What yogi doesn’t want to improve their flexibility?
Practice, proper breath work and technique can do a lot for overall flexibility. There is one other factor that can help to increase flexibility from something you INGEST. WATER!
Water is probably the most underrated nutrient of them all. Not only is it responsible for gorgeous skin, it is also responsible for all cellular functioning like:
- providing cushioning for our tissues, joints, and organs
- transporting oxygen and nutrients
- digestion and waste elimination
- regulating body temperature
- circulating the blood and lymph
- absorbing heat from the muscles.
Most people drink less pure, unadulterated water than they should in order for these processes to function optimally. In fact, it’s estimated that 75% of Americans are running around chronically dehydrated. Mild dehydration is reported to slow the metabolism, increase hunger, trigger daytime fatigue and hinder concentration.
What most people aren’t aware of is that chronic dehydration can also effect flexibility or our ability to adapt to the challenging vinyasas and sequences. How so?
Throughout the body we have connective tissue called fascia. The fascia is a three-dimensional web of tissue that envelopes every muscle, tendon, ligament, bone, organ, gland, nerve, and every single cell. Our fascia keeps everything in its rightful place. Animals have it too. Imagine an uncooked chicken leg. You might notice the thin, white, stretchy and somewhat slimy layer of film that surrounds the entire leg, but also between the skin and muscle and between the segments of muscle. We have this same filmy tissue and when it is fully hydrated, it is stretchable and slippery. When the fascia is dry, it is dry and stiff. Our fascia can be compared to saran wrap. If you try to glide 2 pieces of saran wrap past each other it won’t work. They will stick to each other. However, if one of them is a little wet, they will glide past each other. No sticking.
Just like saran wrap, when dry, the fascia sticks to surrounding tissue making movement with complete freedom or ease more difficult or limited.
Your water needs are extremely variable and depend on your overall health, level of activity, metabolic rate, time of day, and the temperature (including the humidity of the air) of where you are. The standard recommendation for daily fluid intake is to drink one half to one ounce per pound of bodyweight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you should consume 75 to 150 ounces of fluid per day. If you’ve lost water weight during an exercise session or event, it’s important to also consume fluid to replace that weight. It is recommended that for every pound lost in exercise an athlete should drink approximately 20 ounces of fluid.
If you’re only drinking one glass of water a day now, don’t start drinking a couple of liters a day thinking it will benefit you. It’s actually best to increase your water intake gradually to avoid stress on the kidneys, eye puffiness, swelling around the ankles or other signs of inflammation. Too much water too soon can even be fatal for someone who is either severely dehydrated or has been dehydrated for years.
To gradually increase your water consumption here are some helpful tips:
Add only one glass of water per day to the regular amount of water that you have already been drinking. If you’re drinking one glass a day – make it 2 glasses a day.
You should feel the need to urinate more. If that is the case, add another glass of water to your daily water intake.
If, however, you don’t have an increased need to urinate, cut back by half a glass and as you move forward increase your water intake more slowly. Instead of adding one glass at a time, add half a glass or even less until you reach your hydration goals.
As your tissues become more hydrated, your body will begin to remove the excess salt. Now is a good time to begin adding a tiny pinch of unrefined sea salt, like Celtic Sea Salt, to your water. If you can taste the salt, you have added too much. And don’t worry – this will not cause water retention like typical table salt. Celtic sea salt tends to do the opposite due to it’s electrolytes and balanced mineral content. Typical table salt often contains aluminum-based anti-caking agents and other additives that are linked to water retention, kidney problems, and high blood pressure. THIS is the type of salt to stay away from.
If you’ve been drinking enough “electrolyte-enhanced” water every day already, you might just be interested in how to enhance water absorption for the enhanced flexibility aspects:
In the morning, drink one glass of warm water. This will rehydrate you after not having any water for several hours and will help to remove any accumulated waste from nocturnal metabolic processes.
For better absorption, it is recommended to sip (versus gulp) room temperature water throughout the day to ensure that the fluid is absorbed and efficiently used as opposed to emptied quickly from the stomach.
As a general rule, water shouldn’t be consumed too close to meals as this dilutes the hydrochloric acid in your stomach which helps with digestion. Water should be consumed 45-30 mins before each meal and 1-2 hours after each meal.
Drinking your salted/electrolyte-enhanced water after a massage, body work (including foam/body rolling), yoga and other stretching sessions is ideal. Your tissues are most responsive to water absorption after direct manipulation and treatment of the fascia.
Manage your stress. Both physiological and psychological stress can affect how we absorb water. Stress can actually make us more dehydrated. So relax, rehydrate, and release!