If you are into yoga, chances are you are also concerned with your wellbeing. You surely heard the catch phrase “my body is my temple”; you also probably came across the latest healthy diets, clean eating, or meatless mondays trends. So what to put in this body? And why our yoga gurus are all proning a vegetarian diet? Are yoga and diet linked?
In the 8 limbs path of yoga, Ahimsa is the first of five Yamas or ethical restraints. Coming at the forefront of the list, the ancient yogis were to include all Yamas and Niyamas (five of them as well) in their lifestyle before aiming at practicing asanas, the postures. Asanas only comes in the 3rd position. The expression we hear now: “taking your yoga practice off the mat”, was originally the first step in one’s practice, demonstrating the importance of sound foundations.
Ahimsa means non harming (‘Himsa’ = ‘hurt’ and ‘a’ = ‘not’) and non violence; that can be physical, through words or thoughts, to others, ourselves or Nature. Looking at all creatures with a compassionate eye, and non violent intentions, it is easier to understand why a vegetarian diet that consist in eating no animal flesh is widely adopted among yogis. Being kind to themselves, their peers and animals make yogis embrace ahimsa with both arms.
For those who wish to go one step further, there is the option to entirely eliminate of their lifestyle all animal products and to become vegan. This includes dairy, eggs, honey, animal derived substances in food, and lifestyle changes such as swapping leather or wool for cotton, hemp or man made materials; visiting farm and animal sanctuaries instead of zoos and aquariums; and preferring the use of vegan and cruelty free toiletries, cosmetics and household products.
With the increased awareness of mass farming conditions, environmental impact and a growing focus on wellness, many of us take the leap and switch to a vegan diet. This increase in consumer demand can be a business opportunity for some companies that are sometimes going through great length to bring to the market wide variety of alternative foods. Do the test and go check the Free From section of your supermarket or just pop in to your nearest health food store and count the array of meat replacement or the choice of vegan cheese. Hurray!
Not so fast! Is the principle of Ahimsa to not harm yourself as well as no other? Then why put processed food in your body, this body that you care for by practicing yoga and asanas? A vegetarian or vegan diet is focused on compassion and non harming others but you should really add yourself to the equation too and limit your intake of processed food. Using whole foods and preparing a meal from scratch are accessible tasks in our busy lives. Many online resources can help do just that. There is a wealth of online blogs that educate and provide easy and fast recipes including the ingredient or shopping list, online bulk grocery stores that deliver to your door or plant based food swap ideas to get you started.
Observe your energy level after your next meal and take note of it, be it burger and fries, mac and cheese or vegan curry?
Many yogi practice yoga for the health benefits associated to it, physical and internal health, improved digestion, strengthened immune system… Whole foods plant based diet benefits add to that.
So ask yourself what works for you, be curious and find your way at your own pace.