In this thread I'll start posting some interesting articles I find about yoga and food. Feel free to add your insights, thoughts and recipes even.
Eat to Support Your Yoga You know your diet is working well when you feel your system is supported rather than depleted by your practice. By Mary Taylor and Lynn Ginsburg The practice of yoga is inherently individual, directly experienced within the solitary confines of the body's internal landscape. And why you choose to practice yoga is also personal, with as many goals for yoga as there are different personalities and life histories. But while you approach the sticky mat with your own unique body type, physical geometry, injuries, quirks, and habits, what you are ultimately seeking through the practice of yoga is the universal form. By working with your own individual patterns within the universal form of the asanas, what you probably hope to discover is a place of balance. Eating can also be considered a practice in which you seek universal balance. Like yoga, eating is a highly personal activity-you learn to adapt your needs to the many popular nutritional systems and diets. Developing a mindful eating practice can provide a ground that truly supports and nurtures your yoga. Read more
I believe a serious yoga practitioner will eventually gravitate towards a vegetarian diet. Most of the ancient text about yoga as well as many of the yogis (BKS Iyengar, for example) promote vegetarianism in order to advance in yoga. If done properly, a vegetarian diet goes hand in hand with a well-balanced yoga routine.
taunya I was recently talking with a yogini and he was telling me how important vegetarianism is for yoga but not many people are willing to make the 'sacrifice'.
I don't think being a vegetarian is a requirement to practice yoga or to be serious about yoga. I think it is a matter of balance and health. Some people need meat in their diet.
I had to prepare a dinner for a Buddhist lama who had been a vegetarian his entire life, but once he had diabetes, his diet had to change. He is now on a strict diet that requires he eat lean meat. As a Buddhist leader this went against his whole way of life, but he had the wisdom to understand how necessary it was to his health. He had to listen to his body and his doctors.
One's relationship with food is intimate and personal, and not all yogis/yoginis opt for vegetarianism. I consciously choose what I eat, and I always ate heathfully even before I began a regular yoga practice. I think practicing yoga has made it easier to make healthy food choices. While I have always leaned toward vegetarianism, my family does not, but they do respect my choice to limit the amount of meat that we consume at our table, and find their own ways to consume what they want.
I think the key piece is intention. I choose to eat meat, but I make sure to include a gratefulness component when I do. There's a long tradition of this in indiginous cultures around the world (thanking an animal for its sacrifice), and I don't see why the wisdom of it should be discarded in the "modern" age.
My experience tells me that the more unprocessed, the more LIVING, the food, the higher the nutrient, the better my overall being, including my yoga. Everyone is different, and so should follow intuitively, their path of nutrition.
But I must say fresh fruits, veggies, even raw goat's milk and other proteins, are so immediately nourishing. If we would go back to our original state of being, we would know precisely what to eat when and how. Yummy!
I really liked Samer's use of gratefulness when consuming meat, although it could be done as well for any food.
I do agree with you Cathy L.,we should give thanks for everything we eat whether it is veggies or other food.So let us be thankful we can afford to eat, there are those who do not have the privilige to do so,who go to bed hungry!
I am an omnivore and am grateful to the sources of my food for allowing me to receive nutrients in whatever form I need. For me to stay healthy, vegetarianism isn't an option. Not at this point in my life.
And I know many yogis and yoginis who are omnivores, too - vegetarianism doesn't have to be the only path.
No, a vegetarian diet is not the only path, but if you want the full benefit of yoga (union of body and mind) you should follow the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Yama (ethical disciplines), Niyama (rules of conduct), Asana (posture), Pranayama (breathing), Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (bliss). The yama's are as follows:
Ahimsa: (Nonviolence) Practice non injury. Do not harm people or animals. Follow a vegetarian diet.
Satya: (Truthfulness) Refrain from lying. Be fair and admit your failings.
Asteya: (Non Stealing) Do not take anything that does not belong to you. Control your desires and live within your means.
Bramacharya: (Divine Conduct) Control lust and remain faithful to your significant other.
Kshama: (Patience) Restrain intolerance and impatience. Remain poised in good times and bad.
Dhriti: (Steadfastness) Develop willpower and achieve your goals.
Daya: (Compassion) Conquer cruel and insensitive feelings. Be kind to everyone and everything.
Arjava: (Honesty) Maintain honesty, renounce deception and wrongdoing.
Mitahara: (Moderate Appetite) Do not eat too much or too little. Enjoy wholesome organic foods, avoiding animal flesh and junk foods.
Saucha: (Purity) Maintain a clean, healthy body and mind. Keep a clean home and maintain good company. Worship your chosen God devoutly. Meditate daily.
You can find more info on the 8 limbs of yoga in "Light on Yoga" and "The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali". It comes from ancient text, so you probably could find it in other books as well.
BKS Iyengar states in "Light on Yoga" that "The yogi believes that every creature has as much right to live as he has" and "a vegetarian diet is a necessity for the practice of yoga." (pg. 32) He's 87 years old and still does 1 drop-back for every year of his age...so I'd say the vegetarian diet worked well for him.
Other great vegetarian yogis: Paramahansa Yogananda, Dharma Mittra, Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (the father of modern yoga), Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois (founder of Ashtanga Yoga)...the list goes on and on.
Vegetarianism is not a requirement or the only path in today's society, but if it will better your yoga, why not research it and give it a try? I guess it depends on how traditional you want to be and how deep into the yoga lifestyle you want to go.
I admire vegetarians, but I am not a vegetarian. There are often days that I don't eat meat. When I order pizza, my husband is always kind enough to order half vegetarian for me. But he does order the meat-lovers on his side, and my children love Italian sausauge, but they like Mom's pizza too and often beg me for a piece of my veggie pizza.
The point behind the 8 limbs is to live a balanced life. If you haven't noticed, the 8 limbs sound like the 10 Commandments. Jews had very strict laws believing strict obediance to these laws made you spirtiual, but it only made them religious. Jesus taught about the difference between religion and spirituality. The Pharisees and the Sadducees critized Jesus for his disciples not washing their hands. He told them that it is not what goes into the body that defiles - it is what comes out. The meaning behind this is that it is our intent. Sometimes we get so wrapped up with the rules and the restrictions, we lose sight of our goal which is drawing close to God.
The rules are there because we need them to help focus our mind on God. We have to be careful not to worship the rules. A Buddhist teacher once told me that the goal was to no longer need the rules or the rituals because then you be enlightened. But in the meantime, the rules help us to live in the moment.
As I said in a post here on this thread, I had the honor of preparing a meal for a Buddhist Lama. He had been a vegetarian his entire life until he became ill with diabetes. Then his diet had to change or he would die. It was that simple. He doesn't really like meat, but he knows it is necessary for his health. He cannot eat red or yellow vegetables, so he does eat a lot of green veggies.
Do I think this Lama is any less enlightened now that he eats meat? Or do I think badly of the Dahli Lama for eating meat or Ghandi? No, I think their enlighment comes from their heart and from their intent of living a balanced life.
I do my very best to live by the 8 limbs. Thank you for posting them.
I have been following this discussion with some interest. I've been aware of the opinion that being veggie is supposed to be an essential part of yoga practice, but I have to say I can't see the logic, and this thread really hasn't made it any clearer.
I honestly can't see the link between a vegetarian diet and being better at yoga. I'm sure there are more knowledgable people thanme on this subject who can argue strongly on the point, but I remain to be convinced.
From what I see, there just isn't any evidence to support the claim.
When I think about my diet, it's probably made up of around 20-25% meat, and I eat a lot of fruit in particular. So, it wouldn't be a great sacrifice for me not to eat meat.
However - and this is the key - I like meat. It tastes nice, and adds variation to my diet and gives me pleasure.
It would appear from the more recent posts that some of the reasons for promoting vegetarianism and yoga appear to be spiritual. Speaking as an agnostic, again I find it difficult to see the link.
This is not to belittle those who do follow a religion, and I guess my opinions are going to be at odds with a lot of people here, but I do yoga because I enjoy it, and it helps me to relax, but I can't honestly say I've ever had a spiritual experience as part of the practice.
Having said that, I'd never heard of the 8 limbs thing until today, and it does appear to be a good basis for ethical living.
I Believe Einstein summed it up nicely when he wrote:
"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
I couldn't agree wit Tania more. I eat very little meat and it wouldn't hurt me not to eat it, but I do. I also am doing my best to live according to the eight limbs and continually self-study to be more aware and capable of understanding what works for me.
As has been said previously, food is a very personal choice and we all have our opinions about it and what works for us. The important thing here is that it is one of many choices and my choice is not necessarily your choice, and I respect that. One is not necessarily better.
Naturalist, chemist, expert in vegetarian dietetics. Honorary President of AVI Scientific Committee
Human beings use large numbers of animals for the food value of their meat proteins. The effects of these proteins can undoubtedly be seen in aggression, violence, hatred and moral insensitivity: we can therefore say that meat has a negative effect on human behaviour. The vegetarian, on the other hand, builds the foundations for an attitude of tolerance, gentleness, sociability and a spirit of sharing. Experts speaking out against the use of meat proteins can now call on support from the chemistry of neurotransmitters and from neurobiology, two scientific disciplines that explain how such foods cause certain human behaviours. As a result we can now act with greater certainty in our food choices, which to prefer and which to avoid. Among other things, we should reject the idea that violence is innate in humans: no-one is born aggressive or evil, but we can become so by eating meat.
Tony - The relationship between yoga and diet is more about consciousness...being aware of the body. Many of the asanas are designed to aid in detoxifying the body and others are for revitalizing/energizing the body and mind. Your diet can either help or hinder this process. Yes, yoga can be spiritual if you want it to be, but many people practice for just the health benefits and again, your diet can either help or hinder this.
Meat is heavy in the body and takes longer and more energy to digest (hence why a carnivor's digestive system is very short, unlike ours) while a vegetarian diet will help you feel lighter and stronger. With your body feeling lighter and less "weighed down" your poses will feel more natural, allowing you to concentrate on the breath and relax deeper into the pose.
A vegetarian diet provides energy and nutrients that come directly from the source, the sun/earth and helps speed up the detoxification process. Animal flesh is nurished from the plants it eats, so the benefit to you is second hand and increases the chance of toxins entering the body (growth hormones, mad cow, ecoli, etc).
My yoga teacher was a meat eater for 20 years and a vegetarian for the last 10, and when I asked him about this he said "It was like taking my yoga practice to the next level physically and spiritually. The change was sublte at first, but the more I became aware of my body, the more I realized that I had more energy during my practice and the poses just felt better. Many of my students have gone vegetarian and have had the same experience."
I've included some interesting articles on the topic...
Here's a section taken from a health website and can be found in Yoga Journal as well:
"Author and researcher Dean Ornish, M. D., has made great strides with his groundbreaking Program for Reversing Heart Disease, a lowfat vegetarian diet combined with yoga and meditation. The results have been so remarkable that the program is now supported by 40 major insurance companies as an alternative to cardio-vascular surgery. Dr. Ornish has been studying yoga for almost 30 years with Shri Swami Satchidananda. Life magazine named Ornish one of the 50 most influential members of his generation. "
And another from a yoga site:
"Vegetarianism is one of the principles inherent in the lives and teachings of nearly all the masters, I refer often to the "Masters of Yoga" as there is no organisation, body, or religious sect in Yoga. There are only the teachings and lives of those individuals who have wrestled with life and themselves, and have gained insight. Collectively their teachings are called Yoga philosophy and constitute the acknowledged practices.
Basically vegetarianism is recommended because through their own experience, the masters found that meat "stimulates", or rather "irritates", the human system. They point out that the meat eating nations are the most aggressive, and as they arc seeking to explore the deepest levels of their own nature and mind, they wish to avoid too much physical stimulation. This is rather like trying to look into a pool it is easier if the wind does not cause ripples to disturb the surface. The deeps are always there, undisturbed by the ripples, hut cannot he seen unless the surface is as a mirror.
Another reason for vegetarianism is that some Yoga practices aim at cleansing the system, and gradually bringing one's being to a peak of efficiency and sensitivity. Taking the analogy of the pool again, even if we managed to calm the surface, we could not see into the deep if mud and dirt were suspended in the water. The Yoga doctrines state that in the normal human body, even if healthy, an enormous amount of cleansing needs to take place if the person is to realise to any great degree their innate possibilities. In eating meat we are taking into our bodies Many of the toxins and waste products the Yogi is attempting to cleanse from his system."
Here are several article that might may also help:
Yoga and Food from The Yoga Resource Center
I hope this helps you understand the link between a veg diet and yoga on a non-spiritual level.
The word "yoke" comes from the ancient Sanskrit word "yoga". In the same way a yoke connects an ox to a cart, yoga is meant to reconnect the soul to its eternal source. The soul is vibrant and unlimitedly happy and always dancing. If I can disassociate myself from violence I will be more aligned with my own being and increase my chance to feel and experience real happiness even while still here in this world of birth and death. The purpose of life is to be happy. The best way to become happy is to fall in love. Love is the most powerful thing in the world. Yoga can help us experience the highest love by allowing us to reconnect with our inner divinity. By effectively and properly understanding how to practice yoga and reconnect with our divine essence we can truly become happy. A non-violent diet is a happier diet because it's more in line with our real eternal identity.
This post was modified from its original form on 15 Apr, 6:22
I am going to close this thread and request that we no longer post about being pro-vegetarian or pro-meat eater. I think this has been discussed enough and the end result is that it is a personal choice.
Thank you all for your comments.