» Does Yoga Demand Vegetarianism? Mas-india.com Blog

September 21, 2010 on 11:00 am

Dear Spiritual Explorer: Does one have to be a vegetarian to practice yoga? Michelle T. Nashville, TN


Yoga and Vegetarian by Sharon Gannon

Dear Michelle: The concurrent practice of yoga and vegetarianism is wonderfully supported in a book by Sharon Gannon called Yoga and Vegetarianism with a foreword by Ingrid Newkirk, founder and president of PETA, People for the Ethical treatment of Animals.

Ms. Gannon is an animal activist and makes a compelling argument, both for yoga and vegetarianism. She is one of those vegetarians who don’t eat meat, fish, milk or eggs. Her thesis is that the very substance of our body is enacted from the food we eat, and what we eat determines how we perceive and relate to others. This includes, says Ms. Gannon, not using others (animals) in such a way as to exploit them, thus influencing our opportunities for enlightenment in these physical bodies. This of course speaks to the very practice of yoga. She adds that yoga is a tantric practice, wherein we hope through the yoga practice, to merge with our Spirits. Since we attempt to influence our spiritual practice through the use of our bodies, if we continue eating meat, this would oppose the very force of Nature we are hoping to connect with since animals are the very stuff of Nature. That in a vegetarian nutshell is the underlying content of this book.

I have personally found is that there are many types of vegetarianism. Some people who eat fish think of themselves as vegetarian because they are not eating meat anymore. Then there are those who don’t even eat dairy or eggs and live on nuts, beans, veggies and grains, happy in their choices. When you start dealing in more subtle yoga realities such as meditating and pranayama, I think you just naturally want to put more refined substances in your body. It seems natural when people begin the practice of yoga, they gradually cut down on their meat and fish consumption, just naturally through the practice of yoga.

When I began to think of spirituality and yoga, it was a natural choice for me to stop eating meat. I felt that I couldn’t do a spiritual practice of yoga if I were to continue my former lifestyle. However, I am sure you have heard of the Tibetans, a very spiritual culture, who live on meat, necessarily so because of the extreme cold of their clients. For that and other reasons and experience, I don’t necessarily equate the eating of meat with lack of spirituality or think that those who do not eat meat are more spiritual. In fact, I have known many people who continue to eat meat or fish, practice yoga and live quite worthy spiritual lives.

Ms. Gannon also holds us to a higher level of standards. She points out that when one practices yoga, one naturally begins to adhere to a different consciousness and conscience. It is difficult sometimes in that instance to not be hypocritical when some of our yogic ideals conflict with the eating of meat, wearing fur or serving hot dogs to our children. In her book Yoga and Vegetarianism, she encourages us to ask ourselves if we are living in a way that is consistent with our yogic ideals. When we do the asanas of yoga, we are releasing stagnation and disease from the channels within the body, and thus naturally connecting with the cosmic force that connects us to ourselves and others within Nature. Yoga thus gives us the means to experience ourselves as part of a great whole, not as a segmented and disconnected entity within the universe.

Yoga and Vegetarianism is a beautifully written book from both a spiritual and animal activist viewpoint. Most importantly, Ms Gannon points out how yoga and vegetarianism are tools to get straight with ourselves. If we wish to be free, we must be willing to see how we continue to enslave ourselves and others; and when we liberate ourselves, we liberate others.

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