When I introduce the Yamas and Niyamas in Yoga Teacher Trainings there is always a discussion about ahimsa and if a Yogi should be a vegetarian or not.
I was a vegetarian for over 25 years and students are often shocked to know that I am not a pure vegetarian anymore. But even when I was a vegetarian, vegans accused me of cruelty to animals because of my love for dairy foods. And just before I finished being a pure vegetarian raw food eater wanted to convince me that a "pure" Yogi should not boil and cook his food.
What are the guidelines and where to find them?
When we look into India the pure food, the priest sect is described to eat, is a freshly cooked vegetarian meal. No leftovers are allowed and dairy is praised as a cooling nourishing food.
In Buddhism there is no rule to be vegetarian and I read that the Dalai Lama said he wished he could become a vegetarian one day, but it so hard to do. Christianity and Islam have no problem with eating meat
So where does that leave a western yoga student?
There are environmental problems in keeping all these livestocks that put carbon gases into the environment. There is a dietary problem in eating too much meat and then there are the cruel ways animal are reared for our consumption. All known fact to most of us.
So should you be a vegetarian?
I noticed in me that I became tense in my food choices. Does that have fish sauce in it? What oil did you fry it in? Did you use the pan in preparing a meat dish? As well my hosts were getting nervous when I told them that I was a vegetarian and felt very apologetic because they felt that their dishes were not up to my strict food standards.
When you are on a so-called spiritual path your main concern should be your mental state, a calm and relaxed mind and your physical well being should come second. The mind with the help of the intellect is the force that will recognise the SELF that is beyond the three bodies (gross, subtle and causal).
Notice in your self if/when you become judgemental about other peoples food choice, notice if/when you lose the calm open mind space when it comes to food. As you bring in a more relaxed attitude about food and eating, you will naturally tune into the intelligence of your body. What does my body want to eat?
What are the needs my body communicates with me?
There is no right way or wrong way for you to consume food, when you are listening to your body. When I applied this knowledge I did not become a heavy fish and meat eater. I still mostly eat fresh healthy vegetarian food, but sometimes I include chicken, sometimes I include fish but my body draws a clear line and does not want to consume red meat. What does your body tell you?
No strict rule can apply to everyone.
Relax, go deep within you and know who you are beyond the physical, the mental and even the spiritual.
P.S. Awesome veggie and vegan food during our TTCs available ;)