"No European who has tasted Savage Life can afterwards bear to live in our societies." — Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

An Introduction to a Meat-Eating Yogi

Hello, and welcome to this blog. You may be wondering what it will discuss. Its subject is fairly simple, yet extremely complex: how can someone eat meat and practice yoga for both physical and spiritual purposes? I will attempt to answer that question based on research, interviews with other yogis and yoginis, and from my own experiences.

This blog is not a proselytizing tool. In no way am I attempting to convince anyone of any specific viewpoint, nor am I trying to change anyone's mind (I consider the latter impossible; one can only change one's mind, not others'). I am only giving an account of my experiences and collected data concerning my admittedly eclectic yoga practice and diet and its effects. If you have any comments, feel free to post them; they are moderated and I will only publish those which further the discussion in a peaceful manner (if you don't want a comment published, just say so and it shall remain private).

A bit of background is in order. I am a middle-aged male in good health. I have spiritual leanings and have taken part in various traditions. I am a certified yoga instructor (an RYT 200 according to the Yoga Alliance). In the past, I have followed both vegetarian and vegan diets for long periods (many months to years). I am currently following what many call the "paleo diet" or "caveman diet".

The "paleo diet" is basically an approximation of what our ancestors ate before the creation of agriculture. This includes meat of all kinds, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. In paleolithic times, storing large amounts of food would have been impractical, so things were eaten fresh (or possibly frozen), and they were minimally processed, if they were processed at all.

Due to the hunter/gatherer lifestyle of the time, there was another - extremely important - quality to the diet: a close and direct connection to food sources. In most cases, people caught or harvested what they ate, or they were no more than one degree separated from the source (e.g. a grandfather whose son catches and provides the food). From this connection grew an understanding of the world and the universe, and a deep understanding of the connectedness and oneness of all things.

As I said earlier, I have followed both vegetarian and vegan diets, both for health and religious reasons. I've never really noticed a seriously large change in my health based on my dietary choices, although I have seen small changes. I have received various benefits at various times from all my various dietary experiments. I see "changing one's diet" or "following a diet" as a tool.

Some people ask: what about the energetic effects of meat? That's a good question. We need to realize that food isn't just composed of physical elements; it also has energy that affects us in various ways. For example, from an Ayurvedic perspective, meat is rajasic, heating, pitta-aggravating, and excitatory, whereas raw vegetables are sattvic, balancing, and vata-aggravating and calming. These qualities should be known and understood just as the vitamin and mineral content of a food should be known and understood. One could say, "This meat provides X grams of protein, this much omega-3 fat, this much vitamin B12, and this much rajas." The energy and the nutrition of food also change based on how it lived. Farm-raised animals who are butchered in slaughterhouses are much less nourishing than wild game, and a carrot grown in a monocrop with artificial fertilizers are much less nourishing than one grown organically with manure and a soil full of humus. This is one instance where the connection to one's food comes in handy.

Knowing what your own constitution needs is probably the largest part of any diet, as each person's diet is unique to them, yet connected to everything else. Some people are allergic to certain foods, such as gluten or lactose, so they much monitor their food closely. Some people seem able to eat almost anything. In any case, awareness of one's body and mind are foundational to developing and maintaining a diet, as well as monitoring its effects. Without this awareness, you're just spinning your wheels.

Thanks for reading!