I had a rough early adolescence. I was a substance user, looked to boys for my self-worth, and struggled with body image issues. When I was sixteen, I had a schoolteacher who was also a yoga teacher. She introduced me to the practice. I started practicing with her regularly. My teacher brought me and a handful of other students to Costa Rica to the Omega Institute for a Kundalini Yoga Retreat with Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa. The entire retreat was vegetarian and Gurmukh took the time to explain to us the yogic concept of Ashima (non-violence) and how not eating animals was a foundational part of a yoga practice. I became a vegetarian for the remainder of high school and continued to practice yoga. However, when I got to college, I ended up reverting back to eating animals and my practice significantly decreased.
When I was in my late twenties, I read the book Skinny Bitch by vegan activists Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. I thought I was going to read a book on how to get in shape. Instead, the book was an educational piece about the horrors of animal agriculture. I decided to go vegan. Soon after I committed to veganism, I started practicing yoga regularly again. I practiced at a wonderful Baptiste Studio in Northampton, MA where both the owners were ethical vegetarians. I signed up for and completed the Kripalu Yoga teacher training. While at Kripalu, I was disappointed to learn they served dead animals in the cafeteria. Given the ethical and environmental destruction of animal agriculture, it didn’t seem inline with the yoga philosophy we were learning about in the program.
Soon after I graduated from my 200 hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training, I started teaching and practicing in upstate New York. I had recently moved there. One day, I took a class at the YMCA with an incredible yoga teacher named Nancy Polachek. The class was mind blowing good. Nancy led the class though intelligent sequencing, gave skillful assists, and thoughtfully incorporated yoga philosophy. During savasana, Nancy played a recording about the connection between yoga and veganism. As a new teacher, I knew I needed to connect with this woman. After class, I approached her. She told me that she too started as a Kripalu Yoga teacher. However, she went on to complete the 300 hour Jivamukti Teacher training, which was a tradition that valued progressive activism and animal rights. I knew that I wanted to teach like Nancy, so I signed up for and completed the Jivamukti Yoga teacher training. It was there that I learned how to truly weave the yogic teachings of peace into my classes. I have been a proud vegan yoga teacher since.
After several years of teaching yoga, I had my son. I had a vegan pregnancy and was in great health. Post-partum, I had enough milk to feed my son and donate human milk to other families. I nursed my son for over four years until he naturally weaned. Nursing my son reinvigorated my commitment to veganism. The connection between a mamma and her nursling is unparalleled. It broke my heart to think about baby cows being torn away from their mammas so humans could consume cows’ milk.
In addition to being a yogini and holistic parent, I am a committed feminist and reproductive rights advocate. I have been a feminist since I was sixteen years old and faced an unwanted pregnancy. It was at this point I came to understand the vital importance of bodily autonomy. The dairy industry is outrageous in its violation of female cows’ bodily autonomy. Cows are raped, forced to carry pregnancies that they didn’t willfully participate in creating, and then their offspring is stolen from them. They are then painfully “milked” as much as possible to produce for human consumption. I decided I wanted to do something to take on dairy while spreading ahimsa and the joys of veganism.
In May 2019, I opened a small vegan ice cream company Ms. Amanda’s Compassionate Ice Cream. The Ms. component of my business’s name is representative of my commitment to feminism and empowering women. The compassionate component of my business’s name is representative of my commitment to veganism. Veganism is all about making choices that are grounded in compassion that will benefit our health, mother earth, and animals. I also continue to teach yoga. This year, I had the honor of teaching at New Hampshire Vegfest. It was wonderful to be able to share the connections between yoga and ethical veganism.
-Featured Yogi Amanda Elizabeth
Website: Ms. Amanda's Compassionate Ice Cream