Veganism and Yoga: What Do They Have in Common?

We have all probably considered attending a Yoga session or have actually been to a class or two as a means of relaxation. Those who have had that experience know it can serve as a challenging workout as well. Yet, many fail to consider that a simple downward dog can have a lot to say in regards to a person’s diet. Many experienced Yogis are vegan, but do you know why? Veganism and Yoga can actually be more intertwined than you would have ever thought. Throughout this article we are going to cover the common characteristics of a Vegan diet and Yoga. 

Veganism and Yoga

Yoga involves more than just a once a week class and take home flexibility exercises. Those who truly embrace the lifestyle not only change their daily habits, but their food intake and perspective. If you wish to become a true Yogi, you should highly consider adopting these ancient beliefs:

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

In Yoga there is an ancient study called, “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” that is taught as a part of training for all Yoga teachers. It is basically the Yoga Bible. Sage Patanjali was the first one to put these practices in order. He explained it as an eight-folded path to Yoga, starting Yoga’s eight “limbs”:

  • Yama: Moral Restraints
  • Niyama: Rules and Duties
  • Asana: Yoga Poses and Postures
  • Pranayama: Breath control and expansion
  • Dharana: Focus and Concentration
  • Dhyana: Meditation
  • Samadhi: Enlightenment 

The Five Yamas

Yamas is the most important thing to be taken care of. There are five Yamas: 

  • Ahimsa (nonviolence)
  • Satya (truthfulness)
  • Asteya (not stealing or not taking what is being freely given. This includes opposing exploitation and social oppression)
  • Brahmacharya (Overcoming desires to a right use of energy)
  • Aparigraha (do not be greedy and do not hoard)

It is not possible to properly abide by the five Yamas without being vegan, but why?

You Can Not Practice the First Yama Without Being Vegan

When somebody’s food choices revolve around the exploitation, murder, and torture of animals, you can not properly practice Yama. The fact is, the meat industry revolves around the slaughter of animals such as chicken, cows, and pigs. It’s not just the meat industry, people fail to consider the horror stories hidden within the dairy industry as well. Examples of these nightmares include the artificial insemination of animals in order to impregnate them so dairy production is at a constant. Why? Remember mammals can only produce milk when they are lactating, therefore they have to be pregnant! 

You Can Not Practice the Fifth Yama By Consuming Dairy

It is not just the cows that are suffering, but their babies as well. A newly born calf is taken away from their mother, so they won’t drink the milk. Then they are raised to fall into the same system as their mother. By taking away the calf, who the milk was produced for in the first place, we are being greedy. By constantly having these poor animals essentially raped and tortured to keep them pregnant so we have our daily dose of dairy, we covet what we do not need and fail to practice Aparigraha. 

Basically, A Non-Plant Based Diet is Considered Unclean

A vegan diet, fruits, and vegetables are considered pure foods that cleanse and bring calmness to the body. A non-vegan diet would clash with the forbidden rule of Ahimsa that forbids any wrongdoing to living creatures. The Yamas are about being compassionate to all sentient 

beings and you cannot do so by purchasing meals that involve the harming and killing of animals. Yet, there is no explicit practice that states you cannot eat meat, dairy, and eggs to practice Yoga, but true Yogis interpret it as so.  

Vegan Diet for Yoga

In the Bhagavid Gita, the sympathy and non-violence of all creatures is emphasized. It also states that there are three types of food:

  • Sattvic: Pure Food
  • Rajasic: Stimulating Food
  • Tamasic: Impure and Rotten Food

Fruits, vegetables, and grains are considered pure foods bringing purity and calmness to the human body. Spices, meat, eggs, seafood, and alcohol are those foods that fall under Raja due to its belief of stimulating the mind. Yet, these foods are also believed to cause circulatory disorders, hardening of the arteries, and high blood pressure. Rotten meat falls under Tamasic because of its decay. Meat that is aging but has not necessarily reached that level yet still falls under the same category because it softens the natural stiffness as the muscles coagulate to death. Therefore, according to Gita, to properly adopt these beliefs we should consume Sattvic foods which allow us to perform Ahimsa and lighten our minds. 

Karma

It can be implied, that if this is not properly adopted and practiced you must face the consequences. Westerners have difficulty understanding Karma in regards to reincarnation and ancient beliefs. Simplified, Karma is the universal energy that connects all beings. It is considered that this energy is present in future and past experiences. Recognizing Karma’s cause and effects means accepting the principle of pain brought on by our own selfish actions. 

Karma and A Non-Vegan Diet

The killing of animals for monetary purposes and for our personal pleasure, including the babies being ripped away from their mothers, would bring us nothing but bad Karma. In regards to reincarnation one would need to consider the possibility of being reincarnated as one of these animals. Whether you believe in this or not, the Ahimsa principle in Yoga should make you question the purpose of your life within your soul. It is all intertwined with Karma which brings us to question our actions and treatments of every sentient being on the earth.  

Benefits of a Vegan Over a Vegetarian Diet

Sanskrit poetry has shown us that many spiritual beliefs are intertwined with Karma and Yoga. If you wish to fulfill the complete Yogi life but are concerned with health benefits within different plant based diets, this is your guide.

Vegetarian Diet

Vegetarians are considered to be those who do not eat the products or byproducts of animal slaughter. Vegetarians do not consume the following:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Insects
  • Gelatin and Animal Protein
  • Fat derived from animal slaughter

Yet, many still consume the following by-products:

  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Honey

Most of their diet consists of a large range of fruits, grains, seeds, and different types of meat substitutes. It is considered less strict than veganism with many known variations of a vegetarian diet. Some of these include, Lacto-ovo-vegetarian (those who still consume eggs and dairy), Lacto-vegetarian (those who still consume dairy products), Ovo-Vegetarian (those who still consume eggs), Pescatarian (those who still consume seafood).

Vegan Diet

True vegans extend these principles to follow a strict food plan that avoids any product that directly involves human use of animals. These products extend from just food to:

  • Leather
  • Wool
  • Beeswax
  • Latex
  • Certain cosmetic products

Many vegetarians also apply some of these principles to their lifestyle, but most of the time those who do consider themselves vegan.

Vegan vs Vegetarian

Both diets offer very similar health benefits that incite people to eat more antioxidant rich foods. But, in regards to the variations of certain vegetarian diets, vegan takes the lead in the benefits it has over them. This is due to the possibility that some of these diets allow the consumption of eggs and dairy. A study also found that vegans not only lost more weight than vegetarians, but they gained less as well on a regular basis. However, this just applied to anybody who reduced their animal intake throughout the study that was conducted. It also found that certain benefits of reducing the intake of animal products were some of the following:

  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Better blood sugar control
  • Reduced oxidative stress and inflammation

So basically, these diets if followed properly, can essentially be the same type of lifestyle. It is more heavily implied that vegan diets contain less loopholes to consume animal products and byproducts. This makes the vegan diet not only the healthier but the one that follows Yama more purposefully. 

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