The body is a dynamic machine, in constant motion. Sometimes imperceptible and sometimes large, every muscle twitch and breath generates heat and releases energy. To replenish this lost energy, we take in food and drink and rebuild ourselves throughout the day. Sometimes, however, we aren’t too cognizant of what we put into our bodies. In an age of instant gratification and persistent interaction, it is easy to slip into a routine of negligence wherein we fail to offer ourselves the nutrients we truly need to repair.
This is especially apparent in my dealings with coffee, that sweet blend of energy in a cup. It’s quick and cheap, easy to procure and easy to down. Most importantly, it works in waking me up and priming me for the day; for a time, at least. After its stimulant effects have worn off, I am immediately overcome by a sluggishness and lethargy even greater than before I drank the coffee. At this point, that old adage made sense to me: you are what you eat. Or drink.
The first day I got up at six in the morning to do yoga, I thought I was going to fall asleep on the way to the studio. I was never up that early, and if I was I certainly had coffee with me. But that morning, I was introduced to tea. An herbal tonic, more precisely, but the point is that it was not coffee, and that was what I needed.
The morning was already warm, and the thought of hot tea was not exactly appealing. But it was an experience, and I wasn’t one to shy away from it. From the first sip, I felt open and in-tune with my body. It was warm, sure, but so was my body. Instead of going for a glass of ice water, I listened to my body and followed its instructions. Besides being perfectly blended, the tonic didn’t leave me with all the nasty side effects of coffee; I was awake and open, and stayed that way.
Today, I believe tea before yoga is a necessity. Tea time is a social experience, an intimate connection with strangers, friends, community members. It’s a chance to open up and both teach and learn. It’s refreshing, but more importantly it is priming. It prepares you to move and stretch, releasing excess heat and energy on the mat. It puts you in a mindset of connection with your body; instead of drinking coffee to force yourself into whiplash of alertness, drinking tea respects your state of being and encourages you to transcend to wherever it is you want to be, just as does yoga.
My run-in with tea was more than just a change in beverage preferences. It taught me to focus on the messages my body was sending me, and to respect them. Beyond gastronomy, this has helped me to interact more completely and openly with others and to slow down, to breathe.
Downward dog, drinking tea, listening to others—it’s all yoga.