Coffee With Yoga: Inspiration And Pain Relief Is There

Coffee and yoga.

Coffee and yoga have an estranged relationship. On the surface it would seem that coffee runs counter to the pervasive "shanti" aesthetic that yoga promotes. And reluctantly, I probably concur, despite the captivating claptrap argued below.

I speak specifically about coffee achievers hung up on yoga. It's a phenonmenon. There's even a blog that specializes in the two.

I love coffee, so guess you could say that I am among them. It's a good mix; like chocolate and peanut butter. Or more painfully, Starbucks and Jivamukti. But I digress. My main point is that legions of practitioners are avid fans; moreover, even the living masters celebrate the brew—

"Afterwards, all adjourned upstairs for yet more coffee, and of course, conversation about coffee... There was general agreement with Mr. Iyengar that coffee is certainly the soma rasa (the intoxicating nectar of immortality) of the Kali yuga (the present age of darkness) —to which Pattabhi Jois added, yes, and you get so many different brands of soma rasa in the shops these days!"
Eddie Stern, Namarupa IV (2006)

Sri K Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar on the cover of Namarupa magazine.

Certainly Jois & Iyengar were kidding around a bit, as coffee drinkers are known to do. But the simple fact remains that they are fans of the brew.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about the relationship between coffee and yoga but my conclusions have the shelf life of an espresso shot. That is to say, nothing conclusive. For example, in Ayurveda, coffee should technically be classified as a bitter, no? If so, then the brew ought to be good for people with prominent pitta defects. Of course we know that the arc of the coffee buzz tragically escalates the flame-up and burn-out temperament common to those of us with pitta defects. This may be why the masters enjoy coffee with heaps of "sattvic" milk and sugar —to mitigate the potholes.

But recently I stumbled upon a blog entry: Coffee better than ibuprofen at relieving workout pain.

And it was an "Aha!" moment.

Beyond the delicious taste and the notorious pick-me-up that coffee graces upon the enjoyer, it relieves pain.

And what does pain have to do with yoga? Well that's a sticky question. In that world of ideals which are so apt to be peddled under the yoga masthead, yoga and pain are oppositional. But in the simple, honest, day-to-day practice —sometimes things get kinked up. Our poses eventually become challenging or difficult, our breathing might escape our awareness. And at some point or another, we encounter the ever-present quagmire of our limitations. At such times we breathe, and continue to attempt the pose. And (if you're anything like me) the mind wanders elsewhere, or you try too hard... AND...

Caffeine rush.

Ouch.

The party line in Ashtanga Yoga —which I wholeheartedly embrace— is that pain is trapped air, stagnant prana.

Enough said.

Occasionally we hear rumors of vain attempts to cut the edge from some pain during practice by using Ibuprofen. But that's a duct taped solution to a deeper backbend problem. More common, however, are the confessions of moka-pot espresso in the morning about an hour or two before practice —the same timing used in the study.

Coffee does more than help us wake up and clear the bowels —it helps to relieve discomfort from muscle soreness. Of course there may be a difference between a yoga practice and a "workout," but our technique has been confirmed. On the simple pleasure-pain axis of muscular experience, yoga and coffee is a good mix.

But before ya'll get too excited, beware. The study was conducted exclusively upon women, so who knows if it holds true for men? Furthermore, we must acknowledge that sometimes pain there for a reason. Hence we might be wise to approach the practice differently, rather than merely continuing the current track of suffering with "medication."

Me? —I stopped my lovely ritual shot of espresso in the wee hours and replaced it with a shot of fresh, hot, ginger tea. It's really yummy too. Warms me up just fine.

Images: Wikipedia coffee cup; detail from the cover of Namarupa IV; a promotional graphic from February's Veer email.

posted by
Spiros Antonopoulos

TAGS — ashtanga yoga, BKS Iyengar, caffeine, coffee, practice, science, Sri K Pattabhi Jois, yoga

Remarks

6 total remarks for this post. Add your own remarks below.

Fri 09 Feb 2007 at 08:27AM

Nancy

In "Bliss Divine" Swami Sivananda wrote "before asana practice take some tea, take some coffee." Works for me.

Fri 09 Feb 2007 at 08:37AM

Spiros Antonopoulos

So Sivananda can also be ranked with the great masters who enjoy coffee (or tea).

Maybe I resume my pre-practice coffee again...

Fri 09 Feb 2007 at 04:18PM

Kathy

We get up before the sun! Of course we love coffee.

Sat 10 Feb 2007 at 02:46PM

Susan

"And what does pain have to do with yoga?"

Hahahahahahahhhaaaaaha.
Ha.
Everything.

Mon 12 Feb 2007 at 02:02PM

Christina

LOL! Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting.

I think a better title of my coffee/yoga post would be to mention that my coffee consumption is unbalanced. Too much coffee, not enough yoga.

Your blog is great! I read through a bunch of posts just now. I will bookmark it.

Sun 22 Apr 2007 at 08:19PM

smn

The only thing that gets me out of bed and to the mat is knowing that i have set up the expresso maker the night before and all i gotta do is turn the knob and coffee hit is moments away...

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Foremost credit goes to my wife Erin for her tireless patience + support of this endeavor. Thanks to Barry Silver for the artwork in the above banner and for his friendship, to Robert Beer for the illustrations. Thanks to Eddie Stern for his ongoing support and for providing inspiration. Thanks to my fellow farmers at One Digital Farm for help growing this.

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