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Q&A With Suzy Thompson MD on the Importance of Hydration with Yoga

Q&A With Suzy Thompson MD on the Importance of Hydration with Yoga

Monday, February 9, 2015 - 5:18am

"Stay Hydrated," by Flickr user Ryan Hyde. License

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Just like with other forms of working out, hydration is an important component of a successful yoga practice. However, often instructors throw out tips during class that differ from instructor to instructor. That's why Active Life DC got answers to some questions related to hydration from Suzy Thompson MD, a licensed pediatrician who also happens to be a yoga teacher and co-owner of The Source Yoga in McLean, VA.

About Suzy: “Suzy Thompson is a licensed pediatrician, yoga teacher, and co-owner of The Source Yoga in McLean, VA.   Suzy has a special interest in yoga for athletes and has been the team yoga instructor for D.C. United, the Major League Soccer team for Washington D.C., since 2013.   By fusing together her medical knowledge and yoga skills, Suzy seeks to inspire her students to live healthier and injury-free.  Becoming a teacher has allowed Suzy to share her passion for wellness and inspired living with her students.” Check out Suzy’s website to learn more about her and for a glance at her teaching schedule.

What’s the importance of hydration when it comes to yoga?
Hydration is absolutely essential when it comes to yoga!  Making sure that you’re properly hydrated will ensure that your yoga class is enjoyable, that your performance is optimal, and that you’re not doing harm to your body.

What are your recommendations for hydrating before class?
Typically the fluid recommendations for an average person are 64 oz per day for normal activity, not including exercise.  Those fluid requirements increase with any exercise regimen.  It’s recommended that you drink an additional 16-20 oz of non-caffeinated fluid two hours before a yoga class.  Drinking immediately before class does not hydrate the body - the body needs time to absorb and assimilate fluids.  So, pounding that water bottle right before class is not going to help!  If you’re going to a hot yoga class where you’ll be sweating, anticipate more fluid losses for your body and drink more ahead of time.  Proper pre-hydration is KEY to having an enjoyable, optimal class experience.

What are your recommendations for hydrating during class?
Most people don’t really need to drink a lot during a typical unheated yoga class, especially if you’ve done your homework and properly pre-hydrated.  Sometimes it’s even discouraged by a teacher. However, if you’re feeling thirsty during class you should by all means sip your water bottle!  However, if it’s a particularly strenuous class, or heated yoga, and you’re losing fluids through sweating, then you may need to drink during class in order to keep up with fluid losses.

What are your recommendations for hydrating after class?
Hydrating after class is very important!  The recommendation is 20-40 oz for each hour of exercise.  Again, if you’ve been in a heated yoga class where you sweat a lot, you will need to increase that to make up for fluid losses.

Do some styles/poses dehydrate the body more than other styles/poses?
This is a great question!  And this is where I’m going to rely on my medical degree to debunk some common yoga myths.  There are no poses that dehydrate the body more than others.  Just like there are no poses that “detoxify" the body, or “stretch your liver” or “rinse your kidneys”.  With that being said, there are some poses, like twists, that work to strengthen and release lots of muscles - from the rhomboids to the hamstrings, the internal and external oblique’s and spinal extensors - and these poses can feel quite intense, especially when integrated into a vigorous practice.  Any vigorous practice can increase fluid losses!

For sure, heated yoga, and in particular Bikram, which is practiced at 105 degrees, can dehydrate the body because of losses due to sweating.  Hydration is the key to staying safe in these types of classes.  You need to be well hydrated in order to sweat, and sweating is the body’s primary protection against overheating.  Proper hydration and the ability to sweat help regulate core temperature in a hot room, and that regulation is what you need to stay safe and feel good.

Should yogis consider hydrating with something more than just water?
For most yogis, water is perfect!  However, if you’re taking classes where you’re sweating a lot, you’re not only losing water, you’re also losing electrolytes.  Therefore, it’s important to replenish electrolytes after a healthy sweat session.  I don’t really care for most sports drinks - they tend to be loaded with sugar and sodium.  Coconut water is a great source of hydration and contains potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, and calcium - important electrolytes that you lose when you sweat.

What are the risks yogis take if they don’t make hydration a priority?
Not making hydration a priority puts you at risk for dehydration or even heat-exhaustion.  At the very least, you’ll have a lousy class experience.  More serious signs of dehydration are weakness, dizziness, nausea, headache, vomiting, fatigue, cramping muscles, and a pulse rate that stays elevated.  Not exactly how you want to feel after yoga!

Make sure to check out Suzy's Featured Yogi Interview from late last year! She talks about her love of yoga, teaching style, and a lot more!

About the Author

Jamie Corey is a RRCA certified coach and author of Jamie has completed eight marathons, several triathlons and is currently training for her first Ironman. When she isn't trying to find the best bagel in town, she is usually tweeting at @TheRunster.