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Author credit Jennifer Dawson

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels
 

Despite coffee being the most popular beverage in the world, with around two billion cups consumed per day, according to reports by the International Coffee Organisation, most yogis do not indulge. This decision is often made based on their interpretation of Yoga Sutras, specifically Saucha, one of the five niyamas that emphasizes self-purification. According to Saucha, yogis are only allowed to imbibe pure foods, and most people view caffeine in coffee as a toxicant. There is, however, no mention in Saucha that yogis should avoid coffee. There have been many debates on whether or not it is right to drink coffee while practicing yoga. Yoga is a tool for self-improvement and coffee has numerous health benefits to the body, and many people enjoy both. But can the two go together when yoga is all about relaxation and coffee is a stimulant?  

Understanding Why Yogis Are Skeptical About Drinking Coffee

Most people who practice yoga keep off coffee, and for many reasons. Some, like Swami Sivananda, believe that in order to achieve perfect control of the mind, one must keep off drugs as they alter not only how the body functions but also the brain. Caffeine, after all, is a drug. Another school of thought argues that the two are inharmonious. This is based on the fact that yoga emphasizes calming down in order for the body to connect with the mind, and coffee being a stimulant is known to do the opposite of making someone calm and relaxed. A good example of such belief is the publication in More Ashtanga Myths by Paul Mitchell Gold; Coffee Prana and Rajasic Practice. In it, he states that coffee should be avoided since it is a stimulant and very rajasic, so it causes agitation and an imbalance of rajas and tamas, two things yoga practice is supposed to mitigate. Yet another school of yogis believes that yoga, based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, is about purity, and by taking coffee, a drug, one would be impurifying their body. All three make compelling arguments, but some practitioners beg to differ, and claim that drinking coffee can actually help increase strength, focus and the endurance necessary for yoga practice.  

Yoga And Coffee

According to science, regular consumption of coffee actually helps with yoga, provided it is taken in moderation and at the right time. This is because it stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin, which boost mood and help one feel elated, two factors that help achieve zen, as noted in a report by Health Fitness Revolution. Secondly, caffeine being a stimulant increases mental focus, which is important when trying to get your mind to be calm during yoga. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that coffee affects different people differently. Scientists from the Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience Department of the University of Chicago proved there are seven types of gene markers that determine how an individual metabolizes and reacts to coffee. In yoga and Ayurveda, people are classified into three groups according to their constitution, and their constitution is used to determine their coffee intake.

Recommended Way To Take Coffee For Yogis Depending On Their Constitution

First, you have kaphas whose constitution is earth and water. The group is made up of grounded people with lethargic and sluggish tendencies. Only 10% of people are in this group, according to the Akila Institute. Since they have low sensitivity to coffee, Kaphas are advised to take a cup of coffee daily, preferably black, to counterbalance their signature qualities. Second, you have vattas, whose constitution is wind and water. Vattas have normal sensitivity to coffee, and make up the majority of the population. Provided they have no signs of vatta imbalance, which include dehydration, dry hair and skin, and constipation, this group can take a cup of sweet creamy coffee. The third and final group is made of pittas, whose constitution is fire and water, and who are hypersensitive to coffee. Coffee makes pittas' minds race. It gives them jitters, insomnia and palpitations. Pittas are advised to drink less than a mug full of coffee. If you are in this group, you can sweeten coffee naturally, but it should not contain cream.

 

Ideally, coffee for yogis should be taken between 6:00 a.m and 10:00 a.m, and be limited to one cup a day. It should also be organically grown. Nevertheless, despite there being studies that show that coffee, when taken in moderation, can help with yoga, many people are still skeptical and opt to refrain. This can be attributed to the fact that even science does not provide a conclusive answer on whether coffee is good or bad. So there is no clear answer to the question, 'Should yogis drink coffee?' But to quote the former dean of Kripalu School of Ayurveda, Larissa Hall, food can be medicine or poison. It all depends on an individual's constitution, the time of consumption and the quantity consumed.