Whether you’re a die-hard yogi who’s seeking the ultimate truth, or simply reaching out for an exercise that gives you more relief than tension, there are many lineages of yoga to learn and follow. Most yogis learn eventually through their yoga practice that they can bring the physical understanding of asana into their daily life experience. The new experiences of peacefulness, self-love and compassion within the physical body end up translating into every-day tasks.[wp_ad_camp_1] All of a sudden, cleaning the house becomes a practice, engaging in communication with others becomes a new experience. Even walking, sitting, eating and breathing are all-encompassing life-changing events of present experience.
With the mindfulness of the body, mindfulness into other aspects of life grow too. Once this has been experienced, we need to understand where this experience is coming from. The passionate research of the ancient scriptures is how you become a yogi. The question that I am addressing today is; is it un-yogic to eat meat?
Yoga and Vegetarianism
Many religions practice diet restriction such as Hindu, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. Patanajali’s Yoga Sutra was written in India before Hinduism began, and in it were the ethical rules of yoga, called the Yamas. Ahimsa is the very first to be discussed.
Ahimsa introduces the utopic vision of a completely peaceful, non-judgemental, non-violent lifestyle. Thus it becomes a day-to-day obsession amongst yogis which brings about the discussion of our primal nature as human beings. As we adopt and try to perfect the ancient scriptures of the sages, finding karmic purity, eating healthy and living compassionately can be a complex discussion with everyone having their own opinion.
Why go vegetarian?
The benefits of a non-meat diet are: better digestion, more energy, sharper senses and a disassociation from the slaughter of animals. Vegetarianism encompasses an activism that directly relates to animal rights, human rights, and environmental rights.
With the amount of carbon emissions it requires to support the meat industry, it is environmentally more conscious to eat a vegetarian diet. The factory farming system currently in place for producing meat, including fish, is considered to be an abusive, inhumane and unhealthy system which spreads diseases and viruses through contamination. Choosing free-range animal proteins is still better than eating meats where you are not aware of the direct source.
With a plant-based diet you have direct access to foods that are high in vitamins and nutrients. The range of vegetables and legumes available to deliver the proper amounts of iron, calcium and protein requires a bit of research, for you to realize how accessible vegetarianism is to the modern man. Going veg gives you more vitality and energy as long as you make sure you get protein every day. Meat takes more time and energy to digest and therefore you’re more tired after a meal. A vegetarian diet is more like fuel, where it can be easily digested and burnt off through the metabolism.
When I went veg, the first thing that I noticed was my limitation to junk food. I couldn’t go to most fast food restaurants at that time because they did not have vegetarian meals for me. It was a great way for me to learn about the foods that I was putting into my body so that I was able to gain strength and energy. It takes a conscious effort to make sure you get your protein every day as a vegetarian but once the research is done and you understand this necessity, vegetarianism can be really simple.
Conscious and Compassionate Eating
In most religions, blessing the meal or saying a prayer before eating is a general custom. It is like setting an intention before the meal so that it serves its purpose in giving us what we need to continue to live on this earth. It is a way to cleanse and give thanks for the food being there. This sense of devotion helps to relax the body into accepting the food.
This form of conscious and compassionate eating helps presence yourself to the meal. When we aren’t eating mindfully, like for example we are in a rush or aren’t sitting to eat and taste the food, it can be digested differently. The stress of the body not being present in food consumption can disrupt a lot of the organ’s processing.
Yogis like to take it a bit further by understanding the life behind the meal. Yoga is practiced with intention, the physical asana requires presence, compassion and meditation. When the practice is taken off of the mat, and into the yogi’s current life experience, it changes how they relate to the world. In presence, compassion and meditation this is how a yogi comes to terms with the decision to not eat meat. Not eating meat is an act of compassion.
The amount of time, money and energy gone into feeding animals imbalances food security worldwide. One in three humans lack the basic access to clean water and enough food to live a healthy, active life. Eating too many animals has a direct link to many diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even the Ebola virus is contracted through eating meat.
The practice of Ahimsa (non-violence)
In yoga we discover a different perspective on life. A more peaceful, non-violent perspective is adopted through the study of the Yamas. Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence to oneself and to others. Many yogis find this Yama as they discover vegetarianism. When you’re not eating meat every single day, you notice an ease in your practice. Especially when twisting, your digestive system has more space to appreciate the twist. Your body feels lighter and more in gear for the practice.
Most yoga trainings are vegan, and this type of lifestyle is promoted so as to relax the mind to realize that we do not need to eat as much of the foods that we feel need to sustain us. Along with sugar, coffee, alcohol, cheese or white breads, a lot of our culture depends on these foods. But when it comes down to it, you can live without them and if anything you can probably live better in moderation.
Conscious eating is about understanding that you can do better at your diet. In Buddhism, it is not mandatory to become veg, but it is a step towards enlightenment. I like the buddhist concept of only accepting food when it is given. I will eat a vegetarian diet but if meat is offered to me as a gift for a meal with a friend, then I will compassionately abide.
Another part of the ahimsa practice not to judge others for their choices. This keeps the peace within our hearts for future generations.
Samsara, as in the wheel of life, is the cycle of birth, life and death until reincarnation. In the Vedas they discuss the Samsara as being the Karma of the materialistic universe. To evolve within our Samsara, we can elevate ourselves beyond repetitive thoughts and actions which are the psychological karma from our past and our past lives. When repetitive destructive behaviour is completely eliminated, we thus can reach enlightenment. World suffering is reduced when one releases their Samsaras, thus seeking vegetarianism moves us closer to enlightenment.
So is it un-yoga to eat meat? I think it is up for you to decide.