Does doing Yoga mean I can’t eat meat, eggs or dairy?
5 things that Ayurveda has taught me and guides my choices.
Today we’re taking about two things.
Ahimsa and Veganuary.
Ahimsa is the yoga concept of ‘do no harm’ and something we’re working on this week a part of #takecare month. What that looks like in our home practice is making more use of blocks and straps, working into postures with compassion, not forcing, criticising, judging.
It’s also ‘Go Vegan in January’ month… or Veganuary.
According to an article in The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/05/veganuary-record-number-people-pledge-eat-vegan-food-january
a record 500,000 have signed up to eat only plant-based foods for the month. 125,000 of them from the UK.
The reasons for cutting out meat include
- reducing suffering to animals
- improving health
- reducing the damage that food production does to our environment
If you look at how food companies, supermarkets, the media have responded to the groundswell of people seeking more sustainable, healthy, less harmful ways of eating, it seems pretty much everyone is accepting plant-based eating is a good path to walk down.
At last, more people are waking up to a new reality about where food comes from. They are checking up on how it’s sourced, how it’s raised, what’s it taken to get to their plate.
Organic has become a mainstream word and there’s plenty of studies out there that that say a more plant-based diet is good for us.
But does that mean meat is off the menu?
And as a practice that promotes non-harm to all living things, does doing yoga have to mean a life without fish and chip Friday, fried eggs in the morning or a dairy ice cream at the seaside in the Summer?
Here are 5 things that Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, has taught me and guides my choices.
- No one food is fit for everyone at all times and all places.
- The life of all living beings is food and proper eating is at the heart of creating healthy tissues.
- Some foods don’t like each other, some support each other’s digestion. What are you combining your food choices with? Your choice should always be on what is digestible. (Listen to your gut!)
- Natural as a word to describe your food must be amended for those of us who are living in an unnatural world. We must question if food grown with chemical fertilisers or grown with agricultural chemicals is natural. (That applies to your veggies and your side of beef!)
- The eating of meat is ok because ‘in all circumstances one must safeguard one’s life’. But when there are other means, or the purpose of killing an animal is merely to ‘fatten’ yourself, the violence of that act becomes wrong.
In the book Ayurveda by Robert, E, Svoboda it speaks of an Ayurvedic text the Sutra Sthana. In it it’s writer Charaka says no one should ever get habituated to meat and its daily use and limited to ‘those who exercise constantly and indulge in women and wine, to prevent them becoming weak or falling ill’.
That might make it sound like most of the western world, but even then it says meat should be the condiment, consumed as a broth or soup rather than a steak or chop.
And on top of that, it states that one must avoid the meat of fat, emaciated very old, or very young animals, or from an animal that was not slain while ‘roaming in its natural habitat’.
On my introduction to Ayurveda and the idea of food as medicine, that got lumped into one term. ‘Happy Meat’. Which pretty much eliminates most of the animals that are reared in our modern-day world. A lot of our animals are far from happy, living in very unnatural surroundings and are being pumped with hormones and antibiotics that ultimately end up in our digestive system to be processed (or not). Not to mention the stress hormones and chemicals that are brought on when the animal is slaughtered, which Ayurveda reminds us, makes it unfit for human consumption.
How are you digesting this information? It’s interesting right?
But think about it. Your plant-based meat free patty may sound healthy, but how was it processed what is in it that will bring life to you?
An animal’s life was sacrificed to take centre stage at Sunday Dinner. But do you ask how that animal spent its days and do you honour the life that it has given you as you digest it and as its tissues and the information within them becomes your own?
We are all individuals, beautifully carved of nature in nature. Just as I teach on the mat, there is no one size fits all solution, because there is no one of us the same.
What you eat could be nectar to you, and poison to me. Ask any Celiac.
Your job as a yogi is to discover who you are, your true nature and what you need to thrive and fulfil your purpose in life.
So stay curious and always question what works and what doesn’t. Know when to course correct and just like the props we reach for in practice, find support where you can.
If we lean into our choices with awareness and compassion, we will find our own way, with the support that we need.
I hope that serves you.
Here’s the podcast version. Listen in your own time and let me know what you think in the comments below.
WAYS TO JOIN US.
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3. Check out our next returners,’ or beginners’ online class Begin | Again.
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