What yogi doesn’t want to improve his flexibility?
Proper practice, work of breathing, and technique can go a long way for overall flexibility. There is another factor that can help increase the flexibility of something you INGEST. WATER!
Water is probably the most underrated nutrient of all. It is not only responsible for beautiful skin, it is also responsible for all cellular functioning such as:
- providing cushioning for our tissues, joints and organs
- transport oxygen and nutrients
- digestion and waste disposal
- regulate body temperature
- circulating blood and lymph
- absorbing heat from muscles.
Most people drink less pure, unadulterated water than they should for these processes to work optimally. In fact, an estimated 75% of Americans run chronically dehydrated. Mild dehydration is reported to slow metabolism, increase hunger, trigger daytime fatigue, and make it difficult to concentrate.
What most people don’t know is that chronic dehydration can also affect flexibility or our ability to adapt to challenging vinyasas and sequences. How is that?
Throughout the body we have connective tissue called fascia. The fascia is a three-dimensional network of tissue that surrounds every muscle, tendon, ligament, bone, organ, gland, nerve, and every cell. Our fascia keeps everything where it belongs. Animals have it too. Imagine a raw chicken leg. You may notice the thin, white, stretchy, somewhat slimy film layer that surrounds the entire leg, but also between the skin and the muscle and between the muscle segments. We have this same sheer fabric and when fully hydrated it is stretchable and slippery. When the fascia is dry, it is dry and stiff. Our fascia can be compared to the saran wrap. If you try to slide 2 pieces of saran wrap together it won’t work. They will stick to each other. However, if one of them is a little wet, they will slide next to each other. Do not stick.
Like the saran wrap, when dry, the fascia clings to the surrounding tissue, making movement freely or easily more difficult or limited.
Your water needs are extremely variable and depend on your general health, activity level, metabolic rate, time of day, and the temperature (including air humidity) where you are. The standard recommendation for daily fluid intake is to drink one-half to one ounce per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be consuming 75 to 150 fluid ounces per day. If you’ve lost water weight during an exercise session or event, it’s important to also consume fluids to replace that weight. It is recommended that for every pound lost in exercise, an athlete drink approximately 20 fluid ounces.
If you are only drinking one glass of water a day now, don’t start drinking a couple of liters a day thinking it will benefit you. Actually, it’s best to increase your water intake gradually to avoid stress on the kidneys, eye swelling, swelling around the ankles, or other signs of inflammation. Too much water too soon can even be fatal to someone who is severely dehydrated or has been dehydrated for years.
To gradually increase your water intake, here are some helpful tips:
Add just one glass of water per day to the regular amount of water you have already been drinking. If you drink a glass a day, make it 2 glasses a day.
You should feel the need to urinate more. If that’s the case, add another glass of water to your daily water intake.
However, if you do not have a greater urge to urinate, reduce by half a glass and, as you go, 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 shed excess salt. Now is a good time to start adding a pinch of unrefined sea salt, such as Celtic Sea Salt, to the water. If you can taste the salt, you have added too much. And don’t worry, this won’t cause water retention like typical table salt. Celtic sea salt tends to do the opposite due to its 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 already drunk enough “electrolyte-enhanced” water every day, you may be interested in how to improve water absorption to improve flexibility aspects:
In the morning, drink a glass of warm water. This will rehydrate you after not drinking water for several hours and help to remove accumulated waste from nighttime metabolic processes.
For better absorption, it is recommended to sip (rather than swallow) room temperature water throughout the day to ensure that the liquid is absorbed and used efficiently rather than quickly emptying it from the stomach.
As a general rule, water should not be consumed too close to meals, as this dilutes the hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which aids in digestion. The water should be consumed between 45 and 30 minutes before each meal and between 1 and 2 hours after each meal.
Ideally, drink salt / electrolyte-enhanced water after massage, body work (including foam / body rocking), yoga, and other stretching sessions. Its tissues respond better to water absorption after direct manipulation and treatment of the fascia.
Manage your stress. Both physiological and psychological stress can affect the way we absorb water. In fact, stress can make us more dehydrated. So relax, rehydrate and let go!