Many people who practice a yogic lifestyle are vegetarian. I myself have been a vegetarian much longer than I have been meditating and studying yogic teachings. While there are many ways to live a yogic lifestyle, there are several reasons dropping meat from your diet can be a powerful way of bringing yogic living more fully into your being.
From a physical perspective, I was just reading yesterday in this book I am enjoying SO much and highly recommend, The Energy Codes by Dr. Sue Morter, about how important our body chemistry is to our healing and wellbeing. We want to try to keep our body in an alkaline environment. After we digest what we eat, what is left is called "ash." Some foods generate alkaline ash and some acidic ash. Animal protein leaves an acidic ash, which works against the alkaline environment we are trying to sustain. If we go too far with our acid ash, the body will start pulling the alkaline reserves stored in the body which causes complications and makes other healing very difficult. Dr. Morter states that maintaining this pH state is of primary importance to the body, and thus other things (like eliminating pain, for instance) will not be addressed until the body gets in the right chemistry. The book goes into a lot of interesting and accessible detail about this process and even explains how to test your pH levels and adjust them based on the results.
I personally did not let go of meat due to my body chemistry, but rather for ethical reasons - another valid aspect for going vegetarian. (I get asked regularly how long I have been a vegetarian, and I don't remember the exact year. I know it was before I got married, and we just celebrated our 15 year anniversary so it's more than that.) As I've written about before, I had been curious about being vegetarian for years before I finally took the plunge. Eventually, I found myself reading a book by the Dalai Lama (maybe it was The Art of Happiness? I can't remember which one exactly) and it was a very simple explanation His Holiness offered on why Buddhists practice vegetarianism that finally and irrevocably tipped the scales for me: respect for all life. All of the swinging back and forth I had felt when I considered becoming a vegetarian - the convenience factor for myself and any future hosts, judgment, fear of "failure," consideration of protein intake - faded into the shadows as this one higher truth became illuminated within me.
Something I didn't take into account until many years later is yet another compelling reason to give up meat: the vibration of the food itself, and the impact it has on the vibration of the individual when it is added to the body. All matter is, in fact, energy, including all food and all bodies - human or animal. In meditation, we are raising our vibration through stilling our bodies and minds. Our vibration continues to change (raising or lowering) based on how we move through the world - the things we say, the actions we take, the very thoughts we think, the music we listen to, the books we read, the movies we watch, and the food we eat. If these things are expanding our consciousness and awareness, our vibration is raising. If we are contracting, tightening, or becoming narrower, our vibration is lowering. Ideally, at the end of our lives we exit this plane with a higher vibration than that which we arrived. Fruit is said to have a high vibration and is particularly elevating, or sattwic. In contrast, meat is said to have a rajasic, or activating quality.
Tangentially to this topic, Swami Kriyananda writes the following in The Art and Science of Raja Yoga:
"The food we eat is more than an assortment of chemicals. Essentially, it is vibration. As such, it affects our consciousness. Animals, because of their more developed nervous systems (compared to that of vegetables), feel intense anguish, anger, and fear when they are killed. These emotions fill their bodies with toxins. More than that, they implant in the animals' bodies the vibrations of their strong emotions. People who eat such flesh take into themselves something of these emotions... For a person on the path of yoga, it is important to give up foods that of their very nature obstruct any effort to achieve inner peace and harmony. For the yogi, a fruit and vegetarian diet is important above all else because of the calming effect it has on his mind and nervous system."
There are, of course, many other reasons a vegetarian diet compliments a yogic lifestyle than what has been listed here (the impact on the environment is another excellent one!). Just like meditation itself, people come at it from all different starting points and impetuses. Whatever the reasons, the impact on an individual's body, mind, and soul are noticeable, and it's certainly something worth considering!
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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