Pose of the hypocritical excuse-itarian: yoga IS veganism »
I was halfway through writing an article on yoga as it relates to veganism when this article appeared in my inbox, courtesy of the head honchos at Vegansaurus. Suffice to say it only fueled my agni (Sanskrit for “fire”).
Sometime in the 1980s yoga took over the Western world. Suddenly everyone was in downward dog, from 20-something administrative assistants to hardcore fitness fanatics to stay-at-home moms to Wall Street suits. Yoga and its followers, myself included, have carried the practice into the 21st century and the culture continues to grow. I’m all for staying in shape, but what most folks overlook is that yoga is much, much more than a 60-minute workout. Yoga is upwards of 2,400 years old, and is deeply rooted into the spiritual world, leading true practitioners—or yogis/yoginis—to attain enlightenment.
Between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D., Patanjali, the “father of yoga,” wrote the Yoga Sutras, also referred to as The Eight Limbs of Yoga. The sutras provide yoga with a thorough and consistent philosophical base, and is considered the foundational text of Yoga.
The Yoga Sutras are (in Sanskrit and English):
- Yama (restraints or ethical disciplines), consisting of Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (sexual responsibility), and Aparigraha (non-coveting/non-greed)
- Niyama (observances), consisting of Saucha (purity), Santosa (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of self/holy scriptures), and Isvara-Pranidhana (devotion to God)
- Asana (physical postures)
- Pranayama (breath or life-force control)
- Pratyahara (sense-withdrawal)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (contemplation).
Ahimsa, the first yama, means non-violence/non-harming, or more simply, peace and love. Essentially, the true yogi believes that to kill or destroy a being is to insult its creator. This is about as black-and-white as it gets: unless you are vegan, you support the idea that an animal’s life is worthless and invalid in the face of our desire for its flesh and secretions. Breaking rule number one? Check.
At the Yoga Journal Conference in 2009, Dharma Mittra, a celebrated yoga teacher and director of the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City, stated, “It is a sin to eat animals. Why? Because the ability to put oneself in other’s place is the path to enlightenment. When you eat meat, you make your stomach a graveyard.” He added, “You must take compassion more seriously.” Sounds clear to me, but after reading Briana Ronglin's article "Yogis Don’t Have to Be Vegan, According to the Masters," it seems some people are sincerely confused about rule number one. Dancing around reality with very convenient information gathered from a panel of “Yoga masters that would make any devoted Yogi tremble with awe” from 2011’s Yoga Journal Conference, Ronglin outwardly eschews the very foundation of yoga. What’s worse, these “experts” only assist with their oblivious commentary. Ana Forest and Aadil Palkhivala both boldly venture into excuse-itarian territory, claiming that a vegan diet left them feeling “ill” and “sluggish,” and complaining about weight gain. Ana actually confesses to “rearranging her beliefs to accommodate the needs of her body.” Sounds to me like these two health-conscious “masters” didn’t pay much attention to basic nutrition at all.
Another expert, Seane Corn, is vegan. However, she states that “living in judgement of other people’s choices is absurd.” In theory, I agree—except when said choices have far-reaching consequences for my planet and its other inhabitants, my future, my tax dollars, my health care, and so on. Everyone agrees, of course, that the most realistic solution must be to indulge in “non-factory farmed” meats, or just a “sliver” of chicken if it’s “what you need to feel whole.” Absurd, indeed. If it’s acceptable to ignore the very first of the Yamas and eat another being’s flesh and secretions, what does it matter how happy or well-fed that being was before slaughter? Declaring that a yogic diet is made up of “whatever works for you” is in blatant and arrogant disregard of yoga’s most basic principles and foundations. Talk about bad Karma.
[Recommended reading: Yoga and Vegetarianism: The Path to Greater Health and Happiness by Sharon Gannon. Sources: Vegan Girl Next Door, ElephantJournal.com, Wikipedia, Vegan Outreach. Image via TwiggyJane on Flickr]