Most of us practicing yoga are doing so to increase our inner peace and sense of well being in the world.
Shifting to or keeping a vegetarian diet to help create a healthier body and a more peaceful mind can be a simple process. Just as we brush our teeth and shower to keep our body clean, often without much thought, so we can eat foods that keep us clean and nourish us on the inside as well, all while not harming ourselves, the environment or animals in the process.
As a lifelong vegetarian (and now a vegan) raised by parents who shifted to a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (no meat, fish or chicken) before I was born, I personally have never given being vegetarian much thought, until others ask “What do you eat?” And even the the answer is simple “Everything but the meat.”
I simply don’t see dead animals a food.
But for those that do, if you increase your daily intake of vegetables, nuts, grains and fruits, you may decrease your desire for meat. Recently I shifted to a vegan diet, learning that the dairy industry too causes great harm to animals.
Eating in a way that aligns with our values of compassion and sustainability is apart of yoga, just as much as the yoga asanas (postures) are and other aspects of the lifestyle (karma yoga, serving humanity, meditation, positive thinking and proper relaxation).
Ahimsa (non violence) is the first principle in the philosophy of yoga, establishing a base to keep the physical body healthy and mind less agitated.
Most of the yoga masters teach that it is difficult to control your mind when you are eating meat (there are scientific reasons for this including the adrenalin and hormones associated with the way the animals are raised and slaughtered) among others.
Hormones released by mammals that are under stress circulation through the body in the blood as in humans.
“Studies made of domestic farm animals (cattle, pigs and poultry), and of laboratory animals (dogs and rats) show in all cases elevated levels of steroid hormones, generally associated with adrenocortical secretions. Primary substances include adrenalin, cortisone-like secretions, and steroids which stimulate fear pheromone production. All of these are known to result in poor health and poor vitality. The study ‘Fear-Induced Animal Stress Results in Meat Causing Disease’ confirms this in food consumed by humans.”
Yogic diet is a vegetarian diet, one in which vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and dairy in small amounts are eaten in balance to create optimal health and vitality.
If you visualize the eyes of that animal looking at you when it was alive you will even for a brief moment remember it was a living being. Ahimsa (non violence) is the first principle in the philosophy of yoga, establishing a base to keep the physical body healthy and mind less agitated. As Dharma Mittra, a yoga master in NYC, also said in one of his lectures “If you eat food that is dead and fried, you will feel dead and fried.”
All of the myths and debates about why one needs meat have been disproven in this modern age and in fact it has been shown that vegetarian diet is healthier.
It seems also now that many are now “going green” by recycling more and being more mindful of eating organic foods, for example. In fact the most support one can offer mother earth is to eat less or no meat.
“You save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you do by not showering for six months!” as calculated by Peta.org.
This is true because Agriculture is responsible for 80 to 90% of US water consumption per the USDA ERS. It was also found that 2,500 gallons of water are used to make one pound of US beef (from Dr. George Borgstrom, Chairman of Food Science and Human Nutrition Dept of College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University).
Consider this as well: “animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.” For more facts and information such as this you can see the documentary Cowspiracy: the Sustainability Secret.
There are so many other reasons that eating a plant based diet helps the environment. For example Livestock is responsible for 65% of all emissions of nitrous oxide—a greenhouse gas 296 times more destructive than carbon dioxide and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years per the “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options” findings from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2006.
This includes harming animals from the oceans too.
Consider this fact:
For every one pound of fish caught, up to five pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill. That mans that “we could see fishless oceans by 2048” per the Science, “Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services.”
But again for myself, what is most important is to not harm innocent living beings that love and nurture their young, fear and tremble in pain and want to live and enjoy life, as us humans. The health and environmental reasons are also meaningful and important but I personally would not want to eat an animal that was harmed and then killed, when there is no need for that with plant based delicious and nutritious food choices.
With proper balance of the protein and nutrients your body needs, you can feel more energy and vitality. Keeping it simple, not eating too much or too little protein and balancing our meals with vegetables, grains and protein while making it appealing to yourself creates a diet that is “easeful, useful, and peaceful” as Swami Sachidananda used to say of what yoga and life should be.
So as you see, shifting to a plant based diet can not just spare innocent animals lives, but create more harmony within our own bodies, minds, the earth and the world around us. This is the practice yoga- to unite all that is in the universe and feel the harmony.
Enjoy this recipe for protein and delicious to have with steamed greens and/or salad for a healthy and simple meal. Note: you can also shave some fresh ginger to put on top before baking and if vegan, substitute butter for oil to coat the pan and put tamari on top of the tofu.
1 lb. Tofu block
good tasting yeast.
Slice the tofu in 10 to 12 slices. Melt butter in saucepan and add tamari to taste. Layer the tofu in a cookie sheet or large pan and then pour the butter-tamari mixture over it. Sprinkle some yeast on top of tofu and bake in oven at 375 deg. Far. For 20 minutes or until the tofu is lightly roasted and crispy.
cowspiracy.com ( environmental costs of eating meat facts)
Oppenlander, Richard A. Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. . Minneapolis, MN : Langdon Street, 2013. Print., “Impacts on Demand for and Quality of land and Water.”
Irrigation & Water Use United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 2013
Recipe from “The Yoga Cookbook, Vegetarian Food for the Body and Mind” by The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers. (Free online recipes from the Sivananda ashrams.)
“Discards and Bycatch in Shrimp Trawl Fisheries” UNITED NATIONS FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (FAO)
Author: Stacie Dooreck
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Author’s Own