I have been practicing yoga for the past four years and noticed that most of the masters are vegetarian. This made me wonder if the practice of yoga requires a vegetarian diet.
But this is a huge debate within the yoga community. One of the rules in yoga is ahimsa (nonviolence). This can be interpreted in many ways and is often cited as a reason to not eat meat. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of hatha yoga’s oldest texts, states in a passage describing proper yoga practice : “food injurious to a yogi: bitter, sour, saltish, hot… intoxicating liquors, fish, meat,… etc. should not be eaten.”
However, another most important aspects of Yoga is non-judgment, so those who practice Yoga are free to choose whatever types of food they want to eat. In fact, there are many people who eat meat but practice Yoga on a regular basis. You don’t have to be vegetarian at all to reap the fitness and health benefits of doing yoga.
Admittedly, turning vegetarian would be much more beneficial to you and your practice of yoga.
Firstly, taking meat may affect one’s ability to relax. The Vedic philosophy states that meat consumption means bad karma. The person who eats meat absorbs all the unhappy feelings the killed animals had. All the anger, fear, pain and sufferings that the consumed meat contains, block the spiritual development of the yogi. On the other hand, vegetarianism promotes inner calmness and harmony between body and mind while eating meat has been linked with internal tension, disharmony and arousal of passion.
Another reason is due to ethics. The discipline of yoga suggests a pure (ethical) vegetarian diet, which facilitates the development of sattva. Sattva is a quality of love, awareness, connection, and peace with all sentient beings. Yogis believe that food is our first interaction with the world around us, and if we do not eat with a sense of love, connection, and peace, all other facets of our lives are inclined to suffer. When we take meat, we engage in Ahimsa – the “do-no-harm” principle that should be a part of the yoga lifestyle.
Also, becoming vegetarian is a much healthier way of life. Those who eat flesh are far more likely to contract cancer than those following a vegetarian diet. On the other hand, completely eliminating meat, dairy and egg products from one’s diet reduces the risk of heart attack by 90%. Amongst the people having a meat diet, there is evidence to support a higher incidence of disease states – such as heart disease, colon cancer, joint and muscular problem.
Vegetarianism also improves your flexibility. A vegetarian diet has been shown to alleviate arthritis better than our best medicines. In contrast, a diet rich in meat can harm joint health by triggering a slight and persistent inflammation in all joints
There are definitely health benefits to eating a primarily vegetarian diet, and staying away from processed foods. However, if you’re a meat lover, there’s no reason your diet should come into conflict with your yoga practice. There are more ways than ever to eat consciously – locally sourced, organic meat from grass-fed, humanely raised animals are available in most grocery stores. I love my diet of fresh vegetables, fruits and fish with the occasional meat dish.
Ultimately the decision to go vegetarian or not really depends on how you perceive Yoga. If you simply see yoga as a sport to combat stress and to keep your body toned, you probably don’t need to become vegetarian. There are plenty of studios that offer yoga routines for fitness purposes with almost no philosophy involved.
However, if you wish to use yoga to develop spiritually and as a whole person, going vegetarian is probably a great option for you.
My recommendation? Fuel your body with a diet that’s as healthy and natural as possible, whether you eat meat or not
Kat, 200hr Yoga TTC 07/weekend