What I’ve Leaned As a Yogi Who Eats Meat

I’m not a very good cook.  I watch cooking shows with the same sense of amazement I have watching aerial artists.  I can’t go into the kitchen and make something fabulous with whatever is there.  I need to work from a recipe. I have some yellowed cookbooks that have served me well since college, and there are some great websites available for any style or odd ingredients that I’m trying to use.

I tend to cook vegetarian and definitely buy organic ingredients. I think eating organic, and locally grown, grown food is a responsible way to be kind to our environment. However, I am not a vegetarian.  I eat meat about twice  week.  When I eat meat, I am careful about the amount and where it comes from. I like to keep my diet as clean as possible, and as free from processed foods and chemicals as possible.  My diet mirrors my general philosophies which do not tend toward extremes, absolutes, or imposing my way as the only way.  

I was vegetarian for a long time but I found that, especially with the amount of teaching I do in hot yoga rooms, I was getting very tired, and I felt weak. My body and muscles were never fully recovering from the physical activity.  On the other hand, the quality of the meat I eat can also have a negative impact. For example, if I eat fried or fatty meat like a hamburger, I don’t digest it well.  I work with a preventive health and wellness doctor, especially since I am entering menopause, to determine what is the healthiest foods and supplements for my body and lifestyle.  In general, I feel better with higher amounts of protein, including small amounts of meat, than other people might need.  Ultimately, I think deciding how to feed and fuel your body should be based on your personal requirements, a knowledge of your body, and not what someone else tells you is right.

Within the yoga community the concept of ahimsa is often tied to vegetarianism.  Ahimsa, the practice of non-harming must start with not harming yourself.  Treating yourself well and fueling a healthy body are important pieces of ahimsa.  Any choices about how to feed your body, should be mindful and well considered, but ultimately they need to reflect compassion and care for yourself.

The practice of ahimsa is a good deal broader than not eating a hamburger.  I’ve given a lot of thought to this quote from  Autobiography of a Yogi“This world is inconveniently arranged for a literal practice of ahimsa. Man may be compelled to exterminate harmful creatures. He is not under compulsion to feel anger or animosity.”

Violence shows up in our lives from the fear that causes humans to go to war, to physically and verbally attack each other.  Violence shows up because we are out of balance from our over scheduled lives in which we mistreat ourselves, and end up erupting at others. We feel powerless in our own lives and we cause violence to others by trying to “fix” their lives and make ourselves feel better.

If we each work to conquer our fears, create balance, and reconnect to our personal power,  we would be making greater strides toward the practice of ahimsa than eating tofu.

4 thoughts on “What I’ve Leaned As a Yogi Who Eats Meat

  1. When I was doing my teacher training, our instructor told us that, for some, Ahimsa means being vegetarian or vegan, but for others, Ahimsa means eating meat, as they can do violence to themselves trying to follow a plant-based diet. Everyone is different, and isn’t part of yoga non-judgement? I cannot tell what another person’s physical, psychical, or emotional reaction will be to my lifestyle, or force my lifestyle on them. That is also violence. I can only follow the path that seems right for me.
    I think all of us are trying to get through the day. Some will do so with joy, others with pain, others with exhaustion, etc. To be honest, I don’t have the time or the energy to try and force others to live by my rules, lol! 🙂

  2. Vegetarianism has such a glowing reputation too but it is not necessarily as harm-less as it purports to be. Agriculture is one of the most destructive and polluting activities on our planet and non so much as arable farming. It destroys the soil, the waterways, animal life…whole ecosystems. Ironically enough we’d have a far lesser impact on our environment if we were all meat eaters. Herbivores are part of a natural system, one that existed before man and has a vital role to play in maintaining habitats. Grain cultivation is ENTIRELY man-made. The kinds of super fat, energy packed seeds (rice, corn, wheat etc.) we choose to eat only occur naturally after there has been some kind of local disturbance – a forest fire or an unearthing of the settled, perennials…without this ‘grain’ crops simply couldn’t get a foothold. They are nature’s ground cover. They beast in and cover the soil, scattering plant life abundantly in one season. We have destroyed entire regions by overhauling the soil and planting these crops (America’s dust bowl) – they are hugely destructive. Animals, on the other hand, balance and nourish ecosystems. They are meant to be there, designed to live with the grass and soil not against it as grain does. The vegan propaganda about methane gas is also a total nonsense since America alone sustained more wild Buffalo, Elk, Caribu and such like than farming ever has, plus it is not the cow, as such, that produces methane it is the bacteria in the cow eating the grass. Rotting grass alone produces mountains of methane – it is a product the planet is well adapt at dealing with. But go look outside through the window next time you fly anywhere – we have stripped the planet and turned it into a soy farm, a rice paddy and corn plant. We’d have natural grass-lands, prairies and woodland if we all ate more meat (assuming we would farm it properly of course) but grain can ONLY be farmed in a destructive fashion. Basically what i’m saying is this subject is too complicated, the need for specialised knowledge too great to simply follow the fashionable dictate that vegetarianism is pure and clean and good. It just aint so. It also requires all yogis and enlightenment wannabes to live in areas where vegetarianism doesn’t demand everything be shipped in – its not actually possible to sustain your body properly in the Northern Hemisphere on a vegetarian diet sourced entirely from within the locality. So…for me a pure diet is one where i know where my food comes from, is organic and respect is shown to the animals i eat.

    • Thank you Lisa for weighing in. So few of us know the proces through which our food is grown or cultivated. Being mindful about what we eat and how it got to our table is no small effort.

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