I became a vegetarian years before I took my first yoga class. I come from a long line of farmers. In fact, when my father passed away, he lived in the same house he was born in, which was on the same farm that my great-grandfather started when he immigrated to the United States. Dad was a dairy farmer; my Uncle Jim raised the beef cattle. But even though I came from a strong meat-and-potatoes family, I always felt a deep personal connection to animals. I often said that if I allowed myself to think about it, I wouldn’t be able to eat meat. In my late 20’s, I thought about it. 😉
People become vegetarian for a variety of reasons: personal health, animal welfare, environmental stewardship, you name it. For me, it was about compassion. I just didn’t believe that an animal had to die in order for me to live.
Now where’s the connection to yoga in all of this?
Yogis heatedly debate about yoga and vegetarianism. Many believe that if you claim to be a yogi, you must also be vegetarian. Others, of course, disagree. The word you hear bantered about in these discussions is ahimsa. According to the Yoga Sutras, yogis must practice ahimsa, or non-harming, in all situations. For me and people who think like me, ahimsa has to include non-harming to our animal friends. For others, it’s not that simple. To be sure, ahimsa has a much broader reach. We should attempt to act without harm in all situations: to ourselves as well as others, to the planet as well as ourselves.
In all honesty, I don’t have the answer. My own food choices are judged harshly by others. I’m vegetarian, not vegan, meaning I eat limited amounts of cheese. My dog and cats aren’t vegetarian, meaning some animal dies for them to live. And my husband isn’t vegetarian—but I’m rather fond of him nonetheless.
In the end, each of us lives by our own values. Whether or not we choose to eat meat, we would all benefit by embodying greater kindness and compassion. Perhaps even more importantly, we should all learn to live by our own values without judging others for theirs.
Now, on to the free food part of this blog entry.
I’m proud to support Vegetarians of Washington. They promote vegetarianism in a very “ahimsic” way. They don’t judge, they entice. As my friend and founder of the organization often says, “we tempt you through your taste buds.”
On March 24 and 25 (this weekend) they are hosting Veg Fest at Seattle Center, and Whole Life Yoga will be there! Whole Life Yoga teachers and students will be on hand to talk about our classes, answer questions, and give out free passes to students who haven’t tried the studio yet. And anyone who joins Vegetarians of WA at the festival gets a gift certificate for one free drop-in yoga class!
While you’re there, you can taste hundreds of free samples of delicious, primarily vegan food. The vegan ice cream alone is worth it!
I hope many of you stop by and see us. Bring your friends and come hungry. And take a moment this week to reflect on your definition of ahimsa, regardless of what you eat.
Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!