Don’t “Do” Yoga, LIVE IT!
Yoga and Vegetarianism
By Meg Claire
Written several thousand years ago, the “bible” of yoga, Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras, implies a meat-free diet is optimal for one’s practice. Respected guruji Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said, “The most important part of the yoga practice is eating a vegetarian diet.” That aside, many celebrity yoga teachers advocate yogic principles like ahimsa (nonharming) and satya (truth-telling), and still eat animals.
One celebrity yoga teacher, Sharon Gannon (co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga) has chosen to address the topic in her recent book “Yoga and Vegetarianism”. The book serves as an intelligent, passionate call to all yogis. Don’t just “do” yoga, she says. A true yogi represents yoga in their everyday, off-the-mat lifestyle. And Jivamukti Yoga, a recently-created, athletic, offshoot lineage doesn’t bother with the word “vegan”. Vegans are vegetarians, they say. Vegetarians (those of us who eat dairy and eggs) are equally as evil as meat-eaters. (We probably are.)
This is certainly all well and good for vegans. Yoga in this country (a popular, multi-billion dollar industry) is being used to promote veganism! Go big or go home, they say. You’re either VEGAN or you’re NOT. Sounds a little like “you’re either with us, or you’re against us.” That’s not a useful yogic philosophy, nor will it increase the vegan population.
(A note: it is extremely difficult to be 100% vegan. Animal products are everywhere, from your book’s binding to your car’s tires.)
Contrary to popular yoga culture, yoga is not about cranking into backbends, breathing into burning joint pain, or blowing eighty bucks on a tank top. It’s about meeting yourself where you are right now and seeking a deeper connection with your body, breath and heart. It’s about opening, not closing. Yoga is inclusionary (in Sanskrit, yoga translates literally as “to yoke”), not exclusionary. Veganism can aspire to the same. Vegans and yogis alike, partner with your fellow vegetarians, meat-eaters, and NASCAR-watchers. Talk with them, not “at” them about your practice and lifestyle. Encourage open dialog instead of outlining the rules and regulations.
Some of Ms. Gannon’s most poignant and lovely language in “Yoga and Vegetarianism” truly serves to explain the genesis of this connection:
“Yoga serves to awaken and remind us that we do know how to live in harmony with life. When we rediscover our own wildness, the shackles of our present culture will fall away, and we will find ourselves liberated from pretense and uncertainty. Yoga reveals to us the constraints and toxicity of our present culture. Yoga can show us the path to a renewed way of life and, ultimately, a way for us to stay alive.”
Are you a veggie yogi or yogini? How does your practice support your choice of diet?