Yoga is very popular in Western world today so the question of adopting a vegetarian diet to become an advanced yogi rises quite often. Do you have to eat veggies to succeed in yoga? What benefits can bring the giving up of meat? And why?
What do you think Yoga is?
The answer to this question may define a half of the problem; some people see yoga as another way of doing exercises – these people definitely have all the chances to advance in it – but mostly on a surface level. Those, who see yoga as a way of life, will ultimately come to the point when the need of dropping meat eating becomes obvious.
Because yoga is not only about the physical side, it also includes the internal realm of a person and connects it with the outside world as well as with the Source of the whole Creation whom we usually name God.
Yoga practice restores the flow of the internal energy, thus bringing the whole system – our body and mind – into a harmony. It promotes physical and mental health, stabilizes emotions, reduces stress, and makes a person happier. Yoga does this not only through the medium of different poses (called asanas) and breathing exercises (called pranayama), but through the meditation, and the adjustment of a lifestyle.
Things are getting more complicated…
So Yoga means ‘the connection’ or ‘the link’ – between soul and body, and between soul and the Source of the Creation. This connection is achieved by the process of meditation. The main medium for this connection is our mind – the “clearer” it is, the better the connection is. The “clearness” or “cleanliness” or “calmness” of the mind depends on various things:
- The health of the body
- The food we eat
- The current condition we are set into
- The association with people who surround us
- The activity we perform
- The experience of the present and past lives
- Our current habits
- And some other things as well…
So, as you have probably noticed, one of the points above is a food, which according to Ayurveda (the ancient Indian science about life and health, the sister of yoga as it is often referred to), comes in three types of quality:
- Food in goodness (sattvic)
- Food in passion (rajasic)
- Food in ignorance or darkness (tamasic)
The names are given in Sanskrit and come from the names of the corresponding qualities of the material nature (guna):
- Sattva-guna or the mode of goodness
- Raja-guna or the mode of passion
- Tamo-guna or the mode of ignorance
These gunas or qualities are always present in every object of this material world being mixed in different proportions, which determines the qualities of various objects. Forms of the objects are determined by the gunas too – along with the influence of the time factor.
Now, these gunas also present in food, and in different parts of the day: morning is the time of sattva or goodness, noon – passion, and evening – ignorance or it is also called the mode of inertia, which corresponds to the evening as the time of having rest.
Although all the three modes are not good or bad (they simply reflect various qualities present in this world), their influence on us (especially on our MIND) will determine the AMOUNT of happiness we receive in life. The more sattva we have the happier we are in our life, and vice versa. Sattva means knowledge and happiness, passion means activity and strong desires, and ignorance means inertia, deterioration, sleep and degradation.
Why am I talking about all this?
Because I want to give you a YOGIC view of the diet through the understanding of SUBTLE things, which present in our food as well.
You are what you eat
Now, let’s come closer to the foods we eat. Ayurveda considers pure vegetarian foods (but also including milk and other dairy products) to be of sattvic nature mainly (with some mix of rajasic nature), while meat, fish, eggs, mushrooms, onion, garlic, spoiled and rotten food, expired foot, fast food, etc. – of tamasic nature.
The food we eat transfers its qualities to our body and mind. If we eat foods in lower gunas mainly (especially in the mode of ignorance), it will not only gradually ruin our body, but spoil the mind as well making it less and less “clear”, and ultimately loosing the ability to connect with the self (soul) and the Supreme Source of everything. So, as a result, there will be no yoga (no connection), if you constantly eat meat. This is a simple conclusion. We may argue a lot about nutrients in meat, about calories and proteins, but in the sense of a subtle reality, if you eat meat, fish, and eggs regularly, your mind loses the ability to be a clean medium, the ability to concentrate on the higher truth, on the subtle, spiritual reality, and no yoga can be possible in this case.
Why gunas affect the mind?
Another translation of the word ‘guna’ is ‘a rope’, so gunas ‘bind’ our mind and body, in a way, that affecting the body also influences the mind and vice versa. When you are sick, your mind is fogged; when you are depressed, your body can easily become sick – it’s very simple.
Do you need a vegetarian diet for yoga?
Can you eat a non vegetarian food and advance in your practice? If you need to lose weight, get more strength and flexibility – probably you can; it is not obligatory (not in the beginning at least); but if we talk about what yoga is meant for – then definitely, becoming a vegetarian is not an option – it’s a must.