How Tea Helps to Digest Yoga
When students are roused from their final relaxation after a yoga session and you see them emerge glowing and peaceful from the stillness of their mat, the last thing you want to do is turn them out into the noise, chaos, and stress of the world outside the studio. It's too jolting a contrast, and students often need some time to digest their yogic experience and slowly transition back to their daily lives. That's why, for many yoga studios, the bridge between yoga and the high-intensity pace outside is a warm cup of tea.
Serving Health and History
Many studios serve tea, usually after class, as a way to offer students an opportunity to bask in the buzz of yoga. "People's hearts are really opened after yoga, and tea offers a perfect segue back into their reality," says Elissa Kerhulas, a Kundalini teacher and owner of Yoga Brew in Hollywood, California. Tea is an informal yoga tradition that has taken root over the years, and growing knowledge about the various health benefits of tea have made it a welcome addition to yoga classes as one more way to embrace healthy living. While it's not a ritualized process per se, the tradition of combining tea and yoga has an ancient connection.
"Yoga and ayurveda">Ayurvedic medicine go hand in hand," says Kerhulas, who offers tea (and/or soup) as part of her home-catered yoga classes. She remembers her Kundalini teachers talking about tea all the time. For example, "yogi tea," a home-brewed spice tea, includes traditional Ayurvedic spices, such cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger, in a black tea base, sweetened with milk and honey. The recipe was inspired in the 1960s by Yogi Bhajan, who served the tea to students. Many teachers, though, have stepped away from this traditional recipe and are serving up drinks that range from green tea to roasted barley to custom herbal blends.
Kerhulas was brewing her own custom blends when she started her business six years ago, but she then started consulting a master herbalist who now intuitively assesses the best brew for each of her classes. "The kind of tea I serve depends on the people in a class, as well as the time of day," Kerhulas explains. "For morning classes, I might start with something such as chai, ginger, or yogi tea because of their invigorating and stimulating properties. For evening classes, I would more likely choose something calming or grounding, such as jasmine, lavender, wood betony (mint family), licorice, or chamomile." Her one-of-a-kind tea blends often combine several herbs.
Melanie Smith, an Anusara yoga teacher and owner of Yogaphoria in New Hope, Pennsylvania, offers students custom-blended teas made just for her studio, including black, green, and Rooibos teas. "Serving tea arose from the desire to serve something healthy and nurturing," she says. On a more personal level, though, adds Smith, "I'm a big fan of tea and what it can do for the body—its healing properties and antioxidants."