The Yoga Tutor

Water - Are You Getting Enough?

It's no secret that drinking water is important for good health. How much, however, is the big debate -- and yes, the yogis have their perspective on this one too.

The idea that 'more is better' is a common attitude today. Oranges are good for you, therefore the juice of 10 oranges must be better, right? With water, this same way of thinking is also widespread. The importance of drinking more water is being expounded to fanatic proportions by Western 'health gurus', some even insisting on 5 or 6 (or more) litres of fresh water per day!

But is that really necessary? Could it even be dangerous?

There's still a lot of conflicting ideas about the amount of water that humans need to consume on a regular basis, and although there are concerns about taking in too much water, by and large the average person does not consume enough for the proper maintenance of a healthy body.

The human body is composed of mostly water, over two thirds of its mass actually. This vital compound serves many functions. It is, on one hand, a partner along with air, serving as the temperature-regulating force in the body, which is an intricate biological air and water cooled system. Without significant amounts of water (coupled with the ventilating breath) the body overheats and becomes very acidic, leading to a whole lot of problems.

Water also distributes warmth throughout the structure in colder climates, so a proper balance of water plays a crucial role in regulating body temperature. If the delicate water balance is disturbed (i.e., dehydration), it has a negative effect on the function of organs and joints as well as our neurological and physiological functions. 

Are You Getting Enough?

There are many signs and symptoms of inadequate water intake, such as chronic muscle and joint pain and stiffness, dry cough and raspy voice, dry skin, mouth and sinuses, and brittle hair and nails. Constipation, abdominal cramps and colic are a common signature of dehydration in the bowels.

If the brain and spinal cord even begin to lose a small amount of their lubricating fluid, headaches, fever, mental agitation and emotional problems immediately result.

Given all that, the immediate inclination may be to drink, drink, drink!

But beware...

The kidneys, whose primary function is the regulation of fluid levels in the body, can be over-taxed with too much water intake. If you are drinking a lot of water, and at the same time urinating frequently, then you may be drinking more water than you need and this kind of regular high stress to the kidneys is not healthy. 

Sources of Hydration

Drinking fruit juices, teas, nut milks, etc. is not the same as drinking water alone. Yes, these nutritious fluids should also be a regular part of a healthy diet, but we must also drink an adequate amount of pure water too.

It should go without saying that soft-drinks, alcohol and artificial drinks are poison to the human biology and an added burden to the organ systems--namely the liver, pancreas and the kidneys.

Caffeinated beverages, such as non-herbal teas and coffee should be taken sparingly too, if at all, as caffeine acts as a diuretic, stimulating the elimination of fluids by the kidneys.

Try to get a source of pure and clean water. In much of the world today, particularly urbanized centres, this has become a difficult task. Chlorinated water should be avoided, as the chlorine acts as a diuretic too. It is used to kill foreign bacteria in the water, which means that it will also kill the natural bio-organisms within the human digestive system, things that are necessary for the breakdown and digestion of food. Any filtration system should remove all chemical elements within the water.

We get a lot of the trace minerals needed by our bodies through the water we drink. Often, artificially distilled water is used, but this lacks the natural mineral content of normal water. If distilled water is your primary source of water, then you might need to add mineral supplement to your daily diet as well.

Mineral water on the other hand, is preferred, but be cautious not to overdue it, especially if the calcium content is high.

It's clear that we should make the drinking of fresh water a regular habit. Rather than gulping down a litre all at once though, it's better to drink small amounts at regular intervals. The amount of water needed will vary from person to person, depending on their body type, state of health, and levels of activities. In general, one should consume at least a few (2 or 3) litres of fresh water per day, but not so much that you continually have to empty your bladder.

Listen to your body and recognize the signs and symptoms of dehydration and develop a sense of how much water you personally need to maintain a balanced and healthy body and mind.

A Few More Guidelines

Avoid drinking during meals, as this inhibits the digestive fire (agni) and can lead to an inhibition of the digestive process, a lack of proper breakdown and assimilation of food, and ultimately constipation. If need be, sip a small amount of warm water with meals, but never use water to 'wash down' your food!

Approximately 15 to 20 minutes after a meal, after the digestive process has fully engaged, you can drink a glass of water.

Avoid drinking cold water, or cold liquids of any kind. This has dreadful affects upon the digestive system. Drinking cold liquids with a meal is the number one cause of poor digestion and constipation.

In general, the more physical exercise or activity you engage in, the more water you should consume. Water should be taken at regular intervals during activity. In between your yoga asanas, kriyas and pranayamas, get in the habit of sipping a little room temperature water.

Again, avoid the desire for ice-cold beverages, even on a hot summer day. Let correct breathing and the metabolic machinery of your properly hydrated body regulate and balance your body's temperature--not ice cubes!

Yogacharya is the Director of International Yogalayam, Editor of The Yoga News, and creator of the yoga training programs at

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