Hot Yoga, Hot Talk: Mary Jarvis on why you DONT need water in class

Last week, senior Bikram Yoga Teacher Mary Jarvis shared her “Dairy of a Yogini” full of wisdom about Bikram Yoga and discipline. Most of us were inspired, but others were hesitant to heed some of Mary’s techniques such as not drinking water in class. This week, Mary returned to quell some concerns and set the record straight. We hope you too will join the discussion!

February 5th, 2010

YogiJ wrote:

It is hazardous to one’s health not to take in liquids over a 90 minute Bikram class. It amazes me that anyone adheres to this ancient thought process. The body needs liquid to operate, and furthermore it needs more than just water. I love Bikram Yoga, but hopefully all Bikramites can get into the 21st century and realize that fluids are essential.

February 10th 2010

Mary Jarvis responds:

Dear Yogij,

No offense …but you are wrong…..
There is nothing hazardous about not drinking water in this class.

Mary Javis in full expression of Locust Pose. Photo: Global Yoga

There are five reasons why people drink water in class…..

1) They do not know any better……someone just said….”bring water to class”….

2) Lack of discipline and concentration and focus “in great relaxation at the same time” while practicing.

3)Boredom……they cannot maintain stillness “IN the posture” and “NOT in the posture”

4) It is EMOTIONAL….. They think they are going to DIE if they do not “Hydrate in Class”. You were probably already “dehydrated” before you came to class anyway…,wine,liquor,processed food,etc. It all is already stealing fluids from your body!

Let me tell you that, depending on what science book you read, if you drink 4-6 ounces of water in class, it will take 15 to 50 minutes for the body to absorb it. It sits in your stomach like a pastrami sandwich and you body must go into digestion to deal with it. Digestion takes a lot of energy that should be used for the yoga!

It took Lance Armstrong 2 days to recover from dehydration in the Alps in one of the Tour De France that he rode….and they had him hooked up to an IV of Fluids!

Don’t you notice how many people tank around triangle or cobra?

Their energy dropped right after the water guzzling!…Ha Ha Ha and then they will blame it on the HEAT in Class! So Silly!

5) Which is the biggest reason of all…..
….they do NOT know how to BREATHE! Yet…..

Yes everyone breathes…thank God it is the Automatic Nervous System that keeps us breathing!

Can you imagine if we had to consciously tell ourselves to breathe EVERY moment of our lives? Ha Ha Ha! I know I would be dead by now.
But, with our yoga, we have the opportunity to live in the present moment EVERY moment in class. We have the opportunity to “go beyond nature,” in every posture, every side, every set, every time, every class. And if we get really good at it, we can start to be and live that way outside in the real world!

When I take class, I breathe once in a posture. One slowwwwwwww inhale and one slowwwww exhale. I am not holding my breath. I am in great relaxation “IN the posture,” NOT in the posture -going into the posture -coming out of the posture. I am not trying to do the posture. I AM the posture!

I do not emotionally struggle with ANYTHING in class when I practice.

Even now at the time of this post, I am carrying extra weight on my body after suffering through a couple of difficult personal years. Let me tell you when I practice I am NOT suffering in my extra heavy body because of my great discipline of breath.

I feel neither heat nor cold in the yoga room. I do not have to “deal” with them. I do not know they exist when I practice. I am beyond the temperature of the room. I am suspended animation. I am the Present Moment.

I do not have to throw an emotional hissy-fit about the room temperature because it does not exist to me. It is NOT yoga.

If you want to race getting oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen into the body, I am game.

You with your water….me with my breath.

OOOOOPS I already won!

I just took a big inhale while you were reaching for your water.

You have a Middle Man of digestion and I have Pure Prana.

Oxygen carries Prana, Chi, Life Force, call it what you want. It is all I am looking for.

Please discern the difference between ‘House Rules” and “Yoga Rules”. House Rules keep new people in check, but do not think that it is fundamental to practicing yoga. Any kind of yoga for that matter! I just happen to be grateful for Bikram and this Yoga that I practice so I am talking about it.

Yessssss… a pregnant girl should have water nearby, an insulin diabetic, etc….I know the extreme exceptional cases.

I am almost 26 years practicing this yoga and no offense to anyone, seriously, but I know what I am talking about with this water thing.

This is not a debate. I know I am right.

If you disagree with me you probably fall into one of the five categories I have listed.

I have high hopes for you and your practice in the future.

You are on your way!

Stopping to drink water stops people from living in the present moment in yoga classes.
I do not think you are a worse student because you might drink water…

You just might be the only one moving around in a class at my school !

Ha Ha Ha!

Yoga J, Yes….for sure this is an ancient practice… ancient as the Earth.

I am okay with that.


Filed under About Bikram Yoga, Bikram Yoga Issues, Guest Blog, Mary Jarivs, Nutrition, Tips and Tricks

69 responses to “Hot Yoga, Hot Talk: Mary Jarvis on why you DONT need water in class

  1. This is a very insightful and interesting article. I agree with you, Mary, you do not need water in the yoga room to survive. In fact, it makes it much more difficult, especially for those who gulp down before savasana and then suffer through the spine series. The water isn’t helping you at this point it is just gurgling around in your belly, making the postures seem and feel much more difficult than they actually are. The key to a great yoga class is to be hydrated all the time which ensures your body can function throughout the class without water and still feel great after class when it is rewarded with water. Don’t let your mind control your body. Allow them to function as one entity and yoga will forever be easier.

    Thanks for the awesome advice!

    • debra simonsb

      Physiologists have proven in all studies that the primary reason for hydrating before strenuous heat exercise is to plump the capillaries up enough to take in fluid during the exercise to avoid dehydration. I am sorry you are wrong here. You can check out my info at the bottom of the page if you would like and try and refute it.

  2. kris

    I’ve been practising for a year and a half, and recently stopped drinking water during class, i only drink a little after Kapalbhati breathing and a LOT after i leave the class.
    But i did it gradually;
    I used to drink at all the “official” water breaks at the beginning, i just thought i was “supposed to”, then only before the floor series and before Fixed Firm, and maybe a little before Stretching, until i got to the point i realized i didn’t need any water.
    But in the meantime i learnt how to breathe deeply and not moving between potures, and also i make sure i’m very well hydrated before entering the hot room.
    I think as a beginner you should be allowed to have water and at the same time to be explained all that Mary wrote, which is, of course, spot on. Maybe some new people are overwhelmed by the heat and without the comfort of the (water) bottle, feel is too much for them and decide not come back again, which would be a shame.

    • Pferris

      this is in response to mary’s opinion piece. I suggest you should reference some evidence-based research if you are going to make statements regarding one’s health. Are you aware of the effects of exercising in a heated environment without adequate hydration?
      E xercise in the heat, as compared with a neutral environment, causes many physiologic changes in the dynamics of the human body, including alterations in the circulatory, thermoregulatory, and endocrine systems. Many interrelatedphysiologic processes work together to sustain central blood pressure, cool the body, maintain muscular function, and regulate fluid volume.
      Attempting to sustain exercise (especially if it is intense) in a hot environment can overload the body’s ability to properly respond to the imposed stress, resulting in hyperthermia, dehydration, deteriorated physical and mental performance, and a potentially serious (even fatal) exertional heat illness.When intense exercise occurs in the heat, the cardiovascular system simply cannot meet the maximal demands of the skin (to decrease thermal load) and the muscle simultaneously.
      Ultimately, maintenance of blood pressure will take precedence over skin blood flow (ie, body cooling) and muscle blood flow (ie, performance capacity), but simultaneously increases the rate of hyperthermia and metabolic inefficiency. This prioritizing can result in hyperthermia, especially in populations committed to maximal physical exertion (soldiers, athletes, etc). The metabolic changes are
      reflected in an increased lactate level, which results from decreased hepatic blood flow; muscle vasoconstriction (which influences waste removal, oxygen delivery, buffering capacity, etc); and an increase in muscle temperature. Variations in the onset of these changes can alter the rate at which the athlete experiences fatigue.
      I am an avid yogi, specifically power and hot yoga, so I don’t feel as though I am particularly biased. I want you to be aware of the implications of your opinion piece and understand that when you make statements such as your five reasons why people drink water, and “there’s nothing hazardous about not drinking water”, and you don’t have the research to back up your opinions, then, especially because you are an instructor, you are being the one being dangerous to your students who look to you for guidence and information. if you have done the research, and from those crediable resources have formed your opinions, then I apologize. However, everything I have ever read contradicts your argument that water is not necassary when you exercise.

      • James

        Nobody here is saying Hydration is not important. What they are saying is that you must be hydrated before class or better yet all the time. If you are you will have no problem making it 90 minutes without a drink. If you are dehydrated to the point that you truly do “need a drink” then your pretty much screwed anyway. No matter how much you drink in class you will never meet your bodies hydration needs within the 90 minutes if you’re dehydrated to start with.

      • debra simonsb

        you are absolutely correct. I love the classes but as an RN I understand the physiology involved. And I will drink when it is necessary. It is a medical liability to do elsewise.

  3. Guy Friswell

    I wholeheartedly agree with “just being” in the postures. Indeed, that is the essence of yoga – to “just be” unified within myself, with the world, with the universe. All forms of yoga, Bikrams included, take us on this path towards dropping the veil of duality. In the end, everything that you are and that you do becomes “yoga”. So if we accept this premise – the all is yoga, then when do I drink water? And the very simple answer is that I drink water when my internal state of being (not my chatty ego) says that I must drink. If that sensation arises in class, I believe that it is truthful to acknowledge it, recognize it for what it is and then, possibly, reach for a sip. Of course, you can also treat this arising sensation as merely that – an arising sensation – and let it pass, just as you would any passing thought. But, there is a point when allowing sensations to pass becomes mere asceticism. And if you read Buddhist stories, you’ll know that even the Buddha himself saw the flaws of being an ascetic. So, do you really NEED to drink water in class … probably not, but if the true need arises, it is more truthful to respond to it than to suppress it. That’s my two bits!

  4. Kristen

    Yep, you’re right. Hydrate BEFORE class. I started going in without water during this Bikram 101 challenge. Its amazing how distracting drinking water is. Its even more amazing when you realize how mental it all is. Dominate your mind, keep it in check, breathe….and you’ve found the secret. Thanks for sharing!

    • debra simonsb

      Perhaps you should not be so easily distracted? after all, aren’t we supposed to ignore a herd of elephants running thru the room? If you can’t handle a few sips of water you are in trouble as far as distraction goes.

  5. great article Mary, thank you. I agree – if you’re well hydrated before class (although i don’t like to drink too much water directly before class) and hydrate after… there’s no need to drink during class!

  6. Michon

    Right F@##*ing on Mary. I haven’t taken water in class in years. Where I’m teaching now we have ONLY three water breaks. You can not drink except at those breaks. When we transition from standing to the floor series there’s a water break, but sometimes I won’t announce it and everyone lays back on their mats and starts their savasana. Then I say “oh” water break and ten students sit back up to get their water. You get my point. they were in the present moment and were doing yoga and breathing then they were snapped out of it with the announcement of the break. Al of a sudden their monkey mind woke up and said “Oh I need water” No one NEEDS water in class, they WANT water, there’s a huge distinction there. Like Boss says, you must learn the difference between want and need.

    • I like your zeal, but if I can be so bold as to offer some “been in the game al li l while advice”. Survey your room note newbies vs 1st week, 1st year, going through the motions, I dont have a clue… clients. Use the power of intuition to guide u in and out of transistions… Is the time an an oppourtunity to grind or comic releif… ask ur self am I trying to prove something ( im a good teacher , I can kick ur butt, this is good for you just take it, etc) or allow them some time to be in the stillness of the pose, the silence of their deepest thoughout, the rhythm of their lives. I had one moment with Mary in my training in 2002 and it culminated into this mind-set, I pass it on.
      So much is communicated and any lil distraction takes time to ignore, be of all things loving. Whether that means compassionate or simply silly, but I would love to take a class from you just from the tone of your comment om namha Just err on the side of love

  7. Mary

    “Ha Ha Ha and then they will blame it on the HEAT in Class! So Silly!”

    Your point would come across much more strongly if you would refrain from making trite comments like this. I don’t have a strong opinion either way on the issue, but reading your article makes me want to argue the other side because of your abrasive and mocking approach to something that is ultimately a personal choice. Sounds like you are yelling “STUPID” to the other side in each paragraph.

    • I have to disagree with this comment. I think that Mary’s approach to this topic is lighthearted, not trite or condescending.

      As a teacher it is always challenging to talk about issues of discipline and I think that Mary does so in a lighthearted and conversational way.

      In my opinion I think she handles this very, very touchy subject with grace.

      That being said, democracy is fueled by discussion and I am grateful that you all feel confident to say what is on your minds – positive or critical – in these pages

      In the end, regardless of tone, I am glad that we are all being engaged about the ideas of a strong disciplined practice.

      Mary is one of the most experienced and respected Bikram Yoga teachers in the community, and I am proud and honored that we can have her writings at OMB and that we can all learn from her knowledge.

      – Barbora

      • i love how elegant you are, truly. But she’s right. we can take the time to sip hot water throughout the course of the day . eat well balnaced meals and learn to be still Before going to class. i have been a teacher for nearly 10 years and I have not found an occassion to be DYING of thirst as I needed to find my breath, my peace–the ease of being. often the unpopular thought is not true until we deem it worthy of experimentation
        In the words of Fredrick Douglass, Without the struggle, there is not progress. Learning how not to have to struggle is the message. When you note you are thirsty your body has been dehydrate for some time. Learning to sustain, maintain, perservere builds character, true but studying yoga, helps us go beyond the realm of the physical so that in our detachment from the senses, you know your self Isnt that what it is really all about. I so missCA

    • Hi Mary
      Thanks for sharing.
      Do you regularly practice Bikram Yoga?
      If so,how long have you been practicing? How many times a week do you practice?
      Do you drink water in class?

    • no no no mama, that is your perception, and I beg to differ that it sounds like she is saying stupid. You take a very definite position, but maybe your too scared to say it is yours, you would rather “represent” those that this offends. Get clear, k. Mary J( I call her Mary Jane) she makes no apologies about who she is and what her purpose mission and goals are. I would rather reply to someone that is not a punk, that is makes no excuses for who they are and is responsible enough to invite a dialogue. Let those that it offends say how there offended, down you be the one, speak your mind, represent you. Ciao

  8. yogafrenchmeadowjunkie

    Scientifically, I have been told “Water is absorbed on a time scale of seconds to minutes through the mouth, stomach and digestive tract.” So I respectfully disagree with some of the above comments. I do agree it does distract from your focus in class.

    • Do you have any information on how long it takes to rehydrate the muscles? All the research that I have done has shown the same numbers as Mary’s post.

      I certainly agree that water gets absorbed by the body quickly, but it makes sense that the effects of re-hydrating the tissues will take time. I know when I get dry skin from being de-hydrated it takes days to remedy even when drinking copious amounts of water and moisturizing.

      • add an abhyanga ( seasme oil) massage. It depends too on what elements of your diet deplete the supply and what time you do your practice?

    • Lisa C

      It was annouced in a class at Teacher Training (fall ’08) that it takes the body 45 min to absorb water; as a Registered Massage Therapist and therefore an anatomy/physiology NERD, I just had to look that up!
      I could not find a definitive time-line for water to cross into the body (since it is probably extremely variable) I did find that the RATE is 300 to 400 ml/hour. BOTH of my human physiology texts claim water is ONLY aborbed through the walls of the small and large intestines. So it actually has to pass THROUGH the mouth, esophagus, and stomach BEFORE being absorbed. Water passes freely through intestinal walls (osmosis) in both directions. concentration gradients, solute uptake, net osmosis…
      I have noticed during my yoga practice that I have reduced my “ritual/habitual” water intake to two times or less during my best focused practices. I am in day 11 of a 68 day challenge…my next challenge is to leave the H2O bottle in the changeroom!

      • Good Luck with your challenge,Lisa! Why 68 days?!?

      • bathe yourself in coconut water it is isotonic. and consume hot water throughout the day.The key is to complemet a circadian rhythm to complemnt the cyles of the universe and your life.So eat your heaviest meal between 10am and 2pm ( always get three in) and consume only half your body wtg( in oz) in water & coconut water. Ayurveda perspective

    • maybe the food you eat prior to class has a measurable amount of water to it. As it takes 6 hours to digest our heaviest meal there is an equation here that thenbody is constantly adding and detracting from for our water (reserve)totals. Just find out what your totals are and breathe slow, deep and long to ensure parasympathetic response are tapping into your reserves, not that bear chasing you ( sympathetic response)

  9. Rachhpal

    I stopped taking water in the class. I was doing better. On 11th day I was doing double, second class I got muscle cramps all over. I don’t know but it was I have to walk out of class. Any suggestion Mary. I am going to stop drinking water in class again.

    • Cramping is a sign of low electrolytes.

      If you do not drink water in class, then you should still drink plenty of water before class as well as make sure you get your electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, potassium). You can get these from coconut water, electrolyte supplements and eating electrolyte rich foods. Try to drink at least one and a half liters before class and another liter afterward.

      – Barbora

    • Hi Rachhpal!
      Sometimes I have seen students have this happen to them and it is related to what type of food they have eaten a day or two before. If the student can find relaxation in the breathing during class,this disappears like a phantom.

      Second reasons are beautifully stated by OhMy Bikram above….

      Cooked food usually has not much liquid in it….the fluids will have to come from somewhere when it is your main food source!!!

      I know this is a difficult concept for a lot of people…but I will say it again..
      The main source of Prana,Chi ,Life Force is your breath !
      How good are you at breathing?

    • Mya

      Rachhpal…and to back up ohmybikram…

      calcium and magnesium are mandatory for proper muscle contraction…most of us get a fair amount of calcium eating dairy. Magnesium is a different story…very hard to absorb through your GI tract…so if you try to be a healthy girl and you eat your spinach, almonds and a whole list of other yummy foods…your blocking the absorption of magnesium, EPSOM salt baths can help. It has a high magnesium content and you absorb it through your skin and straight to the muscles. You can google benefits of… and you will get tons of info but the basic conclusion was 1 to 2 cups (i do 1 1/2) of epsom salt and you need at least 13 minutes to soak up everything you can.

      As far as water goes…try drinking mineral water, NOT sparkling. It has all those minerals that should be in our water. Or as a very wise doc once told me…”drink a bunch of water and put sea salt on your tongue after…this opens the molecules so you can absorb it”. I like fiji best. I agree with a lot of things said on this blog. One being that i agree with Mary who found the original comeback condesending and kinda rude…the information could have been presented in a better tone and maybe it would reach more people. I also agree with the person (sorry i dont remember your name) who spoke about how Buddha even disagreed with starving your body of something it wants. All wants of the body are important..period. That being said it is different for everyone. I dont presume to know what every other person may or may not need for whatever reason because I am not them. I started in Aug…took a puppy raising break and am now back….I take 1 to 3 sips during a class, and for the record its not those five reasons…my mouth is simply dry. And a dry mouth breeds bacteria…yuck. The problem with being an ex dental assistant.

  10. linda

    when I was in training (Spring 2005). At partytime Emmy walked up to a guy next to me who didn’t have any water and asked, “Where’s your water?” and he said, “Don’t have any.” She said, “What do you do when you get thirsty?” End of story…

  11. Waylon

    Great article thx! I agree – drink a lot before and after and everything is cool. Then you can focus on breathing and being in the moment.

  12. Andy

    I agree with Mary – no water, if you can reach it, that state IS better. My only issues with that are 1) to begin with, and for a long time, the no-water thing can occupy so much of your mind in the class that it actually works as more of a distraction than having a sip in the first place. You can end up think more about not drinking than actually just taking a sip. And 2) as another of the teachers said on training, ‘it’s supposed to be fun’ and I think teachers can get bound up in the discipline to a point where the student loses sight of the yoga itself. The discipline of things in the hot room often, I think, comes from the yoga itself, as much as the yoga improves with the disciplines. Give it time and the emotional crutches are let go all by themselves, or with gentle suggestion.

    I always advise to try to not drink water but, like Emmy says, when you’re thirsty, just take a sip. No harm, no foul.

    • This is your yoga friend. If you find yourself “thinking” about the yoga, reaching for the idealistic view of things, then sorry to say, your there but not present. Yoga is experiential, you must simply listen ( to the words spoken— and the unspoken). We all do various mental “push-ups”– struggles with right-vs- wrong while in the moment, but change and impermance are the only constants to remember. You seek to evolve in a practice, therefore there is no cookie cutter approach, no God ( except the one in you) telling you what to do. We ( teachers) make stern but humble suggestions that we OFFER to anyone that it applies to mental test are equally a part of your development as a yogi as balancing on one leg, exhaling in a forward bend. Mary ellude to it in this piece as discernment. Learn what you need and everything you want will follow. Evam
      oh and drink hot water friend, it saturates and hydrates the tissue ( before class) or have it in class I doubt you will need it, unless you are thirsty. ciao

  13. David

    Mary’s views are the same as the old-school marathon runners:

    “In the marathon race there is no need to take any solid food at all and every effort should also be made to do without liquid, as the moment food or drink is taken, the body has to start dealing with its digestion, and in so doing some discomfort will almost invariable be felt. ” -Jim Peter, one of the greatest marathon runners of all time, 1957.

    Moderns long-distance runners almost all ignore this advice, though.

  14. when I first started practicing (first 6 months), I drank water like a fish. my rationale at the time was, if all this sweat is leaving, I want (wait, I need!) to replenish it. Once I started practicing at Mary’s school, I left the water outside and have not taken a drink during class for over 7 years. Believe me, if I can do it anyone can as I 1) sweat like a pig 2) am a man and therefore not accustomed to suffering and 3) am weak at times.

    Water is like a teddy bear, you grab for it when you feel uncomfortable or in need of support. Water in class becomes a habit, the longer you do the more difficult it is to make the break. kinda like smoking cigarettes I guess. At our school in Amsterdam, like at Mary’s in San Francisco, no teachers drink water during class. No one has died yet (at least not to my knowledge)

    Of course, pregnant/breast feeding women, diabetics perhaps, and other special situations excepted.

  15. Mary mary. while it is true ( all 5 reasons) those of us that practice this yoga are somewhat stuck on doing,– looking like ….something …. a yogi ( hoping someone notices) when being, in fact, is the “true” reason we participate. we need validation. we need an emotional pay back on our investment. So whether we drink in class until our bellies pop ,discernment is a neccessary feature of the soul’s development. Between the heart and the head our expression lies in paying such strict attention that we transcend right and wrong good and bad and simply be the moment (participant and observer, not the Ahmakhar).

  16. Nick Ippolito

    I’ve been watching the debate, and I just wanted to share my experience. I’ve been practicing for year and a half, 6-7 days a week. I read Mary’s blog and it inspired me…the next day, while warming up for class, I looked at my water bottle and thought: do I need this? I left it outside the room that day, and I instantly felt liberated, unshackled and free. It was a wonderful new feeling and it has deepened my practice. Several of my fellow student have noticed and asked me about it, and I’ve just said that I came to a point in my journey wherein I was compelled to do this. I dont advertise it or push it on others; its just what works for me.

    On a practical level, I will repeat the same advice that everyone else has said: be sure to hydrate well before and after class. But I think what I’ve realized more than anything is that this wonderful yoga leads you to ponder what you are attached to in life, and for me the water was emblematic of those things. These asanas have shown me how to let go, gently, with love in my heart.

  17. Nick Ippolito

    I’ve been watching the debate, and I just wanted to share my experience. I’ve been practicing for year and a half, 6-7 days a week. I read Mary’s blog and it inspired me…the next day, while warming up for class, I looked at my water bottle and thought: do I need this? I left it outside the room that day, and I instantly felt liberated, unshackled and free. It was a wonderful new feeling and it has deepened my practice. Several of my fellow student have noticed and asked me about it, and I’ve just said that I came to a point in my journey wherein I was compelled to do this. I dont advertise it or push it on others; its just what works for me.

    On a practical level, I will repeat the same advice that everyone else has said: be sure to hydrate well before and after class. But I think what I’ve realized more than anything is that this wonderful yoga leads you to ponder what you are attached to in life, and for me the water was emblematic of those things. These asanas have shown me how to let go, gently, with love in my heart.

  18. I forgot my water bottle this morning and only had a cup that my teacher gave me. It was very unappealing to me. I got through class with only one sip of water at fixed firm pose. I didn’t miss it! Although my mind was trying to tell me to drink, I resisted. I took the advice and focused on my breath. It feels good to have gotten through a class while being completely out of my comfort zone. Thanks for the article I found it very helpful!

  19. Mick Jane

    Somebody do me a favor and just answer : WHAT DOES BIKRAM SAY ABOUT WATER?? All the other chatter is just that….chatter…….

    • Bikram says “Drink your water.” Before eagle, before triangle, whenever. Same as Emmy. If Bikram sees somebody looking like crap in class, he tells him, “Boss, go in hallway 10 seconds, drink some Coca Cola, then come back.” No lie, seen it happen.

      • Dominique

        Coca-cola? really – that doesn’t seem like a good idea ever. I’ll stick to water or breathing!

  20. Among other things, yoga is a form of exercise and having water at the ready during exercise is just smart. I do not know why other people drink water in yoga class, but I sip water in class when I am thirsty. After all, it’s approximately 105 degrees Fahrenheit in our classroom. If I were traveling to any place that hot, like Death Valley let’s say, my primary concern would be to have enough water to keep me alive. Mary Jarvis might think “[I] do not know any better” because I do as instructed and bring water to class, but I’d rather be prepared. Having water around is like having toilet paper around. You’d rather finish with extra sheets, unless figuring out how to best wipe with the cardboard tube is something you’d like to try.

    I have not yet reached the level of discipline required to get through every class without drinking water, but I have done it once. I am always hydrated before class, and, in fact, I drink 17 ounces of water first thing every morning. I drink water throughout the day. I am a hydrated guy. Since it’s easy, I even look at my pee to make sure. (It should be pale yellow or clear.) I felt powerful that day I made it though class without drinking, and more importantly, I was never thirsty. In a few classes, I have taken only one sip of water during “Bikram party time.” Yet there are other classes when I sip water simply because I’m thirsty. For example, when I feel like “Stuffed Rabbit au jus” in Rabbit Pose, a cool string of water falling into my stomach afterwards calms me down. It’s refreshing.

    I have never been bored in class so Mary Jarvis’s third reason doesn’t apply to me, but I understand her logic and agree that people could be drinking water because they are bored, tired, or have not learned to be still. Learning to be still is tough in a culture where rapidity is constant.

    I never thought I would die in class, although once I had the flu minus the symptoms and passed out in class. The good news was I passed out when we were doing what I call “flat and bendy” yoga, all the stuff on the floor. I ended up leaving the room and then puking. Doing those things in that order took discipline and leg speed. It was close though. The emotions I experienced then were instinctive, not mental. I could not “not puke.” Instinct demands obedience and sometimes your body instinctively demands water. That command’s signal is thirst.

    Mary Jarvis is right about the different estimates for how much time it takes for water to be absorbed and used by the body. The range I found was from instantaneous absorption to nearly an hour. Like pregnancy, there are many variables involved. One funny doctor wrote on-line that you could figure out your absorption rate by drinking a shot of whiskey and timing how long it took you to get buzzed. So next time you’re out at your favorite bar bring a stopwatch and figure out your absorption rate.

    As for Lance Armstrong, I’d like to know what stage of the Tour de France he was on when he flattened out with dehydration. Surely, it was not in the first 90 minutes of the race unless he was totally unprepared. The comparison to a 90 minute Bikram Yoga class doesn’t hold water.

    I agree with Mary Jarvis’s observation that “….they do NOT know how to BREATHE! YET….” I do not know how to breathe efficiently enough to take one long breath per posture. I wish, because that would be totally cool. I’ll try tomorrow to take only one breath per posture, to “be the posture”, and to be “the Present Moment”, as Mary is when she practices because that would get me off in a yoga kind of way. I’ve had one class like that so far, when my body and mind bonded like a water molecule to the infinite and there was no time and no heat, just bliss. (No, it wasn’t the class when I did not drink; sorry, Mary). I work in class not only to look better on the beach, but also to strive for that natural connection of mind and body so I can knock on that door to the spiritual world that Bikram Choudhury preached about in his 60 Minutes interview. If I am in class tomorrow and become enlightened like the Gautama Buddha, then great, but it’s more likely that my sensitive left foot will cramp during Bow Pulling and I’ll fall forward and head butt that spiritual door. Either way, I’m knocking.

    Sip if you’re thirsty, I say. Then focus on the adventure that is the next pose. Keep stretching and pulling and responding to phrases like “stomach, stomach, stomach.” Kick out the heels of your well hydrated body so you can kick those heels up as long as you draw breath. Keep striving. Maybe someday you’ll never have to sip water in class again, and if so, well, good on you.


    Scott E. Hastings

    P.S. I am one excited, sometimes water sipping, beginner yogi.

  21. Dominique

    admittedly, I usually drink water when the instructor tells me I can except for between balancing stick and separate leg stretching because that seems like a ridiculous time to drink water before you invert yourself. however, my previous teacher trained under Mary Jarvis and never gave “reminders” for water except for after eagle. And I either only had that one sip or never drank at all. Its purely mind of matter. I’ve gotten lazy about it because the studio I go to allows it but its totally unnecessary if you’re hydrated. I’ve done a two hour private lesson with only one tiny sip. And I don’t drink some special water or coconut water or hot water – I just drink plain water from my Brita filter, lots of fruits and veggies, and occasionally some powered gatorade if i feel dehydrated. Anything can be accomplished with breath and control of your mind.

  22. Jessica

    I just recently started my journey with Bikram yoga and I am totally hooked! I am 6 classes in and one of our instructors told the class about this site and to look for this article. I read everything that you wrote, Mary, and really thought about it. I don’t know how smart it was to do this “no water” thing so early on in my practice, but this morning I gave it a try. I didn’t drink once during the class and I felt like I was able to move more swiftly to Savasana and relax. Because I wasn’t drinking any water, I didn’t think of the heat as much; As a matter of fact, when I went back to Savasana I was more relaxed and my body felt cooler than it would be if I had been drinking water. I didn’t touch myself or wipe my sweat at all. I just let myself be, I was focused. Thank you, Mary, for your words of wisdom. I felt way more accomplished and can only hope that my practice will become more disciplined. Thanks again!!

    Jessica – Bikram Yoga Bronx

  23. Steven W. Cornell

    Our bodies have quite an intricate system to control internal hydration for long periods of time. Ninety minutes is not that long in the scheme of things. Messing with a water bottle or a towel or jewelry or a watch etc. are just distractions that are unnecessary during your practice. Leave your water bottle outside the room. If you are so dehydrated that you need it before 90 minutes, then you probably don’t belong in class! Leave and hydrate. Come back tomorrow better prepared.

  24. Lisa


    Much agreed. Water is just an excellent crutch during a class. If people manage to get thru a 6 mile run without water, I can’t see why that can’t apply to a 90 minute class which is actually less time if you take out the time for savasana.

    Do I agree with extreme cases , of course. Do I agree with taking small sips during a marathon or Ironman? You bet, I’ve completed 5 marathons and 1 Ironman, I would have been flat out on the road in 120 degree heat if I didn’t hydrate but interestingly most of my water when on my head!

    Great read. Thanks so much!

    Vancouver, Canada

  25. Yogini Bear

    I have stopped taking water during class cold turkey since March 9, 2010. I leave my water bottle in the change room or in my car. I am still here, and finding that my practice is more focused and not hindered by water sloshing in my tummy. Yes, I have discovered the magic of breath. When you come prepared and hydrated, you will be set.

  26. dshippo

    I have to agree about no water. Used to always have it and felt dizzy and bloated. Much better class if I drink more during the day and just breathe during class. works down under!!

  27. Francois

    Hi guys hate to rewake an old thread.

    Mary is 95% right I reckon. I have always thought of taking water as being like a posture: not drinking water is like the full expression of a posture. If you can do it, you MUST do it. Not to do so is to lose out. That said, as a beginner a little water may be needed,

    Breathe- bless it!

    PS. I love the full expression of locust and the photo of Mary in it. Its the yogi version of bicep “curls for the girls” that the gym guys do. Do you think you should do it in the series though? I’m not convinced that I can safely get my legs up there, contract my spine, hold the pose then let go safely in 10 seconds. The dialogue seems a bit unclear whether I should push for it or not. Any thoughts? It does not feel the same doing it after class.

    • debra simonsb

      As the sweat rate increases, body water loss increases, and the need for replacement fluids becomes crucial. Without adequate fluid replacement during exercise, the body’s ability to dissipate heat is compromised. Hydration status prior to exercise is equally as important in avoiding dehydration. If properly hydrated at the start, the effectiveness of fluid replacement while exercising is increased. As dehydration occurs, the body experiences a decrease in the plasma volume of the blood. As plasma volume decreases, the body’s ability to lose heat is compromised. As little as a 2% loss of body mass from fluid loss will impair exercise performance. This means a 150-pound person who loses 3 pounds during a “hot” Yoga class from increased sweating will experience increased heart rate and decreased blood volume, causing a loss of endurance.
      I will post this informative and scientific website.. read the entire article as it is extremely excellent in understand the physiology of why this is so important.

  28. Dharmadhatu

    Greetings Mary,

    I can see that this article has already earned you a fair bit of flack, but I think something was missing from the debate here. I happened upon this article almost completely accidentally and suffice it to say that I was more than surprised by the content. I have been trained as a Yogi since a very young age, and as an adult, I have continued to practice despite numerous injuries and unexpected health problems. Bikram Yoga has been excellent rehab work for my body, and without it, I am not sure I would ever have felt my toes tickle the back of my head again!

    So, let’s get something straight. We all have a tendency towards something called the “fundamental attribution error” (google this if necessary). That being said, I don’t want to assume too much about you. However, assuming that someone is “distracted” because of water is a little much. My own Guru once told me that in general, we should not assume the distraction if we cannot see the mind. Your five reasons are interesting, and plausible, but not universally applicable. What should be taught is that all activities in the Yoga room must be governed by AWARENESS. Drink with Awareness, breathe with awareness, move with awareness. I am paraphrasing here, but Iyengar once said that all foods are Sattvic when the mind of one who consumes is clear. I think water could fit into here too.

    Back to the five reasons. This is what we could call the “straw man” or a misrepresentation of an opponent’s argument or view. There are other reasons why people drink. I, for one, drink because my blood pressure is far too low, and sweating makes this worse. Blacking out in class is the greatest of all distractions because it ends the ability to practice the postures (well, consciously). While I’m sure that you would never advocate the “water-free class” to someone in my state, you never know WHO might have this problem. I didn’t know until I collapsed one day. Despite my best hydration efforts, numerous appointments with specialists, the problem persists. Other things can throw a person’s hydration levels out of whack, so who knows what might have happened to someone in a day? The answer, use it if you NEED it, not if you WANT it.

    Any fixation on anything, for or against, in a Yoga class, must be abandoned. If you really feel that you were being weighed down by a bottle of water, you probably need some more work upstairs. Fixating on NOT having water is a fixation just the same. What also needs to be considered is that Yoga was never done this way. My original lineage of instruction was Tibetan, and while they advocated warming the body, they did not have HVAC systems in place to heat the rooms as we now do. India was the same. Most lineages did not use this technique. That being said, while you could easily go without water inside the traditional setting, you might not be able to in this one. This is normal, and expected. The heat helps a great deal, but it also takes.

    It would be easy to assign everyone who disagrees with us into a category, but that’s more akin to the mind of a tyrant and not a Yogini. “I already won” and “I know I am right”…are you serious? What did you win, a new car? I don’t understand how somebody “wins” in Yoga. What do you know you’re right about? Your own experience? Okay, maybe. But everybody else? That’s is nonsense. Your 26 years are impressive, as an expression of dedication, but if you choose to flaunt that whenever you have something to say, your 26 years are nothing but pretty shackles. I do not wish to make the aforementioned attribution error, but what kind of a mind allows the hands to write such things? Who knows? I can’t be sure about anything because there’s no telling what kind of tone is behind your statements.

    Prana, Chakras, and Nadi are not real, they are methods used by Yogis to illustrate more subtle aspects of existence. While those methods are profound and have tangible effects, many cannot connect to them, and many do not need to. Water is real. Drinking some water is not necessarily a lack of presence – a lack of presence is simply a lack of presence.

    I simply hope that you can appreciate that there are alternative, AND valid views here. There are more skilled, more experienced people who disagree with you.

    Namo & Sarva Mangalam,

  29. alli

    you make a wonderful point so ugly. i wonder why some Bikram yogis feel as though this militant, negative “ha ha” attitude somehow helps to convey a message. i am also a certified yoga teacher and have been practicing Bikram and hot power yoga for years. while i agree that proper hydration should occur before class, i wonder why you need to express your point in this manner.
    wait. let me guess. you are a yoga “olympian” too.

  30. Allyson Meacham

    Interesting comments, to be sure. I’ve practiced for almost 8 years. The heat was initially, and still is, the most challenging thing about Bikram yoga for me. I love the results and the challenge, though. I do have low blood pressure, and when the temperature in the room gets to 120 F and high humidity, I can nearly black out, often several times during class. During these intensely hot and humid classes, I am grateful for the ice water I brought in, as it allows me to keep practicing the yoga, instead of lying on the floor during all the poses. In ‘cooler’ studios, I have no problem going without water. The mind is quite powerful, and in an ideal universe, I could drink no water and take 60-second breaths during one posture. However, in the universe I currently inhabit, and the super-hot studios, that just isn’t happening. It’s a process, and I choose not to beat up on myself or on students. You never know what medical conditions someone may have, or what he or she is experiencing. As long as we keep coming back, and working with intention and effort to improve, all is good. 🙂 Peace.

  31. It may not be for everyone, but I always feel worse when I drink water during class, so I agree with the principle of this article. I drink plenty before and after.

    However, I have to point out something I haven’t seen here in the comments (unless I missed it): practicing in a room with humidity is going to lead to a different water balance in your body than, say, being outside in a desert like Death Valley. In my experience, it means that you need a lot less water to get by than if you’re in a dry climate (even if you sweat a lot more).

  32. Janey Dowe

    This water debate is interesting. I have definitely seen students slurping away at the water for the sole purpose of “taking a break” or “relaxing”. Water provides a distraction, as in OMG its HOT I better have some water.
    On the other hand, any form of exercise in an extreme environment, which a heated Yoga studio is, requires preparation and careful personal observation to make sure a person doesn’t suffer from heat stroke or its early stages. It seems to me that the thought that “we are already dehydrated from wine or beer or whatever” means it is doubly important to make sure you have water available to you in class.
    I don’t think anyone would suggest that a runner train in 110 degree weather without taking water with him or her. The same applies to Bikram’s Yoga.
    Perhaps the key thing is to put your water bottle in perspective. If you reach for it as a “reward”. — whew camel pose is done now I get water–or as a crutch, you are seriously detracting from your yoga experience. If you have water available to you in case you need it, and view it as such, there really should be no judgement placed on either the water or the practitioner who benefits from it.

  33. S L

    The moment a Bikram instructor tried to stop me from taking a sip of water (really–she reached for my bottle) was the moment I stopped practicing Bikram.

    Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies. When an instructor says to put what she says ahead of what my own body says, and pushes the point … not only is that dangerous, it’s no longer yoga.

  34. Pingback: To Drink or Not To Drink? The Hot Yoga Question! | elephant journal

  35. Unfortunately and embarrassingly enough Mary Jarvis, you are clearly the one who is wrong here. Water is absorbed through osmosis, not digestion, immeadiatly from the stomach lining if the body determines it necessary for heat regulation or nutrient absorption. If you took the time to pass even a single physiology class you would know this already. If you knew anything about cycling, you would also have your Lance Armstrong story correct.
    Mary guess what? You lose. I will drink my water in class and the only person who will be distracted is you. I will be hydrated when I finish as I was when I began the class, and will be ready and recovered for my next class or workout session before you, which probably means I will have a better class. My body, and mind, will not be in a constant state of dehyradtion, recovery, and catch up, as yours is, and this will give me focus and clarity so I don’t pretend to be an authority on something I have no knowledge about.
    This is why yoga, and Bikram yoga in particular, will never have the respect of the scientific community or hardly anyone else outside of yoga. Quit acting like your ‘way’ is better, your “way” is no better than a beginner who drinks 2 bottles the entire class. The individual detemines thier success.
    Giving people “facts” based your opinion is never a good idea, and in your case, it is just plain lies. Research and improve your knowledge before you condemm others for what you think makes them less than you. Bikram yoga is great exercise, yes, but do not lie to me and tell me what you “believe” to be true when it has no basis in reality.
    I will drink my water, and you will not drink yours. You will think negatively of me for my water drinking, and I will think nothing of you because I am concentrating on improving myself in class.

  36. John

    I agree that not breathing is the main reason that people feel they need to drink water. I do have this to say in response to this article:

    I have been a certified Bikram teacher since Fall 2002 and been practicing for over 10 years. Over a 3 year period, starting in late 2005, I had been hospitalized on 4 separate occasions, each overnight, as a result of dehydration, “severe dehydration” on one occasion. Being 5’11” and approx. 155 pounds, it was very common for me to lose up to 10 pounds of water during a 90 minute class, which is a significant amount of fluid in a short period of time. Yes, I hydrated and drank plenty of fluids all day, every day. After countless months and years of study and tests it was found that my body does not produce salt at the same rate as most people (tennis fans will know of this as Patrick Rafter syndrome) This resulted in a very slow depletion of salt in my system causing me the dehydration. I worked with many sports medicine docstors over the years trying to understand the times when I need to replace the missing salt/electrolytes. The results of all of these years have shown that, for my body, heavy sweating for more than a 50-55 minute period with no replenishment of salt in some form, is dangerous to my health. Bikram yoga is a 90 minute class. I have been using an electrolyte replenisher in my water for the past year, since I was able to return to practicing Bikram after an almost 2 year time away. During many classes, I go through the full 90 minutes without drinking water. On other occasions, however, when it is extremely humid outside or any other reason that causes me to sweat much more than a typical day, I take small sips of my water at the “official water break” and between postures on the floor, if I feel myself starting to get the cold shakes.

    While I understand that many people do not need water through a 90 minute Bikram class and, as a teacher, I fully understand that people guzzle water, have a mental hurdle, and, mostly, do not know how to properly breath, but every human body is different and reacts differently to situations. Some people handle stress in certain ways, some people react to certain foods in different ways, some people have allergies that others do not. I love Bikram yoga and will continue to practice as often and as long as I can. Articles like this, however, from people who are very well respected in both the yoga and Bikram community, are slightly disheartening. I truly understand what I believe is meant from the article, but after spending days in the hospital and spending thousands of dollars to understand, medically, the reasons for it, I do not believe that any one person has the ability to make statements that encompass everyone.

  37. debra simonsb

    Unless you are a physiologist I daresay you might double check about the no water myth.
    Cold Drink Ingestion Improves Exercise Endurance Capacity in the Heat

    Purpose: To investigate the effect of drink temperature on cycling capacity in the heat.

    Methods: On two separate trials, eight males cycled at 66 ± 2% V˙O2peak (mean ± SD) to exhaustion in hot (35.0 ± 0.2°C) and humid (60 ± 1%) environments. Participants ingested three 300-mL aliquots of either a cold (4°C) or a warm (37°C) drink during 30 min of seated rest before exercise and 100 mL of the same drink every 10 min during exercise. Rectal and skin temperatures, heart rate, and sweat rate were recorded. Ratings of thermal sensation and perceived exertion were assessed.

    Results: Exercise time was longer (P < 0.001) with the cold drink (63.8 ± 4.3 min) than with the warm drink (52.0 ± 4.1 min). Rectal temperature fell by 0.5 ± 0.1°C (P < 0.001) at the end of the resting period after ingestion of the cold drinks. There was no effect of drink temperature on mean skin temperature at rest (P = 0.870), but mean skin temperature was lower from 20 min during exercise with ingestion of the cold drink than with the warm drink (P < 0.05). Heart rate was lower before exercise and for the first 35 min of exercise with ingestion of the cold drink than with the warm drink (P < 0.05). Drink temperature influenced sweat rate (1.22 ± 0.34 and 1.40 ± 0.41 L·h-1 for the cold and the warm drink, respectively; P < 0.05). Ratings of thermal sensation and perceived exertion (P < 0.01) during exercise were lower when the cold drink was ingested.

    Conclusion: Compared with a drink at 37°C, the ingestion of a cold drink before and during exercise in the heat reduced physiological strain (reduced heat accumulation) during exercise, leading to an improved endurance capacity (23 ± 6%).

    • Hi Debra,

      Thank you so much for your insightful responses to this article. A lot has been said and most people who have disagreed with the article have rarely been so insightful and polite. I really appreciate your input and hope to see more comments from you in the future.


  38. debra simonsb

    By blowing cooler air over the skin, sweat vaporizes and heat is released. Humidity impairs evaporation, which increases the rate of sweating, causing a greater loss of body water, which in turn leads to more severe dehydration. In a Yoga class, humidity may be high, depending on the heat source, the room ventilation, and the number of students participating. Humidity will increase if the ventilation is poor and there are lots of students exercising and sweating.

    As the sweat rate increases, body water loss increases, and the need for replacement fluids becomes crucial. Without adequate fluid replacement during exercise, the body’s ability to dissipate heat is compromised. Hydration status prior to exercise is equally as important in avoiding dehydration. If properly hydrated at the start, the effectiveness of fluid replacement while exercising is increased. As dehydration occurs, the body experiences a decrease in the plasma volume of the blood. As plasma volume decreases, the body’s ability to lose heat is compromised. As little as a 2% loss of body mass from fluid loss will impair exercise performance. This means a 150-pound person who loses 3 pounds during a “hot” Yoga class from increased sweating will experience increased heart rate and decreased blood volume, causing a loss of endurance.
    I will post this informative and scientific website.. read the entire article as it is extremely excellent in understand the physiology of why this is so important.

  39. debra simonsb

    And mary jarvis, you are incorrect about water needing to be digested in fact. As I am a science major and have a husband who is a physiologist and an MD, you should understand before you write such misinformation.
    Water is not digested as it is easily small enough to be absorbed directly. It Moves through channels called aquaporins that are present on the intestinal villus cells following the osmotic gradient set by sodium.

  40. Bikram4u

    Mary, thank you so much for your insights as well as for other comments. I consider myself a Bikram Junkie due to the fact that I just have to have my practice don’t matter what! I am 54 and have been practicing Bikram consistantly for over 8 years at least 3-4 times a week with occasional doubles. I have learned the proper way to breath from the very start – it is always the same, I don’t hold my breath and very rarely have a hard class. Water is mostly a habit for me in class and I never drink, because I have to. I can easily go through class without water as Mary suggests and will do that starting next class. I want to share a different experience with water and want to know what others think. My studio is in N.FLl and we have an outdoor shower in the back and in my 8 years of practicing I have always taken a shower after class – that is like a reward for the hard practice and the best feeling after all! Temperatures varied from 30 to 90, but it has never stopped me. I can not describe the feeling, but it is definitely completes my practice and nothing can be compared to it. My whole body feels as I can fly as a bird! I have recently moved to new city and eventhough I found hot yoga studio they do not have showers. And the feeling after class is totally different, my practice is just not complete without it. I would like to hear what others have to say. Satnam

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