The litany of health benefits and risks associated with coffee consumption range from the prevention of Alzheimer's disease, Type 2 diabetes, and heart failure to the inhibition of nutrient absorption, interference with body-fat reduction, and leeching of calcium from the bones. Several studies suggest coffee enhances brain function, reduces pain during and after intense physical exertion, and greatly improves athletic endurance. Others indicate that the caffeine in coffee exaggerates chemical stress reactions in the body and disrupts the functioning of the endocrine system. The antioxidants in coffee may reduce one's chances of developing some types of cancer, but 19 of the chemical compounds found in coffee are known carcinogens to rodents. With all of these possible effects to consider, what's a yogini to conclude?
Well, it seems that, for most of us, the potential health benefits outweigh the minimal risks. As with most things in life, I believe moderation is the answer. If one enjoys coffee in the morning or finds that a cup in the afternoon can help them make it through the day, then by all means, partake. The coffee loving yogis among us are likely already aware that the great contemporary gurus BKS Iyengar and the late Pattabhi Jois have both endorsed coffee as personal fans of the fully leaded version. Iyengar in Light on Yoga suggests that, while the asanas should be practiced on an empty stomach, "a cup of tea or coffee, cocoa or milk may be taken before" if one is uncomfortably hungry or tired. I remember reading this as a green yogini first thumbing through my crisp new copy and feeling enormous relief that I was not obligated by the practice to give up my favorite productivity beverage.
However, in the pattern of my personal coffee consumption, the line between moderation and excess was crossed long ago. I drink less than I used to, but still more than I need. My dependency is well established. I am not myself without it, so I believe it may be time to curtail the coffee drinking once again. But I'm not quite ready to call it quits. Based on the evidence, I'm not sure that I should.
- "Is Drinking Coffee a Health Enhancing Ritual or Detrimental Addiction?"
- "Coffee with Yoga: Inspiration and Pain Relief is There"
- "Coffee Better than Ibuprofen at Relieving Workout Pain"
- "Health Effects of Coffee"