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To Meat or Not to Meat?
How Important Is Vegetarianism to Yoga Practice?

The phrase "You are what you eat" has never been more apparent than it is now in the Western World. In these overdeveloped nations, where a typical meal consists of such delicacies as a Big Mac, supersized fries and a Big Gulp, there are more obese people than there ever have been before. Most of them say they want to lose weight and get fit, but few act on it. Why are we all so lazy? Why do so many of our good intentions give way to temptation? Some answers may be found in Yogic philosophy.

(Article continued below.)

Those who practice Yoga on a regular basis are already on the right track. The Asanas, whether practiced in an Iyengar Yoga class, done Astanga style, or any other way you can think of, will build strength, flexibility, reduce stress and make you feel good in a hundred different ways. Those of you who are particularly diligent about your Yoga practice may be thinking about taking it into other aspects of your lives. Perhaps you have begun to meditate. Maybe you've been inspired to stop abusing your body with tobacco products. It could be that your general disposition has improved (Yoga has a funny way of doing that). Now maybe you're looking at the food you eat and realizing that your diet is something less than nourishing. You've heard about the Yogic type of diet, but it's not necessarily all that appealing - with all its food combining and restrictions it doesn't sound very tasty. And you have to become a vegetarian, which means no more steaks, hamburgers or Buffalo chicken wings, right? Stop right there. You're getting way ahead of yourself.

First off, just because you perform Yoga Asanas for an hour or ninety minutes two or three times a week, it doesn't mean you have to eat any certain way, now or ever. In fact, according to a recent survey on the Yoga Site, nearly two-thirds of modern yoga practitioners are not vegetarians. One of the most important aspects of Yoga is non-judgment, so you are free to choose whatever types of food you want to eat. If you do Yoga to stay fit - say, it's part of a cross training program in which you also weight train, run, or play sports - then any modifications in your diet are probably related strictly to health. Certainly a vegetarian diet has been proven to be of great benefit to those with cardiovascular disease - Dr. Dean Ornish makes a good case for that - and it can be of help to many other ailments, too. But nobody ever said that a meatless diet is always healthy, and in fact it can be detrimental if you neglect to eat enough protein, or if you still fill yourself up with empty (but meat-free) calories - items such as white bread and candy bars. If you are approaching Yoga from a purely physical standpoint, the issue surrounding meat need not concern you - unless at some point you do become curious about vegetarianism.

If your Yoga practice has spilled over into the spiritual aspect, however, then you may seriously be having second thoughts about eating meat. As most of you know, the Hindus hold the cow sacred. They respect this gentle, giving beast and do not kill it for food. But there's much more to vegetarianism and Yoga than that. Part of Yoga's eightfold path involves Ahimsa, or non-violence: harm no one through thought or action, and that includes all animals (yes, even fish and crustaceans). Avoiding the consumption of meat might involve a greater commitment than you realized at first (especially if you're a fan of shrimp and lobster). And, considering all the genetically modified food that's currently being invented, true vegetarianism may become increasingly harder to practice in the future.

Next page >> Eating Like a Yogi >> Page 1, 2

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