How Tea Helps to Digest Yoga
Opening Hearts and Minds
Besides soothing and healing properties, the main thrust behind a postyoga cup of tea is about the social bonding and unity it creates among students. "It's very much about community, a chance to get to know each other, as well as a chance to be part of that energy and keep that energy, too," says Smith. Her studio includes a space created specifically for tea, the Tea Lounge. She describes it as a place where students can study, do their work, and process what they've learned in classes or teacher training.
Other teachers agree that tea can help facilitate learning and discussion. Jennifer Durand, who teaches hatha yoga at the Healing Yoga Foundation in San Francisco, leads the Ladies' Tea and Yoga Society, where students convene after her hour-long class for tea and philosophical discussion, either in the studio, which is an old greenhouse, or in the garden. Durand describes these gatherings as significantly more social than, say, a Japanese tea ceremony. "When everyone has settled, I either introduce a topic of discussion (anything from a Yoga Sutra to how we can eat more healthfully) or I let the conversation unfold on its own. Increasingly, I've been choosing the latter, as it seems to me that the women are enjoying the chance to connect in their own way," says Durand.
"The way the Society came about was that, of course, hatha yoga gets you only so far—it gives you a certain discipline, to be sure, and it can create a stronger, healthier body," explains Durand. "But one must take it that extra distance for the practice to be truly transformative; one has to delve into the philosophical side of things. I find the best way to introduce the Sutra is through the gentle approach of sneaking it in with tea and treats."
Whether used for its mystical or medicinal properties, tea has become an integral part of yoga, and students seem to have no trouble warming up to the experience.