Water for Life: Are You Drinking Your Water the Healthy Way?

By Anuradha Gupta | Posted: December 17, 2019

What do you need to survive? Food? Water? Breath? Social Media?

Water is essential to life on earth as we know it, and comprises roughly 60% of the adult human body. 

It has marvelous chemical properties, is a universal solvent, can participate in many chemical reactions, and be a gas, liquid or solid within a narrow range of temperatures. It is a vital nutrient in cells, regulates body temperature through sweating and respiration, transports nutrients in the bloodstream and cells, is a shock absorber for the brain, spinal cord, and fetus, helps electrical signals travel along the nervous system (with dissolved electrolytes), forms saliva, lubricates joints, and assists in waste elimination.  

In Ayurveda, water is one of the Panchamahabhutas (5 elements); ether, air, fire, water and earth. In fact, ‘Apah’ in Sanskrit means both loved one and water. 

Water is Soma (Nectar or Ojas, vitality). It is life-giving, and utilized correctly, balances all Doshas. It supports Kapha, balances and cools Pitta, and counteracts Vata dryness.

Water provides cohesion, nourishment, lubrication and rejuvenation. It stimulates the mind, heart, and Sadhak Pitta. When we express the qualities of clarified water, we feel connected, content, calm, cool, grounded, smooth in our expression, and dispassionate. Our joints and mucous membranes are lubricated, we have a healthy layer of adipose, and radiant skin and clear eyes (Kapha expressions). Water aids assimilation and digestion of food and perceptions, and waste elimination in both. It counteracts fatigue, pain, and inflammation. 

We are so grateful to have access to clean, drinking water, a basic human right. However, globally, 1 in 3 people lack access to safe drinking water; coupled with lack of sanitation and poor hygiene, these are leading causes of disease and death worldwide. At home, tainted tap water isn’t a problem in just Flint, Michigan; in the past decade itself, 1 in 5 Americans have been exposed to unsafe water. Here is a beautiful discussion with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on how spirituality can help preserve this precious natural resource. 

Ayurvedic Rules of Water (Jalpaan Niyam)

  • Drink 1-2 glasses of warm water first thing in the morning (Ushapan) before brushing, preferably during Brahma Muhurta (1.5 hours before sunrise). It flushes the system, aids peristalsis, helps prevent dyspepsia, gets rid of Ama (toxins), ignites the Agni (digestive and metabolic fire), aids weight loss, and provides a radiance to the skin. Store this water overnight, preferably in a copper jug (with antioxidant and antibacterial properties) or a silver jug. Add honey and lemon if tolerated well to lukewarm water (honey is toxic in hot water, as they are incompatible, or Viruddhahar).

  • Sip water throughout the day. Don’t chug--literally chew it, as this helps with kidney function and facilitates digestion as the alkaline saliva mixes with the acidic environment of the stomach. 

  • How much water to drink: your ideal amount of water depends on factors like age, constitution (6-8 glasses for Vata, 5-6 for Pitta and 4-5 glasses for Kapha), where we live (Indians need more water than Canadians), season (we need more water during summer and fall to prevent Vata-Pitta imbalance), our jobs (athletes and farmers need more water), etc. 6-8 glasses of water daily (about 2 liters) is an ideal adult average in US. Follow your body’s cues and your thirst. There are 13 natural urges one shouldn’t suppress (Vegadharan), and thirst is one of them. During summer (Pitta season), drink more water at Pitta time (10 am to 2 pm); infused with lemon or mint, fennel seeds, khuskhus, rose petals or coriander. Here’s how (and why) we should avoid water deficiency and excess both. 

Tip: One way to drink enough water is to keep a bottle of water with you and sip throughout the day.

  • Drink warm or room temperature water, or else it douses the digestive fire and can constrict blood vessels. Warm water aids digestion, soothes the throat, helps with bloating, weight loss, and with Vata/Kapha aggravation. Preferably, have boiled water. Boiled and cooled water (therapeutic water or ushnodaka) has a property of Sukshma, (penetration), cleansing channels and enhancing absorption; boiled water is digested in 1.5 hours, while cold water is in roughly 6 hours, and boiled and cooled water is in 3 hours. One way to cool water is to use earthen pots, which also balance pH levels. 

Cold water has its place; it is used during Pitta or Rakta vitiation, fainting spells, nausea, and alcohol intoxication. Another rule of thumb is that cold water is ok after eating food prepared from barley, wheat or yoghurt. Warm water is ideal after eating starchy food, or food prepared from whey, buttermilk, and fermented gruel.

  • Water during meals: Sip plain or warm or ginger water during meals. Drink water a half hour before and maybe 45 mins to an hour after your meal. There is a saying in Ayurveda: “drinking water when eating affects people; those who drink water during meals will remain normal in size, those who drink water at the beginning of their meal will be emaciated and those who end their meal with water will become stout.” Also, be mindful that you need roughly 50 % food, 25 % water and 25 % empty space in your stomach for good digestion. 

  • Water for different doshas 
  • Pitta people have an active agni, hence can sip water in between meals. They can have boiled and cooled water.  

  • Kapha people have a tendency to gain weight. They can have warm water a half hour before a meal (which can suppress pseudo-hunger and aid weight loss); drinking a lot of water with a meal or right after can dampen Agni and cause weight gain. 

  • Vata people have variable hunger, and drinking water before a meal can douse their Agni. They can drink water one hour after food, sip on warm water, and avoid cold water altogether. 

  • Sit down to drink water: Ever been told it’s better for your knees to sit down and drink water? When we are relaxed, we assimilate water better, and our kidneys can pace their filtration. When we stand and drink water, the balance of fluids in the body can get disrupted, which can lead to fluid accumulation in the joints. 

  • Fortified water

  • Add spices and herbs (like cumin, coriander and fennel – CCF tea which pacifies all doshas, or tea for different seasons or imbalances like ginger, cinnamon and cardamom tea for digestion)

  • With chants: In different cultures around the world, water is used in purifying rituals and often energized with chants. A Japanese scientist, Masuro Emoto, demonstrated the power of words on water. One cup was praised all the time, while the other cup was told how terrible it was (much like the conversations around us on a daily basis). When the crystals of both samples were studied, the ‘praised’ water had formed beautiful patterns, while the latter developed into clumsy clusters! 

  • Alkaline Water: Gurudev advises adding 4 slices of cucumber and two slices of lemon overnight to make water alkaline and combat the acidic quality of food and inflammation.

  • Have buttermilk or fruit juices: Raw veggies juices aren’t recommended.


Increase Water Absorption in the body

Increase water absorption through Abhyanga (oil massage), increased intake of seasonal fruits and greens, avoiding caffeine, stimulants, alcohol, fried foods, reducing salt, enhancing agni with spices, ghee and yoga. 

Practice Varuna mudra (water-balancing mudra): Lightly touch pinky fingers and thumb tips for a few minutes daily. This helps cramps and dehydration. It reduces dryness of eyes, skin and digestive tract.

Water is one component of our Aahar, or Diet. Eating mindfully, hydrating, and purifying the body is a sacred act. Even more sacred is recognizing how critical water is for the health and survival of our planet and coming generations, and how important it is for us to take collective responsibility to preserve our precious resources. 


Anuradha Gupta is an Engineer, MBA and Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor. She has a corporate background and volunteers for Art of Living and other nonprofits. You can find her on Facebook or on LinkedIn.

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