Tea Time on the Mat

Steep to stretch and enhance your practice in ways you didn’t think possible.

Ever wonder why so many yoga studios offer tea in the lobby? Or why so many yogis are enamored with the stuff? Tea and yoga are inextricably linked. Like various asanas, different types of teas have the ability to energize us, to invoke a feeling of groundedness, to soothe a myriad of ailments, or to lull us off to restful sleep. Tea is a natural way to soothe the soul.

The process of brewing and drinking tea is a practice of self-care, taking time out of our day to restore and reflect—similar to the act of returning to our mat each day. Any yogi knows that mind and body are inextricably linked: When we calm the body through physical practice or herbal brews, we are also calming our minds.

Root to Rise

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We all need to root down sometimes. Hearty teas, like a North African mint brew can instill a sense of grounding if you’re feeling too up in the clouds. Good North African mint tea is a conglomeration of green tea and peppermint, with accents of organic cardamom, ginger, licorice root, fennel clove, and black pepper.

Green tea contains catechins, antioxidants that help quell cell damage. Fennel, and ginger are great to soothe an upset stomach, and also boost metabolism, and peppermint has been said to improve mood. Healthy cells, boosted metabolism, and a happy mood help us ground into our truest selves.

Try this sequence to flow with your rooting tea: 

  1. Find a comfortable cross-legged seat on a block or a blanket. Let the eyes flutter closed and allow the hands to rest softly on the thighs. Take a few deep breaths and set an intention for your practice; for your day.
  2. Bring your left hand to your right knee and your right hand behind your spine for a gentle twist. Inhale return to center and exhale bring your right hand to the left knee, the left hand behind the spine and twist. Inhale return back to center.
  3. Come forward onto your hands and knees for some Cat/Cow postures. Stack your shoulders over the wrists and hips over the knees. On an inhale begin to lift the gaze and let the belly drop toward the mat. On an exhale begin to curl the chin into the chest, rounding the spine toward the ceiling and opening up the back body.
  4. Sit back onto the heels for an active Child’s Pose tenting the fingers out in front of you. Keep the third eye on the mat to feel a sense of rooting through the ground. Inhale come up through table top into a downward facing dog, Adho Muhka Svanasana. Ground through the thumb and forefinger and press the heels down and away as you lift the sacrum towards the sky. Inhale glance forward and walk slowly toward the front of the mat. Roll up into Tadasana, or mountain pose.  
  5. Stand in Tadasana. Ground through the four corners of the feet. Engage the quadriceps and lift the kneecaps. Keep the chin parallel to the mat, the shoulders rolling back and down the spine.

Get Moving

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When you need a bit more energy in the morning but don’t particularly want the side effects of downing coffee all day long, try a guayusa blend tea. Native to the Amazonian rainforests of Ecuador, guayusa has long been revered for its energizing qualities (even earning it the nickname “The Night Watchman.” A really good Guayusa will do the trick: Try one that combines hibiscus, golden marigold blossoms, and Ecuadorian guayusa. In addition to caffeine, guayusa contains polyphenols and fifteen essential amino acids, one of which is L-theanine, known to evoke feelings of calmness.

Combined with the energy comparable to that in a cup of coffee, the feelings of calm create a more focused and sustained energy—perfect for a sweaty Vinyasa. Hibiscus tea is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C; marigold blossoms are anti-inflammatory and high in flavonoids.

Try this sequence to flow with your rooting tea: 

  1. Begin in Downward-Facing Dog, grounding through the fingers and the heels, lifting the sacrum toward the sky. Peddle out the feet to wake up the body, and to find comfortable length in the spine. Take five Ujjayi breaths to warm up the body.
  2. Inhale raise the right leg, and exhale to bring it through between your hands. Inhale come up into Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I), squaring the hips toward the short end of the mat, keeping the right knee over the right ankle, raising the arms and letting the shoulders drop down. Keep the core engaged and the gaze forward to ground through the body and stimulate the energetic breath. Exhale bring your palms back down to the mat, lower into Chaturanga Dandasana, inhale into up-dog, and exhale into downward-facing dog. Repeat the same steps for the left side.
  3. Move through a vinyasa and come to standing at the top of the mat. Step the right foot back about four feet and parallel the feet. Grab opposite elbows behind your back or find a reverse prayer. Inhale to open the chest, and exhale to fold forward over the left leg for Parsvottanasana, pyramid pose. Inhale come back up, step the right foot to the front of the mat, and repeat on the other side.
  4. Move through a vinyasa and come to lay on your back. Bring your feet up toward your sits bones and bring your palms on either side of your ears. Inhale to lift up into Bridge pose, Urdvha Danurasana. Backbends are especially energizing poses, and give you steady energy throughout the day.

Chill Out

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There’s nothing better than a calming tea to unwind and relax at the end of a long day. After a day full of modern-life stressors, drinking a cup of calming herbal tea is like giving yourself a big warm hug. A tea like Serenity Now is packed with strawberries, hibiscus, rosehips, and lavender, and is sure to help you to breathe easy. The ultimate de-stressor, lavender is known for its ability to reduce anxiety, balance our mood, and lower the amount of stress hormones in the body. It also promotes restful sleep.

Rosehips are a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants, and serve to boost the immune system. When our immune system is healthy, our body is able to remain calm and focus on things other than physical healing. Combined with meditation and pranayama practices, calming teas are a natural, healthy way to release our bodies of unnecessary tension.

Try this sequence to flow with your rooting tea: 

  1. Begin in Balasana, or Child’s Pose. Allow the forehead to rest on the mat and rock it from side to side, massaging the third eye. This pose induces feelings of comfort and rest.
  2. Inhale come up into a Downward-Facing Dog, and on an exhale glance between your palms and walk or float to the front of the mat in a cross-legged position. Bring your right hand in front of your face for Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing. Bring your index and middle finger to rest in your palm, and leave the rest of the fingers extended. With your thumb, close your right nostril and inhale through the left for five counts. Close the left nostril with the ring finger and exhale through the right nostril for five counts. Alternate between the right and left nostrils for ten rounds. This pranayama breathing exercise brings calmness and stillness to the body and mind.

Much like yoga, the benefits of a cup of tea on overall physical health are subtle, and work over extended use. Yoga is a spiritual science—a practice in which we find healing and strength that is anatomically as well as mindfully beneficial. Tea, like yoga, is scientifically proven to provide a plethora of benefits across its many varieties and blends. But it is also a practice of calming the mind. It is meditative, it grounds us to the earth, it nourishes the body both spiritually and physically. The mind and the body are innately linked, and it is vital to foster practices which nourish both.

All photos courtesy of DAVIDsTEA