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Sunday, August 12, 2012
Yoga Teacher Training: Hangovers
By Gopi Rao
You might wonder what in the world hangovers would have to do with yoga teacher training. After all, very few people in a yoga certification course would overindulge in alcohol consumption. In fact, too much of anything tends to be unhealthy. Paulji once mentioned how too much air (hyperventilating) can cause you to pass out and consuming too much water can cause your potassium levels to drop, which can put you at risk for a stroke. Obviously, we aren’t going to push the limits, but many people do and alcohol consumption is more rampant than some of us care to admit.
Although I am not an avid drinker and have never personally suffered from a hangover, I have been surprised on occasion by students who regularly attend my classes while struggling through the after effects of a night’s overindulgence. Because I had always believed that physical activity makes hangover symptoms worse, I finally asked one of my students, who I’ll call Jamie, why she still came to class. Her answer surprised me.
Jamie regularly practiced yoga with me an average of four times a week, and attended my mid-day class on the weekends. More often than not, she’d walk in with her head down and sunglasses on. After awhile, I could tell when she had a hangover by how still she kept her body before we began.
When I asked her why she came to class even though she was clearly afraid her head was going to explode, Jamie laughed, grabbed her head with a cringe, and explained herself by moving her mouth as little as possible to avoid further jarring. “I am almost always tempted to stay in bed the day after,” she said, “but I’ve learned by experience that the hangover lasts much longer if I don’t practice yoga.”
Yoga for Hangovers
There are some excellent ways to use yoga to help relieve hangover symptoms. Although sun salutation series can be a good way to get your body warmed up in a low-impact way, sometimes it can be tough to do. After working with Jamie, I discovered that keeping your head raised above your heart during asana practice will prevent excessive and excessively painful blood flow to the head. Props like bolsters can be an effective way to keep the head raised.
Relaxation poses also tend to go over well for those with hangovers. Seated forward bends or the corpse pose can help relieve some of the symptoms, and there is little movement involved.
Some practitioners also recommend twists, which they say helps wring the poison out of the body a little faster. Twists are also gentle and low impact, which are definitely positives in a hangover situation.
Yoga Practices to Avoid
1. Avoid hot yoga training. When you have a hangover, your body is dehydrated and in need of replenishing fluids. This is why even the most avid Bikram enthusiasts stay away from the heated room after imbibing too much alcohol.
2. Avoid inversions. Lowering your head below your heart can increase throbbing, and inversion poses like head or shoulder stands can make this much worse, even prolonging the hangover’s symptoms.
3. Avoid berating yourself. Mindfulness in yoga necessarily means you have to be present in the present, rather than focused on the past or the future. So hone in on improving your technique or relieving neck tension or keeping your head from falling off, rather than running over last night’s events or making promises to yourself about next Friday night.
Opportunities for Yoga Instructors
Although there isn’t much specialized yoga instructor training for helping people with addictions or overindulgence, many yogic practices can help people recover from negative side effects and addiction. In every community, there are rehabilitation clinics and the need for compassionate yoga teacher who are willing to help.
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