The Dark Matter: COFFEE

Embracing the dark matter: COFFEE

It’s the worlds most widely used drug. It’s an adenosine antagonist, and it’s delicious.

I take mine black. Single origin (Unblended) in a V60 pour over. I prefer a light roast because of the more complex flavors.

I was introduced to the drug in Mysore on my first trip to India. In Southern India it is typically ‘diluted’ with chicory. Chicory adds a subtle chocolate taste and cuts down on the bitterness of the dark roast.  It was originally added to coffee in France when Napoleon placed a tax on the good stuff. Chicory stretched and sometimes replaced coffee all together. #oldworldproblems

But let’s not kid ourselves. The root of the bitter endive plant is not a substitute for the delicious single-origin brew.


Coffee and the effects of caffeine can improve attention, dilate the bronchial tubes, improve memory, and stimulate bowl movements. Caffeine is proven to enhance muscle strength and power* and increase the body’s metabolism. But it elevates your blood pressure by constricting the blood vessels. Caffeine can also enhance the effects of NSAID’s (Motrin) but so can ginger, and turmeric.

It doesn’t actually get you wired. Coffee works by blocking the adenosine receptors. The body uses these receptors to trigger it’s ‘sleep mode.’ With caffeine in the place of adenosine in the receptors the body has no breaks and is cruising down the freeway doing 110 and increasing levels of dopamine. Where as, adenosine is actually useful. Adenosine can convert a tyachacardic (fast) heart rate if the patient is experiencing SVT’s. And it allows your body’s natural rhythm to dance.

Like dancing with your pillow. Not dancing with the toilet. Coffee actually doesn’t stimulate the need to urinate. It has no diuretic effect.**

If you feel the urge to go to the bathroom during class something else is tickling your junk. Urination is controlled by at least 5 areas of the brain.*** (possibly more but scientist mapped 5 as of 'now') That's a lot of Vritti’s!

In some species urinating is a form of social communication, communicating social rank, and sexual status. Most of us living in a ‘civilized’ society eliminate in socially appropriate and environmentally safe areas. Socially appropriate areas to void in vary by culture. It is not uncommon to see a person on the side of the road using a rice field or bush as an ‘appropriate’ area. If you have traveled between Bangalore airport and Mysore, you are very familiar with this custom.

There are very precise coordinations between neuro receptors in the bladder and motor patterns that occur before voiding. Generally, the brain is aroused that the bladder is reaching an established level before the maximum threshold and our behavior must be suspended to move to an appropriate space to void.

Ultimately, the descending part of the spinal cord controls bladder function. This is why paraplegics have control over 'some' urinary function. But that doesn't mean that voiding is only controlled by bladder distention.

During a fight-or-flight response, the bladder is relaxed. The bladder is not a vital organ that will help us get away from danger and it will not defend us. Remember that in a fight or flight scenario, blood is diverted to muscles need to get away, or to fight. Sphincter muscles for digestion, urination, and excretion are on lock down. Nothing gets out, nothing gets in.

In our asana practice we place increased pressure on the bladder; from bandhas, abdominal pressure from navasana, and horrible twists like Mari D. This pressure does facilitate an urge to void. They decrease the space of the bladder making the urine threshold smaller.

But remember that 5 areas of the hot mess we call a brain are working to control when we actually void this urine. We decide when we will void by making the actions to move to an area that is socially accepted for this body fluid.

When we feel the need to “GO” in the middle of our asana practice, is it the brain getting away from pain? The brain will look for any out, any excuse to avoid discomfort. We dwell on it until it is overwhelming and we excuse ourselves.

Assuming we didn't down a 1L bottle of water before class and only had a cup of coffee about an hour before . . .

If we empty the bladder before practice, diuresis (the process of healthy kidney function emptying urine into the bladder) shouldn't be substantial enough to place extra pressure on the part of your spinal cord giving the urge to relieve one's self in the middle of practice. But you know, Supta Kurmasana is easier when we have our bandhas engaged, our bladder empty and our stomachs pulled in. That and Navasana is a ‘perfect’ time to skip to the bathroom during led class. Four . . . ffffffffiii . . . Hey, why you hurry?

*Grgic J, Trexler ET, Lazinica B, Pedisic Z (2018). "Effects of caffeine intake on muscle strength and power: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 15: 11. doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0216-0. PMC 5839013. PMID 29527137.


*** Anitha Manohar, Andre L Curtis, Stephen A Zderic, and Rita J Valentino ”Brainstem network dynamics underlying the encoding of bladder information” eLife 2017;6:e29917 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.29917

Morgan Lee