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.