Do you want to become an object of national derision for suffering debilitating muscle cramps and being forced to come out of the game, right when your team needs you the most? Of course you don’t. Luckily, you are not famous enough for that to happen. But consider LeBron’s very public suffering last night to be a macrocosm for the same discomfort that you, my hot yogis, could be unwittingly courting.
Simply put, the more you sweat, the more replacement fluids you need to suck down. Or else. Your body’s ability to throw off heat depends upon its ample hydration. That’s why we are advised to drink lots of water, before, during, and after physical activity. If you’re thirsty, drink!
When you sweat you lose minerals, too. These are the famous electrolytes which felled King James and spawned an industry of nasty sports drinks (Florida, again!). Before Gatorade, football players, soldiers, hot weather laborers, and other heavy sweaters might’ve been given salt tablets or pickle juice to replace all of their lost salt. That salt is an electrolyte, which conducts power through our bodies.
Think of yourself as an electrically-charged saltwater balloon. A balloon with feelings, and maybe a discrete soul. Water, salt, and magic (or electricity, God, or The Force) are the stuff that make us live and go. These ingredients need to stay in balance. I’m no priest, scientist, or Jedi Knight, but by the authority vested in me by the Yoga Alliance: I command you to drink.
But bad news: coffee and beer count against, rather than for, your daily intake of fluids. On top of your baseline 8-10 glasses of water, you need to add more for both your vices and your virtues: caffeine, alcohol, exercising, and simply living in Florida. (If you drink diet soft drinks, forget about it. You’ll apparently never catch up without an IV.)
Several years ago I moved to Florida, and shortly after began practicing and teaching hot yoga in earnest. After a while, I started to experience a variety of seemingly-unrelated little problems: fatigue, infections, sluggishness, joint pain, irritability (that one might just be me). My Western doctor suggested I had a pH imbalance: too acidic, with serious B and D vitamin deficiencies to boot. My Eastern doctor said I a had Yin deficiency. At the root of all of this, it began to seem to me, was a low-level, chronic dehydration problem, and imbalances in my diet, which I had previously thought was pretty good.
I made some changes, and I saw some results. Now, especially come summertime every year, I have to remind myself to once again start taking hydration (and electrolytes) seriously.
I personally think sports drinks are gross, so I was happy to find this illustration and post over at FoodBabe.com (The Secret Behind Gatorade & How to Replenish Electrolytes Naturally). The gist: drink lots of water, and continually replenish your salt, potassium, and magnesium. I think the important thing is to find something that will actually work for you. If the smoothie’s too gross or the routine too difficult, you’re probably not going to keep it up. Happily there are some easy and yummy things you can eat and drink: bananas, salty pretzels, coconut water, celery, and concoctions involving maple syrup.
To summarize, do a little research on your own and keep water and electrolyte replenishment in mind. If you’re a big sweater, coffee, or beer drinker, you should probably be prioritizing it. And remember, when you practice Hot Enough Yoga at The BE, this ain’t no Bikram studio: for god’s sake DRINK when you’re thirsty, REST when you’re exhausted, and if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen (and come back in whenever you’re ready). <3