I am a foodie. And I care about what I eat.
I love animals and I care deeply about them.
I am a Yoga teacher. I am a Yogi. And I do eat meat – sometimes -.
I am not vegetarian and/or vegan. I try not to eat much red meat but I reckon cheese and fish are 2 things I can’t leave yet. I would say hence, I am closer to a flexitarian*
Now the real question is whether I should actually stop eating these foods I enjoy so much as food is my other passion. I am in a dilemma. What should I do? Should I feel guilty for not being vegetarian yet?
It is important to point out the difference first between yoga practise and yoga as a way of living, as the yoga practise is only one limb of the whole concept of Yoga.
In order to improve Yoga practise, it is known -as in any form of exercise- that wholegrain foods, fruits and vegetables along with healthy oil, improve the metabolism and help towards our digestion, energy and muscle mass. And a great part of vegetarian food is healthy in that sense.
However when we talk about being a Yogi, we explore more spiritual concepts.
Maybe we should start by what being a Yogi means. It is really complex to define as there are many traditions, some stricter than others, and everyone defines a Yogi in different ways. The reality is that we do not need to prove anything to anyone to ‘be’ a Yogi, we just need to feel it within, and in order to feel it we will probably apply certain techniques and adjust the way we live to walk towards that peaceful inner self feeling.
According to Sadhguru, renowned Indian Yogi anad Author’ being a yogi means to live without the coffins that people build around themselves. Yoga means union. It means you have breached the boundaries of the physical and have the ability to touch and experience everything in the universe. Unless a human being acquires this quality, they are somehow trying to hide from life’
Modern yoga is taught in many different ways, and many people have different concepts of what being a Yogi means. However, most of modern Yoga refers from the same source, the eight-limbed path to enlightenment outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
The first limb relates to the Yamas,which translates as moral disciplines, and it is formed by 5 different concepts, and I will go deeper on all these concepts in another post. Now, I want to focus particularly on the first Yama, Ahimsa, translated as ‘ non violence’, ‘compassion’.
Many people interpret this Yama as vegetarianism in a sense of not harming animals.This is only one way of looking at it. The truth is that every person can interpret it in different ways and there are many ways as to practise ahimsa. It is really hard for any human being to apply ahimsa at all levels and some may interpret it in different ways. As Sadhguru says being a yogi means to live without the coffins that people build around themselves, hence the ability to choose and have the freedom to do it without feeling guilty for our choices is key, as long as these choices are ethical. Now the big question is whether eating meat is ethical or not.
In this world where there is so much plant based food available, it has been proven that we do not need meat or dairy to survive. Different was in the ancient times when nomad people had to eat and hunt what they had in hand. Then eating meat, dairy, poultry, is a choice. But it does not mean that choice is incorrect or wrong, it is just your choice and you should just be in peace with the choice you are able to make today. It is not easy to change habits and move towards a more sustainable diet, but I believe everything is about balance, and if you eat meat, then maybe you could just choose some things such as eating only poultry from organic farms or where animals are treated well and sustainably. It is about making the most with what we can now.
If you are eating meat, perhaps building awareness around the source and the journey of your food can help to reduce eating processed foods and foods that were sourced inhumanely, and then you may be more likely to want to consume whole, plant-based foods or animal products that have been humanely raised. Before you take a first bite, express gratitude for the food on your plate.
Also, another way to practise Ahimsa is by non being violent with our thoughts, our thoughts about ourselves and our surroundings. We should have compassion for those that choose other options and other ways of living. If you are vegetarian and a Yogi, you could be practising ahimsa in relation to animals and that is awesome. However, if you question or judge those that eat meat, you are still not embracing the concept of this Yama as it is also about non harming and having compassion with others.
I personally choose to avoid red meat and poultry as much as I can, and practise Ahimsa to the level I can practise it now, but I do also have compassion with myself as on the other hand I really enjoy food and I want to be open to taste new flavours, especially related to dairy and fish. Should i feel guilty about it? The reality is that I don’t as I am doing my best to keep a balance between being compassionate with the rest but also with myself and my needs.
I believe at the end it is all about that, finding balance, being mindful and doing our best to be better every day. What do you think?
*The word ‘flexitarian’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014 and is defined as “A person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat or fish”. The definition in itself is problematic, because “occasionally” could mean once a week, or more, but the premise is to reduce your consumption of animal products. (Source: BBC)