When consuming food and beverage, the yogi is concerned with its effect on not only the body, but on the mind as well. As a result, the traditional yogi is very mindful of his/her consumption of all things caffeinated. Why?
Caffeine is a Central Nervous System Stimulant. In moderate doses, caffeine can increase alertness (stimulating the mind), reduce fine motor co-ordination, cause insomnia, headaches, nervousness, and dizziness. In large doses (more than 107 mg/kg of body weight), caffeine is lethal. Caffeine can be addictive. Symptoms of caffeine addiction appear when intake is ceased. These withdrawal signs can include cravings, tiredness, lethargy, confusion and the inability to focus, as well as headaches which often do not respond to painkillers, but abate with caffeine intake.
Caffeine enters the body quickly (often within 15 minutes of consumption) and remains in the bloodstream for considerable lengths of time. It usually requires about 6 hours for half of the caffeine consumed to be eliminated from the body’s system. There are many factors that affect the body’s rate of caffeine elimination: medications, pregnancy, and levels of liver enzymes can all lengthen the time it takes to eliminate the stimulant. A pregnant woman takes 18-20 hours to eliminate half the caffeine, while a woman taking contraceptives takes 13 hours. Very important to note is that caffeine is secreted out into the breast milk, which means that a nursing mother passes on the stimulant to her new born.
While the caffeine is in the blood stream, it affects the brain’s neurotransmissions. It increases the body’s heart rate, constricts blood vessels, and increases blood pressure. The mind is stimulated which makes it difficult to concentrate and remain clear in your view of life around you. As a result, it is highly recommended that you avoid caffeinated beverages for several hours before you meditate or practice yoga.
When looking at caffeine, it is important to understand the hierarchy of caffeine content. The amounts of caffeine in coffees and teas depend on the variety of coffee bean or tea leaf, where it is grown, particle size used, the method and length of brewing or steeping. On average however, coffee contains the most caffeine (90 mg per serving), black tea contains just under half that (40 mg per serving), Oolong Tea contains less (30 mg per serving), Green Tea has half that of black tea (20 mg per serving), decaffeinated coffee is even lower (5 mg per serving), decaffinated tea comes next (2 mg per serving) and Herbal Tea contains none (0 mg per serving).
In the marketing world of the West, chai (which simply means “tea” in Hindi) is touted as the yogi’s drink. As you understand the yogi’s view of caffeine however, you then know that not all chai or tea are created equal. For a true Yogi’s tea, no actual tea leaves are used and therefore, no caffeine is present. Here is an example of a tradition Yogi’s Chai: Add 8 cups of water, 16 cracked cardamon pods, 16 black or mixed peppercorns, 16 whole cloves, 5 cinnamon sticks, 6 slices of ginger root, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for approximately 1 hour. Add 3 cups of milk and bring to a near boil, then remove from the heat. Add honey to taste, and serve warm.
Good for both body and mind.
The Yogic Way®
Kavita Maharaj is the owner of Red Door Yoga® and the director of The Red Door Yoga School® in Lantzville. She can be reached at 250-390-9367 or through www.reddooryoga.ca for questions.