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Ahimsa, the act of practicing non-violence; which clearly falls into many aspects of lifestyle as it is one of the Yamas - our attitudes toward the environment/aka basic guidelines for living a life of personal fulfillment in which benefits society. The most popular conversation piece revolving around the topic of ahimsa, however, usually involves an uncomfortable discussion between two groups of people:
Ahh, the great debate! ...I'm uncomfortable just typing about it!
Yeesh. Well what is the right way? How can you eat like a yogi? Here are a few well known yogis'/yoginis' thoughts on the topic!
Group 1 - The Meat Eaters
Ana Forrest, founder of Forrest Yoga, says that she has tried eating a vegetarian diet for several years and it didn't work for her body. "I was very attracted to vegetarianism and the philosophy of nonviolence for years, but the diet made me sick," she says. "I'm allergic to grains. I gain weight, my brain shuts down, and my bowels stop working. And my yoga practice does not improve."
Yoga rock star Sadie Nardini, founder of Core Strength Vinyasa, practices a similar dietary approach. She views ahimsa as practicing non-injury by first taking care of yourself. "To deny your body what it is asking for and needs to remain the most vital, is to Self-harm, and that is where the Ahimsa practice is supposed to begin."
Group 2 - The Vegetarians
Sharon Gannon and David Life, founders of the Jivamukti Yoga Method, feel that veganism is the only way to truly practice ahimsa. Sharon says, "If our food choices cause suffering and disease to others and contribute to the destruction of the environment and ultimately to our own demise, then perhaps it is time to question what we are eating." David says, "One's suffering is another's suffering. In the Yoga Sutra, it doesn't say be non-harming to yourself or people who look like you. It just says do no harm."
B.K.S. Iyengar, creator of Iyengar yoga, says that being vegetarian is a necessity to the practice of yoga. He feels that the practitioner of Yoga has to adopt a vegetarian diet in order to attain one-pointed attention and spiritual evolution and that food should be taken to promote health, strength, energy, and life. "I can tell you that in the western countries, the way I live was an example to them to turn to vegetarianism."
Personally I fall into group 2 as a vegetarian. I feel my best when I don't eat meat and I think that my diet does follow the "guidelines" of practicing ahimsa. But I also feel, if I may quote the wonderful (not to mention strict vegan) Seane Corn for a moment, that "Living in judgement of other peoples’ choices is absurd."
Now it's your turn. Where do you fall in the spectrum of yoga diets? How do you feel about the term "non-violence"? And what does ahimsa mean to you?
The practice of Ahimsa has always resonated with me. Possibly because for me, it's an easy one to understand, and because I feel it's a noble goal to work toward and that I SHOULD work toward that. On the days I remember to focus on it, I always feel better about my interactions and actions throughout that day.
Monday was one of those days for me and I was doing SO well! Probably one of my best Ahimsa days. And then I got home in the afternoon and there was a big, ugly cicada sitting on my driveway. To say the least, I am not a lover of the cicada. Without thinking, I smashed it dead. Sigh. That was probably not my best Ahimsa moment. But I'm working on it!
The vegetarian/non-vegetarian debate is a strange one to me, for the exact reason that Seane Corn states. I'm always a little surprised (and exasperated) by meat-eaters that are annoyed or offended because I’m a vegetarian. I’m not upset with them for eating meat, I feel that would be pretentious and wrong-intentioned.
Out of all the goals of yoga, I believe that Ahimsa is ultimately the way I want to live my life. I have no doubt that it will take me that whole life to become close to getting it right.
Thanks for posting, Grace :)
Stanci, I totally get what you are saying. I am the same way with creepy, eight legged creatures. Bleck! Again, maybe not such a good example of practicing ahimsa. lol. "
You bring up a good point that many people tend to conveniently skip over. There is so many people throwing a fit about vegetarians being "all holier than thou" about meat eating yogis; however I feel that as a vegetarian I am judged quite often as being a weirdo because I don't eat meat.
Either way, judgement is (like you said) pretentious and wrong intentioned. Thank you so much for sharing your views! :) Namaste!
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