So you’ve taken up yoga complete with your sticky mat, chanting and deep breathing. You’re feeling the healthy glow and are now thinking of taking it a step further by becoming vegetarian. After all, it almost seems requisite; but whether or not someone is required to be vegetarian when practicing yoga is the subject of much heated debate.
The simple answer is no, it is not a requirement. However, as each aspiring yogi/yogini delves deeper into yogic philosophy, it is difficult to ignore the principles that support this lifestyle. While listening to your body and its diverse nutritional needs is very important, you must also listen to your spiritual and karmic needs allowing those to be your compass in deciding what’s right for you.
Although yoga by no means forces the vegetarian lifestyle, there are many aspects of the philosophy that can, for some, ultimately lead to this conclusion. Many who practice yoga feel that the vegetarian lifestyle is one that is kind, clean and sustainable and most importantly adheres to the principals of Ahimsa and Prana.
The first, Ahimsa is the reason most widely used for those arguing for yogis to go veg. The second, Prana, is less cited, but an infinitely more powerful concept.
Ahimsa literally means non-harming. Some interpret this to mean that a meat-inclusive diet is harmful not only to the animal, but to the human body as well and consider eating flesh foods a big no-no. With factory farming, it is impossible to argue that the animals do not suffer. Every minute of their lives is filled with cruelty that we are purposefully shielded from by the industry.
Violating the concept of non-harming doesn’t stop at animal welfare; it extends to humans as well. Consuming animal products can potentially harm us for a long time. Eating meat pumped full of antibiotics and hormones further damages our body, as we store these substances in our tissues and organs.
Prana is the Sanskrit word for “vital life.” It is the spiritual energy force from which we are all created and sustained. Applying the principle of prana to the way we eat is really very simple. Foods that are clean, fresh and rich in vital enzymes are full of prana. Processed foods are lifeless and have none of their vital life force left; their life-breath has been taken away. If you consider the adage “you are what you eat” then eating foods that are clean, organic and full of life’s energy impart a healthy, clean and radiant glow.
For some of us, the decision to become vegetarian or vegan is an easy one, but for others the decision and transition may seem difficult. The best thing you can do is take it slowly and honor your body throughout the process. Make note of how you feel when you add more pranic foods to your diet. Most say they feel lighter and clean.
Easy tips to get you started:
1. Eat more organic fruits and veggies. They are full of life force and nutrition. Buy locally for a few extra karma points.
2. Eat less processed foods and when you do, choose those with the fewest ingredients.
3. Read! There are tons of wonderfully simple vegetarian cookbooks out there. Add one or two wholesome recipes a week and you will begin to feel amazing in no time.
Jess Lewis-Peltier, ‘The Holistic Yogini‘ is a naturopath, biochemist, herbalist and yoga teacher living in southern California. Facebook Jess and follow her on Twitter.