Is a Vegetarian Diet Essential to be a True Yogi?

“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”

-B.K.S. Iyengar

Let’s face it.  No one wants to see there yoga instructor at the nearest Burger King, chowing down on a Whopper with cheese.  As delightful as fast food once was to me, I realize that it not only goes against some of the basic principles of yoga, but it really weighed me down and was the reason for my constant stomach aches and lack of appetite.

I’m proud to say that I haven’t had a burger in months and I don’t plan on ever looking back.  I feel lighter, more energized, and more importantly just healthier. I’ve been eating mostly salads but I haven’t given up meat completely.  Is that a bad thing?

Patanjali’s first Yama Ahimsa is the non-violence of all living things.  There are many diets available that don’t include cattle breeding or any form of food obtained through abuse or slaughter of animals. I understand that some people are unable to give up meat for health reasons, but there are many different diets available.

  1. The Sattvic Diet– This diet consists of foods high in prana or life-force energy, designed to give you mental clarity and improve your physical health. According to ancient Ayurveda tradition, these foods include fresh, organic fruit and vegetables, whole grains and nuts, dairy products (obtained from happy cows), oils such as sunflower, olive, lentils, honey, and certain herbs and spices, etc. These foods are to be grown without using any pesticides and harmful chemicals which is very difficult in this day and age.
  2. Pescetarian– The pescetarian diet consists of eating fish and other seafood in addition to vegetarian foods, but not the flesh of other animals. Many people choose this diet for ethical reasons since fish and seafood isn’t considered meat or animal flesh. Some pescetarians eat dairy and eggs and some don’t.
  3. Vegetarian– Vegetarians eat, you guessed it! Vegetables. There are lacto-vegetarians that don’t eat eggs but are okay with dairy products, and there are ovo-vegetarians that eat eggs but no milk or dairy products. Most vegetarians also eat bread, as long as it doesn’t contain animal ingredients. The vegetarian diet is probably the most popular diet out there.
  4. Vegan– Vegans don’t eat any meat or any animal products such as eggs, honey, dairy.  Veganism can be described more like a lifestyle since vegans don’t use fur, cosmetics, soaps, or any products with animal ingredients.

Red meats and beef should be avoided not only for ethical reasons, but due to the fact they take a very long time to digest. You make yourself more prone to heart disease and other health conditions as well. Steaks, ribs, poultry, and other meats may be tasty but can really make you sluggish. I found it difficult to keep up with my yoga practice from feeling over full and tired.

There are a few other foods and substances that should be avoided also and are considered tamasic (which promote laziness and other negative effects). Fast food, frozen, processed foods, alcohol, drugs, mushrooms, and foods that are stale or unripe.

Rajasic foods are hot substances and stimulants such as coffee and tea. They are bitter, sour and salty that promotes an abundance of energy which makes the mind more difficult to control.

I don’t believe there is as specific diet that makes someone a true yogi. Many would say that a lacto-vegetarian diet is the most ideal but that may not be for everyone. There are some people that may follow a strict yogic diet but they are not kind, whereas a person that consumes meat may be one of the kindest people to ever walk the face of the earth.

It’s not my place to judge others. All we can do is our best and at the very least, eat meat that wasn’t obtained from an inhumane process. Namaste.

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