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.

The Heart Chakra and the Power of Yam

“When you touch the celestial in your heart, you will realize that the beauty of your soul is so pure, so vast and so devastating that you have no option but to merge with it.  You have no option but to feel the rhythm of the universe in the rhythm of your heart.”

-Amit Ray

In Sanskrit, the heart chakra is called Anahata, which means “unhurt, unstruck, and unbeaten”.  The element associated with Anahata is air and is responsible for many feelings such as love, compassion, forgiveness, and love for oneself.  The Heart Chakra is the fourth primary one that is green in color.

I had no idea how important chakras were and didn’t take much time to learn them before I began practicing yoga. Since I’ve improved a great deal in my practice, I’ve noticed a constant tightness in my chest.

It seems no matter how much I stretched it, the tightness and strange feeling would remain. I meditated and focused on deep, long even breaths and still nothing.

I recently went to a yoga class and the instructor put much needed emphasis on our breath.  We also chanted Om several times throughout the session.  I felt an energy that I had never experienced before.  It was like I was on a different plane of existence.  The feeling was electric, like I was in another realm.  It was one of the best yoga classes I’ve attended.

After an hour or so, the feeling began to fade and I was back on earth again. I knew at that moment I never wanted it to end.  I wanted to reach the ultimate level of consciousness and stay in a constant state of blissful peace.

I was intrigued and began reading more about chakras and that’s when I came across Yam.

Yam is the cleansing mantra for your Heart Chakra. This can heal our physical and spiritual center and open ourselves up to love.  It can also heal past wounds and emotional heartache.

I’ve officially been chanting this mantra 3 times a day for 15 minutes. Not only is the tightness in my chest gone but I feel more calm and alive than ever.  I don’t want to overwhelm myself with too much chanting because it can bring on too many emotions that you have to be ready to handle.

For now I’m going to focus on Yam and eventually I will move on to each mantra for all seven of our chakras.  For anyone that is looking to heal past heartache or chest pain, or to open yourself up to love and forgiveness, I hope this article will help guide you in the right direction.

Namaste.