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Are you a yogi if you eat meat? And other thoughts on Ahimsa…

Mar 17, 2023

Last week I saw a post from a colleague on Instagram that stated you weren’t a true yogi if you eat meat. The post also asked if this thought triggered me.

Well, yes. I thought. I am thoroughly triggered on several levels.

But, I’m not someone to vent on social media, so I clicked off and went to do something else with my time.

The thought stayed with me though. Enough that we’re going to hash this out this week.

Before we dig in, please know I’m not doing this to discredit this person’s thoughts on the matter. They have their opinion and I have mine. And, that’s what makes the world go ‘round.

And, I feel so out of my element here, because I rarely take a stand on issues like this, but maybe it’s time because…

I completely disagree with this thought.

You see, I was a vegetarian a little short of a decade of my life. I believed I would never eat meat again.

Until, I had a year where I felt absolutely terrible in body.

I suddenly gained 10 pounds out of nowhere and no matter how much exercise and yoga asana I did or how little food I ate, that 10 pounds stayed on.

Also, for the first time in years and years I started craving meat. I would be in the middle of practicing yoga and my body wanted meat.

I was astounded. I didn’t eat meat and couldn’t imagine doing it ever again.

Walking past the barbecue restaurant near our home one evening, the smells wafting through the air, actually smelled good to me. Where in the past, it had smelled like something that wasn’t food because to me, it wasn’t.

I fought this feeling for over a year. I felt weak, bloated, and simply not myself.

So, I started to talking to other women that were once vegetarians and now were not. What had happened?

And, each one told me they experience the same thing around the 10-year mark. Some of them went to holistic doctors that prescribed that they begin to eat meat again.

In my mind, I remember shaking this off and thinking there had to be a better way.

But, then the day after Thanksgiving, having made it through as a vegetarian, I came home from practicing at the studio and told my husband we were going to Whole Foods to find the first meat I would eat in close to a decade. I was done feeling so off… so sick.

We found a chicken breast that had been beautifully stuffed with veggies. My husband cooked it up and after I was done eating it, I felt full for the first time in years.

A week later, I felt so much better. The 10 lbs I was mysteriously carrying dropped off like it was nothing. My energy was back up. And, I felt strong in my practice once again.

Now, I once told this story to someone that was still vegetarian (someone I didn’t know well, mind you) and they said I must have been doing something wrong. My diet was off. I was missing something.

Which pissed me off to no end.

This is the thing: No one wants to kill animals. No one.

But, sometimes you have to listen to your body and give it what it needs.

Having talked to my physician about this, their thought was that I was missing an essential amino acid… that I wouldn’t be able to find, but by eating animal protein. There was no supplement. It was either feel awful or start to reintroduce meat into my diet.

In the practice of yoga, the thought of ahimsa, or non-harming, is often pointed to as the reason you should not eat meat.

But, that is just one interpretation of what ahimsa is.

I believe that being a yogi and practicing ahimsa is about doing the best you can.

Every person’s situation is completely different than the next.

I have friends that have celiac disease. Being a vegetarian would mean they can barely eat... anything. Does this mean they could never be a yogi if they wanted to be? Does this mean they are less than somehow? 

Also, it’s no secret that I’ve battled with disordered eating, as most women in western culture do. When I look back on the years I was vegetarian I sometimes see it was a way to appropriately control my food intake without anyone worrying about me, or thinking I was having issues again. 

If I couldn’t eat meat, then they wouldn’t bother me when all I had for dinner was vegetables and rice.

When it comes to thoughts of ahimsa, we are all going to harm someone in this lifetime. That doesn’t mean we throw our hands up in the air and just do what we want.

But, it does mean that we become conscious of the harm we have done or are doing and do our best not to continue to act in that way.

What I want you to think about when it comes to being vegetarian is, are you doing harm to yourself?

Because if vegetarianism is making you feel weak, then you cannot have the strength to be who you were meant to be in this lifetime. 

And, for those of you that are vegetarian and can maintain it, thank you. You are doing the world so much good and I appreciate your awareness and your compassion.

If I could maintain it I would. But, the balance I have found in eating about half and half – half vegetarian, half not – has made me feel good in my body, mentally balanced when it comes to my food issues, and still like I am on the path, a yogi – doing the best I can.

And, I strongly disagree with labeling anyone as a "yogi "or "non-yogi." 

You see, these definitions of “yogi” or “non-yogi” just create more devision between us. And, there is already so much division and separation between humans right now as it is. Let us not have another term that divides us.

Instead, allow the practice of yoga, to be one of connection, where we begin to see all of our similarities instead of of the differences that keep us separate. 

So, I hope I made myself clear here. And, I hope that whatever camp you are in that you know I see you and appreciate you.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Send me a DM on Insta, or shoot me an email and let's hash this thought out together. 

Big Hugs,

Tori ♡

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