January 2, 2013: Lesson 1
I’m starting the year with this topic because I think it is one of the smallest changes we can make with the biggest impact. Its not super yogic, I’m positive Patanjali didn’t include it in his sutras but this is a very important lesson I have learned from many teachers. As I am home, with my family and friends, and I see so much ice water flying around… I thought maybe this would be appropriate.
Action Step: Drink warm water, never cold water and don’t drink at meal time.
I made a salad lunch with my friend Rich in Beijing before we both left for our world tours, I asked him what he wanted to drink and he said he didn’t drink with meals and I was like “Whatttt!?…” and he said, “Its not good for your digestion…” I had a hard time wrapping my head around this until I heard the water lesson from many more teachers along the way.
October, 2012 Varkala Beach, India: Mahesh gave me a glaring look as I held up my frozen water bottle, dripping with condensation as it melted from the heat of the day. I knew what he was thinking, “Bad girl! You should know better then to drink cold water and send it into your system killing your digestive fire!” And I did know better, but it was just so hot and the cold water tasted so goooood. And what? I give up drinking and smoking and eating meat and now I have to give up cold water? You have got to be kidding me! Since when was being a yogi so strict!? The truth is, I do have an incredibly sensitive digestive system. I should be doing everything in my power to make sure it can run at is peak performance. We should ALL take care of our systems as much as possible… Why? Because according to Ayurvedic medicine, all diseases are caused from faulty fire in the digestive track. This is why it is so important to love yourself enough to take whatever steps are necessary to maintain healthy digestion.
Alas, I stopped bringing the cold water to class, and made a point about it… Mahesh was proud. Drinking cold water is not good for you. Room temperature coconuts are ok… but cold water… no.
Isn’t there anything better then the feel of cool water as it hits the dryness of a sticky pallet? What if you are really thirsty! ? Still… no. It kills your AGNI or your digestive fire. Deep within all of us, in our digestive system lies an energy called Agni. It is our fire, our heat. This is the energy that we use to digest food and to extract all of the nutrients from whatever we are eating. Our internal organs are warm for a reason; it acts as an insulator for our body’s energies. To take a glass of ice water (God forbid) and send it shooting down into our system is like throwing a blanket over a flame, it puts out our fire and it takes a long time to get started again. Cold beverages should be avoided in general, anything out of the fridge is a bad idea, UNLESS you have a pita imbalance (very fast digestion and excess heat in the body) in that case an occasional cold beverage would be all right…between meals!
Not only should we not be drinking cold water, but really we should avoid it at meal time all together. WHY!?
Natwar, our guru at Rishikesh Yog Peeth explained our digestive system and drinking beverages at mealtime like this….Imagine your stomach is a blender. Which it essentially is, a vat of space where all of the food is processed and churned. By adding a ton of water into the blender, it can’t process the food with out it spilling out of the top. The extraction of nutrients from the food becomes very difficult. This simply slows the process down, and slow digestion isn’t fun for anyone.
COMMON MISCONCEPTION: When I was talking to my mom about this she said,”But I thought you were supposed to drink a lot of water before your meals so you can lose weight!”. Yes, yes. I know. I have heard this before also. My response would be, sure! If you are trying to lose weight and fill up room in your stomach with water, completely killing your digestive fire and making the digestive process suffer, go for it… but it won’t work and it is not a good idea (the whole blender concept). What I have heard about drinking with meals is this: because a little bit of warm water CAN help with digestion, the choices are as follows.
First note that this is as much as we should be eating…as much food as we can fit into our cupped hands. Like this:
We need to leave SPACE in our stomachs for the digestive fire to work with what we eat. I have heard 2 different methods here. We should have 1/2 the stomach filled with food and 1/2 the stomach empty, AND I have also heard 1/3 water, 1/3 food, and 1/3 empty. Regardless of what you try to follow the bottom line is this, if we are going to drink at meal time, it shouldn’t be very much. And regardless of what we do we shouldn’t eat until we have the sensation of being full. Space is an important ingredient for proper digestion to take place.
I know it sounds drastic to many of us who have been raised on ice water and drinking beverages at meal time.
But what do we have to lose to TRY it and see how we feel?
I have been practicing this in my own life pretty diligently and honestly, I have seen a huge change in my digestive system. It is definitely a combination of different factors but I think there may be some truth to what these teachers have to say. Who knew? The simple of act of loading up on my liquids BETWEEN meals and not drinking cold beverages (the summer breakfast smoothies may have to be my only exception but we still have a while to go) is enough to start a small change. This is all about beginning the process of awareness. Happy New Year! and remember… Put. The. Cold. Water. Down.
Instead enjoy a dainty cup of hot water.