We hear the tip frequently, ‘ensure you’re well hydrated’, especially if we're pursuing outdoor sports or practicing yoga in 105F heated rooms during the summer.
Such a statement may sound simple enough but when one of my Bikram yoga teachers, Corinne Idzal, recently mentioned that she’s noticing a lot of dehydrated students in classes, I immediately thought to myself, “What does that mean? Am I hydrated?”
This snowballed into a list of other questions: What is the best way to hydrate? How do you know if you’re hydrated and replenished enough? What are the key signs to look out for, to avoid dehydration?
To get some answers, I asked Corinne to shed more light on this topic. A Bikram teacher for over 6 years, she teaches across various studios in Manhattan. She’s also certified in Thai Yoga Massage, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), and Eriksonian Hypnosis, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Physical Therapy.
How can you tell if a student is not properly hydrated in class?
When a student is having a hard time in general, this can be a sign of dehydration and/or loss of electrolytes. Signs are: tiredness, dizziness, they’re not sweating enough, and /or their muscles are cramping.
If you are properly hydrated, and have an empty stomach (not especially full of toxins that day), the class should not be a huge struggle. Many people need to take a few classes for their bodies to acclimate to the heat, but if every class continues to be hard, talk to one of your teachers. Together you can trouble shoot and find out what's going on. Usually it's a simple solution.
What would you recommend to a hot yoga student in terms of replenishment if they are only hydrating with water during a summer practice?
If you’re practicing hot yoga, like the Bikram series, you cannot properly hydrate with just water, especially in the summer.
Electrolytes are charged molecules (positive or negative) that become active in water. They conduct electricity in the body and are instrumental for transmitting signals. They regulate, among other things: muscle contraction, heart rate, balance of body fluid, and pH levels. They affect all organs and systems in the body.
The body needs the right balance of water AND electrolytes for communication signals to be sent throughout the body. For example, if you are depleted in sodium or potassium, the signal from the nervous system cannot reach the muscle cell. This results in muscle cramping.
It's not just sodium and potassium we need. Other essential electrolytes include: magnesium, chloride, phosphate, sulphate, and calcium ions and bi-carbonates.
There are many sports drinks out there, and which one to consume is a personal decision. Personally, I am not a big fan of them for the following reasons: