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Yoga and Vegetarianism

Posted by Stephanie B.

In traditional yoga, a vegetarian diet is recommended as being ideal for mental and physical health. Do you think it is important to be a vegetarian to get the most out of yoga? I am personally not a vegetarian nor do I have plans to become one any time soon, but I can see how having a better diet (vegetarian or no) would be ideal, not just for yoga practice, but for life.
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Excerpts from an interesting article I found online about yoga and vegetarianism (I'm not a vegetarian anymore myself, for the record):

hose 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.

Good question.

There are some disciplines in Yoga that insist you cannot adhere to the concept of ahimsa unless you have a vegan diet. Often they are so vigilant that they violate the very principle which they advocate. When we are militant about something the very militance violates the principles of ahimsa.

But you ask about the diet. And I'll share this from the Purna Yoga construct. Just as the particular style of yoga must serve the human being so too must the diet serve the human being. Some people simply need to eat meat in order to be healthy. Other people should absolutely not eat red meat or pork. It is what that energy does in the body, for the body. It is the way in which the food empowers the being.

We teach that there are some foods to consume and some foods to avoid. This is for optimum health in the body and is based on scientific research, ayurveda, Chinese medicine, our own experiences.

I'm not a vegetarian but I do find more use and purpose in my life from vegetarian foods than I am finding from Chicken Terriyaki. I may never be vegetarian but I can ALWAYS be someone who considers what a food will do for my engine.

I'm not a vegetarian and I get a lot of benefits from yoga. I suppose to get the MOST out of anything, you want to do it 'perfectly', but that is simply unrealistic. It would be a shame for a person to give up on yoga just because they didn't want to be a vegetarian.
I don't practice yoga much; however I want to as my life permits. Being wife and mother of 4 is very crazy and routine is a foreign word when it comes to my personal time - my time is always subject to upheavels in this phase of life. so, i would like to do yoga more, i have done it off and on for years and know it's a great way to relieve stress, and strengthen the body and give it energy and vitality. it's wonderful. I have done martial arts, dance, and walk and lift weights. I am always shifting my activities. But - I am mostly vegetarian as i get older. I will eat ice-cream,and eggs, and poultry/fish,,, but the red meat i am chosing to avoid as I just cannot digest it without complications anylonger. I am much happier in a lactose free diet. I eat eggs rarely - so - mostly my diet is vegetarian. I eat lots of asian noodles, asian foods, whole foods, sprouted breads, and all whole foods from Sprouts etc. so- I'm an example of someone who does the Yoga - vegetarian thing - as much as I CAN. that is Ok, being like Orthodox about it is something i strive for but have to still live in the world of humans with my family and friends. so - i respect everyone's diets and mold my choices to my vegetarian goals.  Lately I've done really well at grabbing onto my No red meat, no dairy intake goals and am really happy with my progress. This is what it's about - becoming content with ones intake and habits and having the diet that best suits their lives.Great luck and peace to everyone here - at wellsphere.
I wouldn't say that you HAVE to be vegetarian to do yoga. It's better to do yoga and eat meat than not do yoga and eat meat. I think you would have a different experience as far as connecting with your body during yoga if you were vegetarian. There are so many health benefits, as long as you make sure your diet is balanced! Reduced cancer rates, less risk for obesity/overweight, a healthier heart, and reduced risk of diabetes to name a few. Many people experience an increase in energy as a result of a vegetarian diet as well. The combination definitely would be a good one :o)
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