Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Link Between Vegetarianism and Yoga

I began my yoga practice a couple of years ago and have found it a wonderful way to get in shape. Yoga combines physical fitness with spiritual development, thereby offering a full body and mind workout. The benefits of yoga can be brought “off the mat” as they say – and be incorporated into your life outside the practice.

But what’s it got to do with vegetarianism? A lot, for me. A considerable focus of yoga instructors’ narratives involves oneness between the student and nature – between the yogi and all living beings. The word “yoga” itself means “union with God”. A true, unconditional union must begin with compassion. I feel renewed enthusiasm when an instructor prompts me to connect to all other living beings on Earth, from ant to antelope or bee to buffalo. Satisfied that I don’t kill or eat them, this reminder brings a warm sensation in my heart where rote routine has settled in. The mindless rebuff of meat products is replaced by the passion I had to stop in the first place.

Logistically it makes more sense to practice yoga on a vegetarian stomach. Moving energy around your body is a lot easier without the toxins of carrion and sinew putrefying in your belly and bloodstream. The relaxed sense of purity instilled by a cruelty-free diet enhances the heat produced from the poses.

Of course, many of the poses are named after animals. The Downward-Facing Dog pose is the most commonly seen – but there’s also one for our pigeons, cobras, eagles, fish and others. These weren’t developed while eating animals, they were developed by watching them to learn what wisdom our creatures have to offer. Yoga encourages you to mimic animals, not conquer them.

New Milford’s yoga studio, Harmony Yoga in New Milford has a great selection of classes. If you can’t make it to the studio and would like to practice in the privacy of your own home, Yoga Today offers access to tons of online classes for $9.99 per month.

I find that a healthy, meatless diet is perfectly complemented by compassion-based spirituality and “right intention”. Yoga is the ideal side dish to a vegetarian lifestyle.

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