According to ancient wisdom one’s physical and mental state is a reflection of one’s dietary habits. Traditional yogis see Yoga as being inextricably linked to vegetarianism. Ancient Indian Treatises like the Laws of Manu, the Bhagavad Gita and even the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali explicitly lay down the dietary guidelines emphasizing on a vegetarian diet.
Ayurveda classifies food into three types based on the effects it has on mind and body. Sattvic foods (fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, butter, grains) promote physical and mental vitality, good health, strength and a longer life. Rajasic foods (meat, fish, alcohol, spicy and oily food) invite disease, discomfort, pain and unhappiness. Tamasic foods (stale, overcooked, contaminated or impure foods)
Vegetarian diet, thus, promotes cheerfulness, inner peace and harmony between body and mind while meat consumption has been linked with internal turbulence, imbalance, and rousing of passion. By developing control and restraint over our taste buds, and refraining from flesh consumption we can gradually assume control of the inner chemistry of our body. These explanations stress the case for vegetarianism and have thus become the guidelines for a yogic living. Adopting a vegetarian lifestyle is touted as one of the easiest ways of enhancing and backing the mental purity that may be gained via yoga practice.
One of the prime goals of Yoga is spiritual enlightenment. Enslavement, abuse through lifelong torture, harming and killing of others is one of the biggest obstacles to the attainment of Yogic enlightenment. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra advocates the concept of “Ahimsa” or non-violence and compassion towards society and the planet. Ahimsa and compassion in its simplest form can be practiced by everyone at least thrice a day when we sit down to eat, by choosing to vegetarianism. This is one of the main reasons for yogis to choose a vegetarian way of living, as expressed by the renowned masters of Yoga, Sri B.K.S. Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, that a vegetarian diet is “a necessity” to the practice of yoga.
The ethics of non-vegetarianism, barbarism inflicted upon animals, animal-to-man diseases, toxin secretion during slaughter and lack of economical ethical sense in meat production are some of the arguments which tilt the balance of the entire debate between vegetarian and non-vegetarian in favor of the former. Apart from this, the research and statistics available clearly point towards the suitability of a plant-based diet for human body and its digestive system. A wealth of knowledge is now available online which lists out the benefits of a vegetarian diet vis-à-vis a non-vegetarian diet, including reduced chances of getting obesity, hypertension, heart diseases, diabetes, arthritis, dementias and most of the cancers.
The world over, livestock industry has emerged as the major contaminant of the environment. Billions of animals raised for food form the single largest contributor to global warming via greenhouse gas emissions, biggest consumer of our freshwater, land and food resources. The wastes emerging from the livestock account for over half of all water pollution. Being a vegetarian is the single most powerful step that the mankind can adopt to save the environment and tread on a path of sustainability.
To truly achieve that transcendental spirituality that Yoga aims to bring one to, and have a compassionate approach towards the planet, a vegetarian diet has been recommended by the Yoga philosophers throughout ages, is the best way to start with.
At Abhinam Yoga Teacher Training School, we advice all Teacher Training Students to stay vegetarian and offer them “Sattvic” meals during their Yoga Teacher Training courses in India in order to imbibe the principles of simple living and the dietary guidelines laid down by Patanjali.