The Ethics of Yoga & Veganism. ~ Lisa Mitchell

Via elephant journal
on Jul 19, 2012
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“No true or lasting happiness can come form causing unhappiness to others. No true or lasting freedom can come from depriving others from their freedom. If we say we want every being to be happy and free, then we have to question everything we do–how we live, how we eat, what we buy, how we speak, even how we think.” ~ Sharon Gannon

On a recent trip to NYC, I had the honor of meeting Sharon Gannon and David Life, Founders of Jivamukti yoga. Not only did I get a chance to meet them, but I was taught the Jivamukti Surya Namaskar from Sharon herself!

It was a truly liberating experience, to be in the presence of such a true yoga master, and I look forward to further exploration of the Jivamukti method.

Yet, perhaps the most exciting part of meeting Sharon Gannon was that I got the opportunity to tell her how her book, Yoga and Vegetarianism, changed my life.

Although I have dabbled in vegetarianism off and on for the past 18 years, it was that book that convinced me that to truly align with the principles of yoga. One must consider being an ethical vegetarian (vegan).

In yoga classes across the globe, we hear the mantra, Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu, which translates to “may all beings be happy and free from suffering, and may my thoughts, words and actions somehow contribute to that happiness and freedom.” This has become a prayer my family says prior to every meal, as at our kitchen table, we are putting this mantra into practice.

I will outline briefly the yamas, and how they coincide with veganism, according to Sharon Gannon’s book. For newer Yogis, the yamas outline ethical yogic restraints, as described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.

1.  Ahimsa (non-harming)

This one’s obvious; the animals that humans eat are often tortured and, of course, killed. Therefore, when we eat animal meat and dairy, we are contributing to these violent practices. As yogis, we want to create the least amount of negative karma possible, to do the least amount of harm to others possible. Not to mention, raising animals for food creates more greenhouse gas than all the transportation (cars, trucks, trains, planes, ships) systems in the world!

Raising animals for food also causes more water pollution than any other industry. More than half the water consumed in the US is used to raise animals for food. Forty-five percent of the total landmass of the US is used to raise animals for food. An acre of forest land is destroyed every eight seconds to create more farms to confine these animals.

In the US, more than 80 percent of corn crops and 95 percent of oats are fed to animals that are raised for food. Most of these crops are genetically manipulated and laced with pesticides.

Through the practice of yoga, we realize the connectedness of all beings, and we strive to live in a harmonious fashion. Compassion is at work in ahimsa. Practicing non-harming is essential to create the karma that will ensure we live a joyful life. We cannot have a joyful and happy life if we continue to contribute to the harming of others.

2.  Satya (truthfulness)

According to Sharon Gannon, advertisements that portray animals living happily on a farm, grazing in massive green fields etc., are lies and deception. The media convinces us that we must continue to enslave and exploit animals.

”Some meat eaters say they are peaceful people and would never hurt anyone—they didn’t kill the animal.  This type of thinking is just an example of how disempowered and disconnected most carnivorous members of the culture feel.” (Gannon, 2008)

3.  Asteya (non-stealing)

The meat and dairy industry is founded on stealing. Stealing the mother’s milk, the animal’s meat, skin and fur, taking what is essentially not ours to take. To confine an animal in a factory farm is stealing its life. We must remember that animals have their own purpose for living, and it is not for human pleasures.

4.    Bramacharya (control of the senses, chastity, celibacy)

Animals on factory farms are not allowed to develop their own sexual relationships with animals of their species. Rather, they are raped (artificial insemination of a cow requires a human to insert its arm up a cow’s vagina) so that the cow remains pregnant and produces milk for human consumption.

Once the cows give birth, the babies are immediately taken from the mother and used for veal. Female cows are impregnated every year for four years, after which they are slaughtered for their meat.

5.  Aparigraha (non-hoarding, greedlessness)

When we have desires for ourselves at others’ expense, we are being greedy. The Yoga Sutras speak of living a simple life with a desire for simple things.

”Live simply so that others may simply live.”

Do not consume more than you really need. There is an abundance of research that supports a healthy lifestyle can be attained through the absence of meat in our diets.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

I encourage you all to at least consider these ethical principles and have a greater sense of awareness in the choices you make around the food that you eat.  I would love any comments or feedback!


Yogini Dana is a Philadelphia native, Mamma to two daughters, Hot Vinyasa Yoga Studio Owner, Co- Director of 200 Hour Teacher Trainings, College Professor, Vegan Advocate, travel lover, dog and two cat owner, Autism researcher…living the life of a Yogini to the best of her ability.  You can follow her studio, Dana Hot Yoga on FB and twitter, or join her in Puerta Vallarta Mexico January 12-19, 2013. Contact her at her studio, or through Facebook and Twitter.


Editor: Cassandra Smith

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9 Responses to “The Ethics of Yoga & Veganism. ~ Lisa Mitchell”

  1. Vasu Murti says:

    Here Are Quotes on Ahimsa or Nonviolence, from the Hindu Scriptures

    “You must not use your God-given body for killing God’s creatures, whether they are human, animal or whatever.”

    –Yajur Veda 12.32

    “One should be considered dear, even by the animal kingdom.”

    –Atharva Veda 17.1.4

    “Those noble souls who practice meditation and other yogic ways, who are ever careful about all beings, who protect all animals, are the ones who are actually serious about spiritual practices.”

    –Atharva Veda 19.48.5

    “By not killing any living being, one becomes eligible for salvation.”

    –Manusmriti 6.60

    “The purchaser of flesh performs himsa (violence) by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does himsa by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing. He who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts off the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells, or cooks flesh and eats it—all of these are considered meat-eaters.”

    –Mahabharata, Anu. 115.40

    “He who desires to augment his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures lives in misery in whatever species he may take his birth.”

    –Mahabharata, Anu. 115.47

    “Ahimsa (nonviolence) is the highest duty.”

    –Padma Purana 1.31.27

    According to contemporary Hindu scholar Satyaraja dasa (Steven Rosen):

    “Ahimsa loosely translates as ‘nonviolence.’ In the Vedic tradition, however, the word possesses a much broader meaning: ‘Having no ill feeling for any living being, in all manners possible and for all times is called ahimsa, and it should be the desired goal of all seekers.’ (Patanjali Yoga Sutras, 2.30).

    “The Manusmriti, one of India’s earliest sacred texts, says: ‘Without the killing of living beings, meat cannot be made available, and since killing is contrary to the principles of ahimsa, one must give up eating meat.’

    “The Vedas (Hindu scriptures) condemn more, however, than just those who eat meat. Equally guilty, they say, is anyone assisting in animal slaughter, sanctioning it, anyone who cuts the flesh, buys, sells, or even serves it. Only those who have not participated in any of these activities can be considered true practitioners of ahimsa."

  2. […] The Ethics of Yoga & Veganism. ~ Lisa Mitchell 20 Jul The Ethics of Yoga & Veganism. ~ Lisa Mitchell. […]

  3. This is a beautiful post! I exercise a lot but I do not practice yoga. I have been a vegan for almost 3 years and my own personal set of values seem to align with yoga philosophies. I guess this is why yoga and veganism go hand in hand as you so eloquently blogged about. Thank you for this post!

  4. kim amlong says:

    Thank you for helping to inform people of the importance of veganism for All Sentient Beings and especially for those people who are teaching yoga. Please follow the action of Diana Vitantonio. She is first teacher from Wanderlust who has signed the petition to “Say No to Meat at Yoga Festivals”. I wish all the teachers would come together and pledge not to teach at festivals that are not at least Vegetarian. Thanks so much for your support and love for All Sentient Beings. Please don’t support cruelty, suffering and the destruction of the environment. Ask Wanderlust to take Meat off the Menu Today!

  5. kim amlong says:

    Please take the time to be informed by watching the best speech you will ever hear by Gary Yourofsky and then ask Wanderlust to Go Cruelty-Free or at least vegetarian today!!

  6. […] my years as a yoga practitioner, I’ve heard all the arguments for why veganism is a good idea. I’ve also made those same arguments. I used to be the one in the room telling students and […]

  7. Śāśwata says:

    This article is of absolute truth. Vegan is love ♥. It is among the most wonderful things I've ever read. This is what Yoga is really about. This is the core, the basis, the starting point and the goal, and the path. This is the way. This is real Yoga, the only Yoga.
    But there are evil agendas who have abused Yoga for the sake of evil actions, cruelty, rape, murder, torture, stealing etc. One of the very most evil expressions is the book "Layayoga : the definitive guide to the chakras and kundalini" by Shyam Sundar Goswami, published by Inner Traditions. In that book the author goes against all the good principles mentioned in this article, when he writes about food and how to take advantage of substances from enslaved and murdered non-human animals, for one's own egoistic "yoga" accomplishments and superpower attainments. Other examples of extreme evil and egoism/satanism are these articles:
    ~ Ravel Śāśwata

  8. […] What would it take to give me the conviction that I needed? […]