Tag Archives: Vegetarianism

The Yoga of Food

So much of my time as both a student and teacher of Yoga is spent mulling over the concept of union. Union of the body, the mind and the breath, the union of energies between myself, a class full of students, and among the students themselves, the union of theory with practice to redefine our respective realities. Coming from the school of thought that we are all connected but have somehow distanced ourselves from one another, one aspect of the meaning of life, as far as I’m concerned, is the re-unification of mankind, with love being the guiding energy that will ultimately bring us back together. Confident in the knowledge that Yoga is one of the most effective systems of tools in bringing about that reunion, I surprisingly seem to have become somewhat complacent in my notion of the other possible roles that Yoga, and consequently union, play in my life.

I love what I do because I do what I love. Such a simple concept, yet amazingly elusive to so many, myself included until a couple of years ago. Because my profession consists of immersing myself in the studies and environment that I love, it can become ridiculously easy to compartmentalize what Yoga is to me and the parameters within which it exists in my life. These past couple of weeks have seen my interpretation of Yoga grow exponentially,  largely due to one book and one film. The book, In Defense of Food, and the documentary film, Food, Inc.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have been a meat-eater for as long as I can remember. My parents have always been and continue to be voracious carnivores, to the point where my partner jokes that after they’re done with their dinner, all that’s left is a perfectly clean section of the animal’s skeleton. Because I was raised in a family of meat eaters (even my grandmother swore that the remedy to a cold was a steak), I have long been reluctant to completely remove meat from my diet, despite my urge to eventually move towards a more plant-based diet. Talk about the play of opposites! I have always strived to do my best with the information I had been exposed to, in all facets of my life, which is the main reason that I always kept factory farm-related documentaries at arm’s length (ignorance = bliss?…not so sure)…I knew that once I had witnessed images of how my meat supply got from the farm to my table, I would most probably cut meat out of my diet altogether. I have been what is now so commonly referred to as a Flexitarian for years now, leaning heavily towards eliminating everything meat-related from my diet, but allowing for those moments when I found myself staring at a juicy steak at my parents’ dinner table, uncomfortable imposing my beliefs on those kind and generous enough to prepare a meal for me. Years of moving in this direction seems to have finally brought me to a place where I’m now ready to go vegetarian…and let me get this out now, before I go on: this is my choice for myself, not one I would ever impose on or even suggest for others. I believe that what we choose to feed ourselves, what we choose to put into our bodies, and how we choose to translate our beliefs into our daily rituals is painfully personal, never to be used as the gospel for all.

Watching the documentary showed me not only the horrors (cut to me literally pulling my eyes away from the tv screen) of factory farming, but also showed me the practices of the conscious animal rearer, some of which proved to be counterproductive in convincing me of how “ethical” the “ethical” slaughtering methods can be. That’s what pretty much did it for me. Seeing animals suffer like that, even if only for a millisecond, showed me how far I want to distance myself from the source and cause of that type of behaviour. And, again, what’s right for me is exactly that…right for me. I know how it feels to have someone else’s opinions and beliefs become overwhelmingly stifling when imposed on others, and the last thing I want to do is put people off. I support anyone who has made a conscious decision to live any and/or all aspects of his/her life in a way that pleases them…my partner, for instance, whole-heartedly believes that we derive from meat-eaters and to eliminate meat from his diet would prove detrimental to his overall health, and I completely support and respect his decision.

I suppose what I’m trying to present here is that if practicing the asanas involves the union of the mind, body and breath, then why not transfer the concept of unifying the body, mind and ingestion of food and liquids? Why not start becoming mindful of the words that come out of our mouths? The same could be applied to our thoughts…if the majority of our thoughts can be classified as useless because they involve us creating stories in our minds that are mainly based in assumptions or in the past, then why not start becoming mindful of the senseless waste of time and energy these thoughts initiate? Practicing Yoga, or union, in all aspects of our lives can only result in good…in taking responsibility and accountability for what we put out into the world, and ensuring that we reap what we sow…only good, only love, only light…amazing what we can cultivate with mindfulness…and Yoga.

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Only The Best

As most of you already know by now, the past year has been monumental for me in terms of the changes I made in my career and where it has brought me since. I’ve been practicing yoga for 10 years now, and only after 9 of those years did I realize that yoga was where I wanted to build my career, for so many reasons: primarily to help people grow (physically, mentally, spiritually), but also to see what I was capable of…to “deepen my practice” and see how it affected the rest of my life. I’m so grateful that I have the support network around me that enabled me to jump beyond myself only to find that the boundaries of my capabilities had monumentally shifted and I was so much more than I had ever believed possible. Yet while I find myself more “myself” than I have ever been, there are some things I’ve observed in my community that I still have mixed feelings about…

One of the foundations of leading a yogic lifestyle is practicing Ahimsa, or non-harming. Ahimsa most often gets applied towards the killing of animals for human consumption. I have always been a meat eater. I’m pretty sure that my family falls not far on the evolutionary ladder from the Flintstones (if any of you have ever sat down to a meal with my family, you know what I mean – my partner jokes that after a dinner with my parents all that’s left on the plate is a perfectly and partially intact skeleton). I’m not particularly in love with the idea of eating meat, but whenever I get on a vegetarian kick and try to eradicate meat from my diet, I find my body physically craving it within a couple of days. I try to have at least one vegetarian or vegan meal a day, and I’m doing my best, which is all I can ask of myself or my students when they’re in my yoga class. One’s best is all we need to drum up. And one’s best will change from day to day, even from hour to hour, depending on how rested we are, how hydrated (or dehydrated) we are, how much stress we’re handling, etc…

I am, however, finding my defenses going up sporadically when the issue of meat-eating comes up with fellow yogis or other teachers. It has often been insinuated, and even declared to me. that eating meat completely negates a yogic lifestyle and that to eat meat is to walk around with blood on my hands. I understand the concept, however extreme it may have been conveyed, and I do my best to walk the walk, but at a certain point, I take issue with the whole thing. Living a yogic lifestyle, as far as I’m concerned and as far as I have been able to interpret from my teachings, involves being the best person one can be, with an abundance of love and compassion for oneself and all others, to see the source of all energy in everyone and everything that surrounds us. To be able to bring people to a higher consciousness, and to aid them in discovering the meaning of their lives and to tap into the energy source that we all draw from and carry around with us. Whether I eat meat or not shouldn’t be a source of shame, and anyone in the yogic world who would willingly bring shame onto someone else for their dietary habits (or for any other reason) should reconsider what they’re trying to accomplish with their efforts. I can do my best at practicing Ahimsa by eating less meat, or I can choose to eat meat all the time…either way, it’s not for anyone to judge. My journey through this life is between where I believe my energy source lies and my being, and I haven’t heard any complaints yet 🙂

I believe that in expressing my opinions, especially when they may be slightly controversial considering the environment I find myself in, I am opening the door to an exchange of points of view and beliefs, all of which are valid and have merit. I just want people to know that we’re not all robots walking around stretching and preaching to others about how superior we are because we practice yoga. We are all the same, yet we’re undeniably different, and it’s this play of opposites that fascinates me and encourages me to delve deeper into my studies and my practice. For those of you who have always been intrigued by yoga but thought it was too cultish or unpalatable, I hope this blog entry speaks to you. My aim is to show that practicing yoga is more a state of mind than it is a way of life, and yet in that shift of one’s state of mind comes the desire to make changes in one’s life that makes us feel better about ourselves and the world we surround ourselves with. And all we can ask of ourselves is the best. And that’s all we can wish for others…

Let me know what you think 🙂