Tea for Yoga, Please
Yoga and tea both represent and share a modern-day acknowledgement of ancient roots through daily practice and ritual. While many 21st century workouts emphasize efficiency and going over the top, yoga energizes and builds strength by encouraging people to consciously pressing the pause button and going within. Similarly, tea stands in contrast to the coffee culture by encouraging balance and slowing down. The common threads of tea and yoga are at the foundation of a holistic approach to self-care. There are also a number of physiological reasons why yoga practitioners turn to tea.
Enhance Your Yoga Practice with Tea
Tea can help us relax and focus at the same time. It contains a unique amino acid called L-Theanine, which works as a relaxing agent without inducing sleep. L-Theanine is particularly prevalent in white and green teas.
White tea was a preferred beverage in Zen Buddhist meditations, during which monks had to stay just barely awake, but focused, for long periods of time.
It’s not by coincidence that matcha – a powdered form of green tea – is the revered choice served in Japanese tea ceremonies for a harmonious and tranquil experience of sensing stillness and living in the moment. Harmony, respect, purity, and peace, the four components of the Japanese tea ceremony, are consistent with the underlying principles of mindfulness and conscious living on and off the mat espoused in yoga. Doing a tea ceremony before or after yoga is a beautiful and easy way to enhance a practice.
Stress-Relieving Properties of Tea
Tea can also help you de-stress faster. Studies have found that, following a stressful event, the levels of the stress hormone cortisol drop much faster after drinking black tea. When entering a yoga space, one of the challenges is getting out of the head and into the heart. Tea can accelerate this process. It invites all the senses – sight, aroma, sound, taste and feel – and can support entry into the right mindset for yoga.
Just the experience of brewing and sipping a cup of tea helps to ease one into a sense of meditative practice. Different tea and herbal aromas open up nasal cavities to enhance breathing, and the warming effect of the beverage helps to set the right mood for relaxing and calming the body for yoga or meditation.
Which Teas Are Best for Yoga?
Either working with the energy-boosting qualities of caffeine or limiting its intake are important considerations for many yogis. So, we’ll approach this topic by caffeine content.
A cup of strong black tea contains about half the caffeine of a cup of coffee. Going to yoga class in the morning can feel like getting a natural dose of caffeine. It invigorates the body and can help a person reduce their morning caffeine intake. After yoga, the body is rejuvenated, and the mind is relaxed. When the mind is at peace while feeling invigorated, cravings for caffeine are lessened. In fact, sipping tea after doing yoga or meditating will prolong the benefits of the stress reduction achieved in the practice longer into the day. Tea’s naturally relaxing effects will also help ease the transition back into the more chaotic environment of modern living.
Traditional yogic tea is a variation of an Indian masala chai. This has a strong black tea base, spiced with masala, which is some combination of: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, fennel and/or star anise. Chai is prepared in simmering milk, and usually sweetened. Chai tea has about half the caffeine as a same-sized serving of coffee.
Green and white teas are excellent all-around choices for both before and after yoga and meditation. They contain low to moderate levels of caffeine, about 1/10th to 1/5th that of a serving of coffee. For a yoga practice with an emphasis on the physical aspect of the asanas, green tea is a natural source of antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation down. Green tea is also ideal as both a pre-practice and restorative beverage.
White teas are a favorite for meditation and can be enjoyed either hot or cold brewed, depending on the climate and the mood. They’re also an excellent choice for meditative activities like journaling or taking intentional time out to think.
Pu’erh are aged and fermented teas. They come from the wild jungle area in Yunnan, China, which is the birthplace of tea. And even though pu-erh does contain about half as much caffeine as coffee, these teas are particularly grounding and provide a steady energy over an extended period of time. This makes them a favorite choice for post-meditation or yoga, before leaving the practice space.??If you prefer to opt for a caffeine-free herbal teas, energizing selections for transitioning from practice back to the outside environment include lavender, mint, and ginseng, or blends which contain these herbs.
Try Turmeric After Yoga
Turmeric is another excellent choice for its anti-inflammatory effects following an invigorating practice. Traditional Ayurvedic medicine features recipes for a beverage with an array of purported health benefits called “golden milk” that contains turmeric, chai tea spices, and ghee.
The vibrant yellow color of this drink comes from curcumin, the active ingredient found in turmeric. Curcumin contains potent anti-inflammatory properties.
A recipe for a delicious, filling and nurturing dairy-free version of this ancient beverage follows. It embraces the concept behind energy-boosting bulletproof coffee, but is adapted for those who prefer a soothing caffeine-free latte. Using high-quality fats in this recipe can help boost the bioavailability of turmeric.
Bulletproof Turmeric Tonic Recipe
Yield: 1 serving
2 rounded tsp turmeric, turmeric mix or blend, or tea sachet
15 oz boiling water
1 tbsp coconut oil
1½ tsp flax seed oil
Place 2 rounded teaspoons (or one tea sachet) of Turmeric Tonic and 15 oz boiling water in steeping mug and steep for 8 minutes.
Pour liquid into high speed blender with coconut oil and flaxseed oil.
Blend on high for 30 seconds.
Open lid carefully – it’s hot!
Pour back into empty steeping mug and enjoy warm.
Yields a single 16 oz serving.
Maria Uspenski is the founder of The Tea Spot, where her mission is to empower healthy living through tea. The Boulder, Colorado-based company, consistently recognized as a “Best For The World” B-Corp, donates 10% of all sales in-kind to cancer survivors. She is the author of Cancer Hates Tea and was recognized at the Top Tea Health Advocate at the 2017 World Tea Expo: theteaspot.com