuous standing series. Maybe all the savasnas between postures on the floor provide more opportunities to drink, while the standing series moves more rapidly. Or maybe I am just thirstier as the class goes on. Or maybe I start to lose focus and the water is a distraction.

2.  I only drink BEFORE postures, not after them. This really only applies to the floor series, where I make a point to always drink at the start of a new posture rather than at the conclusion of a posture. I believe that getting into savasna right away is important in making sure I get the full benefits of the concluding pose.

3.  I am not a sipper. I drink several full swallows each time. Teachers warn this can fill your belly with water and make you nauseous, but so far it has been fine. And boy does it feel good.

4.  I probably should not be drinking before cobra pose. Teachers warn us not to drink right before the spine strengthening series since you will be laying on your belly. I have not had any issues yet, but I can see that it really is not a good idea. I also noticed that no one else was drinking at that time. I should try to cut that out of my routine.

Fellow yogis, when do you drink water in class?

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10 thoughts on “When Is the Right Time To Drink Water in Bikram Yoga Class?

  1. I try very hard not to drink until I have. I know that seems odd, but one of our instructors said that many people drink before/between/after camel in attempts to wash away/drown out what we are feeling/experiencing. With that in mind, I try to not drink so I don’t wash away what I feel through the practice.
    However…. I usually drink when standing series is over and we move to the floor. In addition, I do find that when I do drink it is usually during floor series. I think it is just the easier access to the bottle! In addition, I bring frozen bottles to practice so they are still cold by end of class.

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  2. I’m surprised the 2nd timer didn’t pick up on the no water until “party time” in her first class. Its usually something I hear teachers mention right at the start. I’ve seen a few people “break” that rule once in awhile. Sometimes the teacher calls it out and sometimes they let it slide and remind everyone at PT. Personally I stopped bringing water into class 3 years ago and never thought about it again. I found water at PT took away from the few moments I had to breathe and get ready for Head to Knee. The same thing applies throughout the class for me. I recover from a tough spell by focusing on my breath and finding stillness. Reaching down for water works against that. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with drinking water in class in between the postures if you think it helps you. We all chart our own way in our respective practices. The key is to be IN the hot room in the first place!

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    • I was surprised too that the 2nd timer didn’t know it, but apparently it hadn’t sunk in. She seemed a bit overwhelmed so maybe that is why.

      Impressive that you don’t drink any water in class – I think that is how it used to be way back when Bikram first started teaching his classes! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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  3. I usually refrain from water until after the Standing Series when we hit the floor for the first Savasana. Sometimes it’s because I’m feeling strong and don’t need it. Other times it’s more of a punishment because I’m unable or unwilling to complete a posture. I’ll take a sip before Fixed-Firm. One golden rule: Drink BEFORE Camel or AFTER Rabbit… NEVER in between.

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  4. I don’t drink that much water during class. In fact, there have been a number of classes when I don’t drink at all. When I do drink, I talk small sips, more to refresh or cool my mouth than to satiate my thirst. I come to class well hydrated so I am not all that thirsty during class. Add to that, I sweat so much that my mouth is never dry.

    Now…when class is over, I am guzzling water like I’ve been walking in the desert.

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