Via Hannah Siegle
on Oct 10, 2011
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Mention this word around here and you have a hot topic.

Almost inevitably if you have been in the yoga world for long, you have probably toyed around with becoming a vegan or vegetarian. Citing ahimsa, which means to “do no harm” or non-violence, animal products are thrown by the way-side and a plant based diet is assumed. Lots of beans, lentils, grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and oils are consumed with the majority of protein coming from beans, lentils or perhaps soy based products.

Read any of these hotly debated posts and you will see die-hard vegans preaching that everyone should follow their way, as well as omnivores annoyed with the harsh judgement of those who have adopted an animal free lifestyle, which to really be vegan should not include leather or any other product where animal-testing is used such as over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs.

So who is right here and do we really need to make this a dualistic issue?

Everyone’s body and dietary needs are different. There is no one way to eat and what is right for your body one day may not be right the next. Our digestive systems have their own brains. Regardless of what our mind says, our bodies may differ and to neglecting to listen to our own bodies is in truth ahimsa.

My case:  I have long struggled with dietary issues as well as an eating disorder. After a lot of experimentation as well as period of vegan and vegetarianism I have had to reintroduce a small amount of animal products into my diet, mostly in the form of fish or turkey and all organic. While I wanted to avoid consuming animals my body and the brain in my digestive system say otherwise. I simply can’t digest much of what a vegan or vegetarian would need to consume and with intolerance’s to gluten, soy and various fruits and vegetables I have very few food options. Even consuming the correct amino acids to make a full protein doesn’t mean that I will be able to use it. My body has a lovely ability to not absorb some of the nutrients that I consume.

While I don’t enjoy eating animals I recognize that I have to in order to be healthy. Should I neglect myself, causing this animal harm in order to save another? Each time I sit down to eat an animal I thank it for its’ life and honor what it is about to give to me. Am I wrong to do this?  I don’t think so.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Would you harm yourself to save another?

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About Hannah Siegle

Hannah Siegle began to do yoga four years ago initially for the physical practice, however she quickly discovered that the yoga began to do her in ways she never anticipated. The mind, body and spiritual connection that yoga cultivates has helped Hannah through the ups and downs of life, both large and small. She regularly blogs at Balancing on Two Feet on topics such as yoga, mindfulness, eating disorder recovery and all those things people don't like to talk about. She was trained at the RYT 200 through Laurel Hodory and is currently working towards becoming a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist. She teaches yoga throughout Central Ohio with GoYoga ,yogaServe, and also works as an Assistant Editor for the elephant journal!


13 Responses to “Vegan?”

  1. For me, would I put my physical health at risk in the name of not killing animals? So far, I have been able to wean meat out of my diet, and am getting to a point where i am almost vegan. I feel great. If I didn't feel great, I think, for me, it would be a no-brainer. I would go back to eating meat. Do I want to incur needless suffering on animals in this process? No, but the debate can be made that any killing of an animal is an incurring of needless suffering. This scratches the surface of the vegan argument. This is such a difficult issue on so many levels.

  2. Andrew-thanks for your thoughtful reply! Lots to think about and yes there is so much that goes into all of this debate.

  3. Thanks Kate. This debate is so many sided and it is hard when ethically you struggle with what you must do healthwise. I view it all as a journey and an ever-changing one at that.

  4. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Thanks for writing this Hannah! Indeed this is a controversial topic with a zillion opinions and points of views and I love discussing it! 🙂 I am vegetarian – nearly vegan (although I find it EXTREMELY difficult living in Denmark – being vegetarian here often means you still eat bacon – LOL). But, when we talk about ahimsa, wouldn't that include the violence the animal(s) undergo when being slaughtered?

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  5. Sunil Sharma says:

    @ Kate, one more thing i.e. while you are vegetarian you don't have to bear burden of unnecessary violence to animals. But I am not sure that non-vegetarian will accept this logic.

    In Hindu tantra food is an important part of sadhna (rituals) in which everybody has to follow a strict discipline of living, food and everything. That’s why Indian yoga guru instruct for vegetarian food and vegan lifestyle instead killing animals. In Hindu and Buddhism it is assumed that our food is the source of our thoughts and karmas, so we should follow vegan to purify our thoughts.

  6. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  7. Suri kate says:

    Hi hanna
    I can say i am with you on this one , i was a vegetarian for 8 years a vegan for 2 years and it really didnt work for me…. I can tell you that even though i did everything by the book , my body just couldnt get used to it and after a few years i got very , very sick … My immune system crashed , i lost a lot of weight , had calcium and other vitamin deficiencies and as if this wasnt enough i got an ovarian tumor thar was estrogen receptive , which means it probably got as big as it got from "feeding" from all those fitoestrogens that naturally come with a soy rich diet … in 2007 after having my right ovary removed and only because the doctor advised to i started eating meat …. Still four years later im still suffering the consequences of a very bad choice i made and i still regret it greatly …i do feel bad for the animals though but my health comes first , you cant enjoy life when you are sick all the time…. So , would i run inside a burning building to save the lives of the people inside? Im sorry but the answer is no , i wouldnt risk getting burnt or getting killed to save someone else's life but i would definitely try to get help .
    I really thank you for approaching this subject in such a nice , respectful way.

    Ps. Im sorry to say this but being a vegan is such a pain in the ass , you cant eat a decent slice of chocolate nonvegan cake without feeling guilty! No way ! I love cake , and cookies and mmmmmm cheesecake!!! Yum yum yum i will never look back!

  8. Yes Tanya, it would include the ahimsa that animals undergo, but in my mind it become weighing one ahimsa on animals towards the ahimsa towards yourself.

  9. Hi Suri! Thanks for your input. You are a great example of why this lifestyle is not for everyone. You were committing ahimsa towards yourself. I'm glad you are doing better! Have you looked into Ayurveda at all?

  10. Have you ever seen the bumpersticker: "I'm not a vegetarian because I love animals; I'm a vegetarian because I hate plants!" 🙂 You make a good point!

  11. boulderwind says:

    I love this article. My sentiments and thoughts exactly. I was veg for 20 years, 5 of them vegan. I suffered from chronic fatigue and adrenal exhaustion and overall spaciness. Once I added meat back into my diet , all of those syndromes improved and healed completely. I get really irritated with righteous vegans anymore…. been there, done that, it didn't work. Period. And I am VERY knowledgeable about nutrition having studied it at graduate level and also from a holistic health perspective. And I am a yogi for 25+ years. Ahimsa is not harming yourself. How can one really be in their power and do their life's work to help in this world if they are not firing on all cylinders?

  12. Suri kate says:

    Yes thanks very much!

  13. I'm glad this resonated with you! You sound like you are on the same page as me!