Disclosure: I am not an athlete. I lack hand-eye coordination. Despite my love for the wonderful trails in North Carolina, running is an activity that belongs in the ninth circle of hell.
But I have no problem with Bikram Yoga. Every 90-minute class consists of the same 26 poses in a heated, humid room, whether you are in Hong Kong or New York. The repetition allows you to track improvements in your strength and flexibility with each succeeding class.
For the past month and a half, I’ve challenged myself to practicing Bikram Yoga three times a week before work and rock climbing four or five times a week after work. Of course, it’s often midnight or later by the time I get home from climbing, so more often than not I oversleep and miss yoga.
I’m embarrassed to say that in the 8 years that I’ve practiced Bikram Yoga, last winter was the first time I learned the necessity of maintaining proper electrolyte levels. We were in the last half hour of class when I started feeling pins and needles pricking my hands and arms. My hands stiffened, cramped, and became claw-like, no matter how I tried to unclench and relax my hands. The instructor recognized my symptoms immediately and made me drink a cup of water mixed with electrolyte powder.
I have been acutely conscious of maintaining my electrolyte levels ever since. While sports drinks are convenient, I dislike that they are loaded with sugars, artificial colors and mystery ingredients, particularly when it’s easy to get electrolytes and minerals naturally. Did you know that a class action lawsuit was filed against The Coca Cola Company three years ago, claiming that the name “VitaminWater” misled consumers because the product was in fact full of sugar? One of the plaintiffs described VitaminWater as “Coke’s attempt to dress up soda in a physician’s white coat.” (http://www.cspinet.org/new/200901151.html).
I wanted a natural, homemade alternative, so I called my dad to ask for his energy drink recipe. He is a dedicated biker and often bikes 3-6 hours a day. He suggested a mixture of green tea, lime or lemon juice, salt and honey. Salt and citrus are key components to replenishing electrolytes. More information and alternative recipes can be found here: http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/how-to-make-a-homemade-electrolyte-drink.html.
I substitute Citron Tea for honey in my dad’s recipe. Citron Tea looks like marmalade, and consists of citron slices that have been cooked down in honey. It can be purchased at any Asian supermarket. Citron purports to have three times as much vitamin C as oranges or lemons. Making Citron Tea is easy: dissolve a spoonful in hot or cold water and voilà—delicious tea. As a result, a jar of Citron Tea is more convenient to bring to work when you have a cold than are messy lemon wedges and a sticky container of honey. In fact, my lovely friend Miye gave me this jar when I was sick.
Katherine’s Easy Electrolyte Drink
1 heaping TB of Citron Tea (or more, if you like it sweeter)
1 pinch of salt
Juice of ½ a small lemon (for an unadulterated shot of citrus)
Tea (I’ve been using hojicha (roasted green tea) or passion fruit black tea).
1. Brew your tea.
2. Dissolve the Citron Tea in the tea.
3. Add salt and lemon juice.
4. Pour into your travel bottle, and fill the rest of the bottle with filtered water.
The result should taste a little salty, a little sweet, a little tart and a little like your favorite tea.
The moderate amount of caffeine and sugar in this drink is just enough of an energy boost for my early morning yoga classes. I’m happy to report that I haven’t experienced claw-hands since I started drinking it.