First things first: okay, yes, I have occasionally dragged both myself and my hangover onto the mat on Saturday morning. And no, I don’t recommend it as a daily habit. (Or a weekly habit, for that matter. Possibly not even a once-a-month habit, but then again I am a weakling who wakes up with a hangover after two drinks and you are probably made of stronger stuff.)
That being said, will I recommend that you never ever go out on Friday night and have a few margaritas? Um, no, because margaritas are delicious and also this is your life.
So let’s be fair. A 90 minute, 9 am yoga class with a hangover is hellish and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody (except, apparently, myself). But if you do manage to chug some coconut water and drag yourself out of bed, it will teach you some valuable lessons:
Your drishti is so, so important.
Do you ever catch yourself looking at the person next to you while you’re holding a pose, then looking at the instructor, then at the floor, and then at your toes (which really, really need a pedicure)? Nope. Not gonna fly. In hungover yoga-land, every motion of your head will just amplify the struggle to not vomit all that coconut water back onto your mat.
If you manage to not throw up, though, you’ll probably have kept up a soft, steady drishti during class. In future classes – when you’ve kept the previous night’s festivities to maybe two margaritas – you might find yourself more mindful of the benefits of a purposeful drishti: a practice with more focus, clarity, and intentionality. Although not throwing up is always a plus in my book.
Your liver will say "thank you" for twists.
Twists are good for detoxification. You know that. But has that fact ever been as important as when your body is literally full of post-margarita toxins?? I think not.
Massaging the kidneys and liver with some gentle (preferably seated) twists can help them to release all that tequila. Plus, if you can manage to keep up a strong ujayyi breath throughout class, you can amp up your metabolic rate to break down the toxins you release.
You have a different body every day.
Are you one of those people who likes to pop up into a tripod headstand at every possible opportunity? Can you hold one-legged toe hold for literally hours without shaking or falling over? Do you actually LIKE Wheel?
All of these things may be true one day, but – here’s the kicker – they may be untrue another day. When we step onto our mats, we carry with us everything we’ve experienced in the last hours, days, weeks, and years.* We carry stress, soreness, tension, aches, pains, fears, worries, and joys…and they affect our expression on the mat.
When you carry a hangover onto the mat with you, your practice will probably be different than it usually feels. That's because your body is different today. In fact, it’s different every day. And we can either resent this fact, or we can celebrate it by embracing whatever version of every single pose pose that feels delicious, ambitious, and courageous for this particular day, based on this particular day's body.
*Although apparently this includes an unfair representation of last night’s tequila transgressions.
Inversions are overrated, until they’re not.
Do I like headstands? Absolutely not. Do I think that headstands should be incorporated into every class ever? Absolutely not. Do intense inversions allow freshly-oxygenated blood to circulate throughout your head, creating new energy and potentially banishing your hangover that much faster? Oh yeah.
Although if you’re feeling extremely nauseous, maybe give these a pass. When a hangover is intense enough, even child’s pose can feel like an inversion. If that’s the case, like it typically is for me…be gentle.
You can uninvite your ego.
You wobbled so hard in Tree that you fell over. You completely skipped a vinysasa. Your sweat smells like Cabo Wabo and regret.
When you feel like you’re not living up to your own expectations of yourself in yoga, that’s a signal to take a step back and breathe. Allow yourself to scale back. Choose to express asana in a way that feels authentic and kind to your hungover self.
Then ask the ego to step off already. Yoga means “union”, after all. So allow yourself to unite a calm, compassionate mind with a grateful soul and a body that’s doing the best it can under less-than-ideal circumstances.
Invite that kind of serenity onto your mat. Then uninvite the ego.
Every day you don’t throw up on the mat is a good day.
I’m just saying.
Do you have a hungover yoga horror story? Or do you swear by a particular post-margarita pose? Let us know in the comments below!
Anna Squires studies political science, journalism, and creative writing at Colorado College. There is nothing she enjoys more in a yoga class than laughing so hard she falls out of a pose, especially since then she doesn’t have to hold it anymore. She hails from Atlanta, GA.