To Veg or Not To Veg...
Let me start this blog post off by saying that I am not vegan or vegetarian, though I do primarily eat vegan and vegetarian. I am not one to subscribe to one specific way of eating, as I have found that a diverse range of foods within my diet promote optimal health for my body. I believe in eating mindfully and healthfully, always being conscious and aware of what I put in my body, where it comes from, and how it is grown or raised. That being said, I do on occasion eat meat when I feel as though my body is in need of the nutrients, yet it's definitely not a regular occurrence.
Within the world of yoga, we often hear about the benefits of a vegetarian diet and lifestyle. This discussion has been going on for many years, dating back to historical yogic texts including the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita specifically states that sattvic foods (milk, butter, fruit, vegetables, and grains) "promote vitality, health, pleasure, strength, and long life." While rajasic foods (meat, fish, alcohol) "cause pain, disease, and discomfort."
Along with the obvious health benefits that coincide with reducing ones meat intake, some believe in the karmic benefits as well. Like I discussed briefly in my blog post last Monday, the yoga philosophy of ahimsa is something that serious yoga practitioners take to heart. Ahimsa means non violence, not to injure, not to harm, compassion. We can relate this word to ourselves, to others, to animals, to the earth, and to the spirit realm. How we act, what we think, the words we speak, the foods we choose to eat, the way in which we treat those that are no longer with us. When actively practicing ahimsa, in accordance with the remaining limbs of the yoga practice, we help to clear out the accumulated bad karma we have acquired in hopes of ultimately reaching liberation. It is believed by some that by choosing to not eat meat and animal products, they are practicing just one form of ahimsa, which will help facilitate their spiritual growth and journey.
There are countless reasons for why yogi's and non yogi's choose to become vegan or vegetarian, all of which are legitimate and important. We as humans can never negate what works for someone else and what doesn't. Some people truly thrive on a fully vegan diet, I however feel quite sick when I eat predominantly vegan for long periods of time. Some people feel light, comfortable, and healthy when they eat vegetarian foods, other people become tired and anemic. Some people feel strong and full of life when they eat meat on a regular basis, others feel as though their digestion gets slowed and they are unable to eliminate properly. We're all so drastically different! To say that one specific diet will work for everyone is like those silly yoga clothing brands (you know who you are!!!) that say one size fits all... It's just straight up not true!
Yet regardless of what we choose to put in our bodies, I believe the act of mindfulness is the most important. My red blood cell count has a tendency to drop if I do not have enough protein in my diet. Therefore, I supplement my body with vegetables, legumes, cheese, yogurt, and nuts as much as possible. Yet, when that is not sufficient, I will eat small amounts of meat in order to give my body what it needs. I try to be as mindful as possible about what kind of meat I choose to eat, where it is sourced, and how the animals are treated. That's important to me! I live in the country surrounded by beautiful farms and gorgeous farm animals. I see them on a daily basis and always look for the opportunity to pet a cow, snuggle on a little lamb, or hold a baby chicken. I am mindful, always. Being mindful about what we put into our bodies is crucial to the health and well being of ourselves, our animal friends, and our planet.
If veganism is your thing, awesome! If being vegetarian makes you thrive, fantastic! If eating meat makes you feel healthy, go for it! Taking care of yourself and the vessel that enables you to walk through this world is significant. Yet do so with thought, attention, intention, and compassion... You're life will be better for it, I promise.