Off the Mat: Water as Self-Care

Prime the Well

We climbed Mt. Tom on a recent Sunday that was hotter than forecast by 10 degrees. No leaves meant no shade. We brought enough snacks, but ran short on water. Thirst, headache, and grumpies served as solid reminders of the importance of hydration. The importance of reserves.

I’m attempting to drink more water lately. When successful, I have fewer aches and more energy. I stop at the sink, fill up a glass and sip and – lo and behold – realize I’m thirsty! Water tastes good. I’m reminded of what I’ve been missing.

“How much am I supposed to drink?” clients commonly ask as I make the link between pain relief and hydration. Online medical consensus now gives a formula to replace the old “8 glasses a day” advice from last century: Take your body weight in pounds, divide in half and drink that number of ounces each day.  I’m not sure who first proffered this formula, but mainline medical, fitness, and alternate health sites use it.

What to drink? That’s where the disagreements begin. Recommendations vary widely from “food counts as water” to “any drink counts” to “no caffeine or sugar” to “only unadulterated water – not even herbal tea.”

Then comes conflicting advice on how to drink. One liter before noon. Nope, mostly at night. With meals but not after meals. Only hot. Actually, cold is ok. Sip, don’t gulp. Filtered water. Bottled water. Enhanced water. We’ve taken one of the most basic elements of life on earth and made it complex, even controversial. 

Like breastfeeding. My son and I took a while to figure out breastfeeding. I was lucky; my supply was strong. But he had powerful jaws (still does, flossing reminds me!) and his teeth came in early. Even so, we got the hang of it and I committed to nurse for the first year and then see. I probably said something like “let him decide,” softening my stance during weighted discussions with friends and strangers in those strangely politicized conversations about bodily fluids.

When he was 10 months old, a stomach bug knocked me flat for 48 hours. We were all relieved when I felt well enough to snuggle into the recliner and offer him my breast. He drank a bit, but I’d gotten dehydrated and my supply was low. Or maybe it didn’t taste good. Who knows? I can still see him sit up, push my breast away, and reach toward the kitchen beyond his bedroom. He wanted his bottle. It hadn’t occurred to me that he’d be ready to wean before one year. Before I was.

I’d taken my baby growing task seriously. Nourishing myself so I could nourish him was far better motivation than I’d ever had to feed and water myself. Dehydrated, I had little to offer.


Around that time, I first heard this adage,

Keep the well full. Give from the overflow.

Pumps require a flow of water to flush the mechanism and create a draw. Modern technology builds this into a pressurized water system. Outside that infrastructure, it is necessary to keep water on hand to prime a pump for future use. If you use up the priming water without replacement, the pump is useless, the supply inaccessible.

What primes your pump? How do you keep your well full? What ways do your nourish yourself to nourish your children? I rely on mat time, outside time, exercise (a challenge these days), social interaction.


Vacationing in the California desert, we stopped at a café surrounded by a literal oasis of growth and color, a stark contrast to the dry dust tones all around. The only customers, the owner freely shared his tactic – simply let the outdoor faucet drip into the shallow trough he’d scratched in the dirt with his heel, circling the building. That trickle was enough to wake dormant seeds. The more that grew, the more could grow.


Ginny Hamilton

Ginny is a yoga instructor, Reiki practitioner, gardener, activist, and middle aged Mama. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. She believes our natural state is to be balanced in body and mind so spirit can flow freely. Because modern life gets in the way, she offers self-healing bodywork to unravel imbalances and restore energy flow. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice.

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