It’s 5:30 in the evening and you’re leaving a crazy day at work to try and make a 6 o’clock yoga class. Or maybe it’s 6:30 in the morning and you’re heading to Mysore before work—just barely awake. Regardless, you want to practice but you feel like going to sleep. What do you do? Throw some cold water on your face and pray that by the second downdog your blood will start moving? Or grab a double soy mocha and pound it before taking your position on the mat?
Lots of people drink coffee before practicing, especially in the city where we pack so much into each day and often need a little pick-me-up to get us from point A to point B. Personally, if I am really sluggish before practice, I will have a bit of green tea. If I feel guilty about this artificial boost in my energy—and I sometimes do—I simply remember that it’s not uncommon for monks of certain Buddhist traditions to drink green tea before meditating.
I am not so concerned here, however, about whether it is “right” or “wrong” to imbibe in a foamy latte to gear up for your morning sun salutes. (Though please share your view about the matter, if you have one.) But what I am more interested in is how caffeine affects your practice.
If I have a cup of green tea, I don’t feel a huge difference. I might be a bit more alert, which is the point. But If I drink any more than that, the energy in my body starts to significantly shift. I can really feel the caffeine while I practice, which doesn’t always feel good. While it’s true that it gives me more energy and I can move through chattarangas with less fatigue, I find that my energy feels uneven and jittery. I sweat more and, at the same time, my extremities get cold. Sometimes I find myself even shaking a little. It’s a fine line between feeling empowered and unsteady, so I have to really monitor my intake.
Caffeine, of course, has different effects on different people and some people don’t feel it all. What’s your experience with caffeinasana? Do you drink tea or coffee before you practice? (Or Red Bull, for that matter?) Does it help your practice? Hurt it? Do you think that we should avoid any kind of stimulant before working with an energetic practice like yoga? Write in and share your thoughts!