I’ve been living a vegan lifestyle now for over two years. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done to my body, together with a regular yoga practice. It’s a true pleasure to see how my body thrives on this diet. Particularly in the first weeks after changing my diet I had outburst of physical energy that I didn’t know what to do with! I guess it became the new normal now. I can see the effects of the regular exercise & the conscious breathing; detoxified body systems that led to better skin, weight loss, a sharper mind & better concentration. In classical Hatha yoga (the original physical yoga) where we purify the body systematically, we can’t ignore someone’s diet. It doesn’t make much sense to purify the body through cleansing practices (Shatkarmas), through Asanas (postures; heat; sweat; removing neuro-muscular knots) and breathing techniques (Pranayama) without watching what we put into our bodies. Yoga is a holistic practice and thus has to go beyond the mat. I’d like to see more teachers & gurus talk about mindful eating habits. These are not limited to veganism but I’m convinced that every yogi should be vegan.
If we take the footage from slaughterhouses & animal farming practices seriously, it becomes clear that farmed animals suffer a lot during their short lives & during the process that takes their lives. There is a lot of violence involved in animal farming. This violence is not limited to chickens, cows & pigs but involves many more species that are being slaughtered for food & fashion. I have to mention the oceans here that are being emptied for profit. Not only animals that are being killed suffer immensely. The dairy industry separates calves from their mothers about which cows mourn for days. There’s no humane process behind milk production. Animals are sentient beings, just like us. Male chickens in the egg industry are being shredded because they are useless. To declare a living being as „useless“ crosses a line, I feel. There is no appreciation for life anymore.
One of the most profound principles in yoga is „Ahimsa“, non-violence (see „Yamas & Niyamas“ in Raja Yoga by Patanjali). People like to use this term to highlight self-care & self-compassion during a yoga class. Others relate it to thoughts, saying that it is good to observe the violent thoughts that we have against ourselves & others. This is true. But most teachers don’t extend this principle to a very obvious area of our lives: food. Wouldn’t Ahimsa mean to not support violence in any form? By buying animal products we either support their death and / or their exploitation. To some people it is acceptable that an animal dies for food, to others it isn’t. While I consider taking someone’s life per se as a violent act, I think everyone should be aware of the violence involved in farming animals. As yogis we can not chant our Aums & ignore the suffering we support everyday with what’s on our plate. It is an area where even small choices make a difference. This is the good news. Start with a vegan meal a day & you cause less suffering. Extend it to a vegetarian diet & less animals die because of you. By all means, please take your yoga seriously.
„Satya“, truthfulness, is another fundamental principle of yoga. Be truthful with yourself where you are in this process. Let’s be honest with ourselves. If we’re not ready yet to take the big step & to change our diet radically, can we please just say it honestly? I’d much prefer that to heated discussions about right or wrong.
Yoga and veganism. In yoga we cultivate awareness. And awareness expands naturally. Once we are aware of the animal farming industry – how can we support it any longer? Are we aware of the energy of suffering that is in our food? An animal who is in panic in the slaughterhouse, smelling the other dead animals, holds this energy in the body when it is being killed. We eat this. Chickens who can’t walk anymore because we overfeed them on purpose for profit – they suffer. This is in our food. Hens who have never seen the sunlight, imprisoned & treated like a good – they don’t lay happy eggs. They suffer while the egg is being formed inside them. Let’s consider all of this when we want to practice spiritual yoga, when we want to attain higher consciousness. For me this is not only a peace & love attitude & nice words I use to feel better than my surrounding. Yoga needs to transform our habits, our actions, our thoughts, our lives. Then it is spiritual because it brings us closer to our true purpose in life, because it helps us to unravel our true nature, our soul, & to live our light. Let’s practice spiritual yoga in depth & with humbleness. We are in this together. We need to fight extinction of species & the destruction of the rain forest together. We need to ensure that the oceans become plastic-free one day hand in hand. Some of us are ready to sacrifice a lot of convenience for this goal. We can all make a difference. Live your yoga. It simply has too much to offer to just practice it as a physical exercise! Yoga leads to union, to peace, with ourselves & our surroundings.
– Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu. –May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
(Ancient Sanskrit prayer)