Little did I know when I started practicing yoga well over 10 years ago that I would focus on more than my body -- I would focus on what I put in my body. My daily time on the mat gave me a healthy appreciation for my body and encouraged me to look at what I was putting in it.
To Veg or Not to Veg?
The hotel conference room floor was covered in mats, eager yoga students awaiting the entrance of the yoga teachers who would lead an hour-long workshop. The teachers emerged a few moments later and launched into a little discussion about ahimsa and what it meant to be a yogi. Their definition included being a vegetarian at worst and a vegan at best. The woman sitting next to me was singled out for having milk in the latte she sipped. Information packets outlining the horrors of the treatment of animals (including graphic pictures) were handed out. What I read was enough to freak me out.
I eliminated meat from my diet not too long afterwards. While I didn't appreciate the yoga teachers' tactics (that poor woman with the latte didn't deserve to be chastised for adding milk to her coffee), I appreciated the point they were trying to raise. What I didn't like was how they used the ahimsa argument and had quite a bit of condemnation in their voices when talking about yoga practitioners eating meat. Last I checked, ahimsa is about non-harming -- this includes hurting people with your words. Apparently this was lost on these teachers.
Vegetarianism is a big deal in the yoga community, right? The vegetarians perhaps feel as if they are following the yamas and niyamas oh so righteously, while non-vegetarian yogis feel as if they are somewhat less-than for eating meat. Are you truly a yogi if you eat meat?
I say yes, absolutely, you are. I think that the decision to be vegetarian or not is an individual one, and no one should be judged for their choice. I suppose that's my brand of ahimsa. Personally, I have tried to inform myself on the subject and make a smart choice. All of my research has led me to rethink my decision -- repeatedly. I've added meat back in (which was pretty darned difficult, as I don't care for the taste any more) only to eliminate it once again.
October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. While I don't quite agree with "getting the non-vegetarians in your life to take part in the Vegetarian Awareness Month Pledge" -- because, after all, you can't make someone do something they don't want to do -- I appreciate the focus on awareness. It's good to be aware and make the right decision for you. If you're interested in this topic, here are some resources to help:
- Tuesday, October 19, author Victoria Moran will be discussing "The Love-Powered Diet" and what she believes the health benefits of vegetarianism to be. Click here to sign up for this free teleclass.
- Want to become a vegetarian but don't know where -- or how -- to start? The book, The New Becoming Vegetarian: The Essential Guide To A Healthy Vegetarian Diet, can help.
- Looking for some advice that can help you gradually introduce vegetarianism (and veganism) into your life? Alicia Silverstone's book, The Kind Diet, offers up a few plans to help you gradually eliminate meat or balance out your meat diet with plant-based foods.
- Feeling like eliminating meat would compromise your protein intake? Check out the book Green for Life and set your mind at ease.
- Think that being a vegetarian compromises one's health? Many who have read The Vegetarian Myth would agree. Others who have read The China Study would disagree.
If you're looking for grass-fed meats, free-range poultry, and wild fish alternatives, check out these resources:
What's in Your Water?
Shortly after taking up yoga, I bought water filters. Now I live in a place where there's a high incidence of breast cancer that many believe have something to do with the water supply. It has me thinking about not only the water I drink but the water in my shower and my dishwasher.
If you're concerned about what's in your water, check out these water filters and purifiers:
- The Enviro Shower Filter, available at Whole Foods
What Are You Putting on Your Body?
I had no idea how toxic body care/beauty products were until I started doing a little research. Now I check all of my products in the Cosmetics Database. Over the past few years I've gradually replaced my personal care products with natural alternatives. The blog, No More Dirty Looks, offers up some interesting information regarding safe and clean cosmetics and beauty treatments.
How Clean Are Your Cleaners?
I was appalled to learn that a study found that women who were homemakers had a 54% greater risk of developing cancer than women who worked outside the home due to continuous exposure to household cleaners, chemicals, and pesticides. In addition to switching many of my regular brands, I also use more water and white vinegar to clean my surfaces. Here are some of my favorite household cleaning product alternatives:
What Are You Cooking With?
I have two birds (a Cockatiel named Yogi and a Sun Conure named Weeble) and was horrified to learn that the fumes from non-stick cookware can kill birds. It got me wondering what that means for us humans. If you're concerned and would like to swap out your Teflon cookware with stainless steel, check out http://stainlesscookware4u.com/.
When I think about applying ahimsa to my own person, I watch what I put into my body. I watch the thoughts that I think. I watch the people that I spend time with. If it's harmful, it goes.
Here's to treating ourselves and our bodies (and others) with more kindness.