An Important Connection: Yoga and Veganism
Written by Jennifer Clary.
The concept of ahisma, which stipulates that people should strive to live in a non-harmful and non-violent manner, is central to the philosophy of yoga. According to a 2008 survey by The Yoga Journal, 7% of Americans regularly practice yoga. The logical conclusion from this poll is that the yogis accounted for in this poll recognize that ahisma is at the heart of the peaceful tradition they are perpetuating and strive to incorporate this principle into their daily lives. However, the reality defies this logic.
Whereas 7% of Americans practice yoga, only 1.3% of the United States population follows a vegan diet. An average American consumes a minimum of 31 animals per year, thereby contributing to the financial success of the violent meat and dairy industries. The contrast between the percentage of yoga practitioners and vegans in America reveals that many people hypocritically ignore yoga's peaceful philosophy while attempting to reap the physical benefits of a yoga workout. Perhaps a review of the important connection between yoga and veganism throughout history will encourage meat eating yogis to reflect on their ethics and give veganism a try.
Yoga is not just about gaining trim thighs and a lean torso. The practice of yoga is thousands of years old and hails from India. Patanjali, the father of yoga, is believed to have created The Yoga Sutras around 200 B.C. as a means of attaining enlightenment.
In addition to ahisma, which is considered one of the most significant principles of yoga, Pantanjali based yoga's philosophy on satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (sexual responsibility), aparigraha (non-greed), niyamas (observances), saucha (purity), santosa (contentment), tapas (austerity), svadhyaya (study of self), isvara-pranidhana (open-mindedness), asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breath), pratyahara (sense-withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (contemplation). In the section of his writings entitled Yamas, Pantanjali states that those who practice yoga should refrain from eating meat out of respect for the principles on which yoga is founded.
So why is it that so many yoga practitioners turn a blind eye to Patanjali's peaceful philosophy? In short, most people dismiss veganism as an option because they believe it will be too much of a hassle and because they lack the discipline to alter ingrained dietary habits. The refusal to adopt a vegan lifestyle is a mistake that causes people to miss out on the philosophical and spiritual benefits of practicing yoga. If people only take heed of asanas (physical postures), then they are not truly experiencing yoga; they are just stretching.
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