Veganism and yoga are mutually exclusive. However, when looked at from a philosophical perspective, it’s clear to see how their concepts are closely tied.
What Is Yoga?
The word yoga literally means “to yoke” i.e. to form a union. Through its practice (both on and off the mat), yogis can bridge the gap between mind, body and soul. Most people think that this balance can be achieved through the postures alone. But, the truth is, everything starting with the diet to finishing up with the proper yoga outfits play an important role here.
In the yogic tradition, food is seen as a tool. Its purpose is to help revitalize, cleanse, build up and repair the immune system. Typical foods in the yogic diet are plant-based, eaten as close to their natural state as possible and in a way that is least harmful to the environment. Some examples include:
- Whole grains
- Seeds and nuts
- Lightly steamed vegetables
- Fresh fruits
What Is Veganism?
Vegans believe that eating a strictly plant-based diet shows compassion towards the earth. When you decide to go vegan, you are also renouncing the confinement, abuse and murder of animals. It’s a direct way to remove yourself from the most common (but generally ignored) type of violence. This is similar to the yogic concept of Ahimsa, whose foundation is based on a philosophy of non-harming.
What Is Ahimsa?
Ahimsa is one of the Yamas (or restraints) of yoga. Fundamentally speaking, it refers to the absence of violence. This may translate to different things for different people. But, for most yogis, it literally means no harming or killing, especially in terms of food.
Veganism And Yoga
Ahimsa deals with your relationship to the Earth and all the sentient beings that live within. It’s because of this common core belief that so many yogis have chosen the vegan path. Five other connections include:
Connection #1: Great For The Body
Many yogis practice yoga for its ability to tone the body. But, it helps the body in other ways as well:
- Keeps the digestive system moving
- Cleanses the internal organs
- Strengthens the immune system
- Improves blood flow
Vegan diets are beneficial as well. In fact, they’ve been shown to reduce instances of:
- Heart disease
Furthermore, plant-based diets are usually easier to digest, lower in calories and higher and higher in antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. These are also likely to increase your energy levels.
Connection #2: Great For The Mind
Another benefit of yoga is that it relaxes the mind. And, because your body and mind are connected, the food you eat can either help this process or hinder it. Based on yogic tradition, the optimal diet to calm the mind is Sattvic and not surprisingly, vegan.
Connection #3: Increases Compassion
The teachings of yoga state that all creatures (human and animal) have the divine spark. This is perhaps why a number of yogis believe that you are what you eat and refrain from eating meat.
Connection #4: Boosts Awareness
The regular practice of yoga helps develop a higher sense of awareness. A sense that we are all connected to not only ourselves, but to all living things on the planet as well. Likewise, when you stop eating meat, your perception changes and you begin to understand that we are all indeed one.
Connection #5: Makes You Feel Good
Because of its ability to relieve tension, doing yoga feels just plain good. Likewise, undertaking the vegan journey, will make you feel and look absolutely excellent.
Your body uses a lot of energy to digest and get rid of the meats that you eat. Foods like quinoa, leafy kale and mung beans (on the other hand) are full of protein, minerals and antioxidants. They are also easy to digest. All these benefits will leave you feeling energetic and refreshed.
Veganism and yoga have a lot in common. From the physical (lower cholesterol levels, weight loss, etc.) to the mental (more patience, less anger etc.), their benefits cannot be denied. But, when you combine these concepts, things take on a much deeper tone that can significantly influence (in a positive way) your life. Namaste.