Going vegan is the beginning of a lifelong practice, a commitment to revealing an awareness of peace in this world, one person, one meal at a time.
Over 9 years ago, I decided to start on my vegan path. In 2010, shortly after my proper re-introduction to yoga, I was kicking my asana in hot yoga classes, training with a vegan/organic promoting teacher, working at Whole Foods with gorgeous floating hipster-hippies (just before hipsters were a thing) who radiated health. Inspired, I got the urge to be like them. Something in their energy, something in their eyes was glistening and calling me towards my Self.
It was at this time that we journeyed into the temple of Sri Dharma Mittra in NYC, and something totally shifted. If you are unfamiliar with Sri Dharma, let’s just say that this yogi is a portal to the timeless. Packaged in a cute, humble, Brazilian-American being who is great with his health and flexibility. Dharma is certainly one of the wonders of the world these days, and bless him for being!
At one of my first sessions there, among a class of over 150 people, we were moving gracefully into very challenging and advanced yoga postures, listening to Dharma talk about the purpose of yoga, and of course, hearing him say that the most important practice in yoga is to be vegetarian/vegan. When referring to where God/Truth (life force, energy of consciousness) can be found, it can be seen visibly in all living things to a varying degree. When you are wanting to receive true life energy, vitality, and higher vision into your body (instrument of perception) – ‘DON’T EAT CORPSES!’ He said, when you open the refrigerator and it is full of dead flesh, it is not a home for nourishing sustenance and vibrant life, it’s ‘a morgue.’
That phrase ticked the last box for me. I had been feeling ‘dead’ for so many years, filled with sadness and suffering from my own experiences, and crying for myself for no apparent reason. I decided to make the effort to go vegan (carrying forward with a natural small start at vegetarianism), and I am so glad I made that choice. Right away, I began to shed lifetimes of pain and discomfort. I stopped crying for selfish reasons and started to see the pain inflicted on others in this world (even by me). For a while I would cry for them, too (animals, people, even plants!) This was all part of the process.
My transition began in three parts:
- Physically – first shifting away from dairy as a psoriasis activator, and managing food cravings based on my body’s reaction (i.e. eating meat as opposed to dairy because dairy would make my skin itch) then on to enacting my food choices based on energy - dead carcasses being lowest on the energy scale - and compassion (eating the dairy because it seemingly inflicted less suffering for the animal). This stage was all about my personal reasons for changing my diet: first for physical comfort/health, and then (and to this day) for the ethical reasons not to eat animals.
- Mentally - musing about what constitutes a breach of my chosen diet and drawing the next line with every new discovery (cheeses with rennet, beers with fish finings, and whether mussels really are a sea animal, or biologically more akin to a plant - FYI, they’re an animal). Coming up with logical reasons that could be used to support my decision, and reaffirming these for myself.
- Socially - with whom it is relevant to discuss my ethical standpoint and beliefs, and when it is helpful to engage in stimulating conversation about the current and future involvement of animals in relation to human food sources. Likewise, when these are not conversations about my, or another's interest in learning and growing stronger in understanding this lifestyle choice, and when these discussions turn ugly due to insecurity on either side.
It was a wild ride for the first 3-4 years as I can remember moving to England, and being part of a serious minority in the vegan category. There were likeminded vegan sympathisers, usually post-hippie generation people who liken themselves to be quite down-to-earth, sometimes vegetarian but mostly the ‘I don’t eat meat that often’ type. Note: this is usually a good transition group, we’ve all been there, and sometimes people lose their convictions, so get on ‘em!
Needless to say, as I was formulating my own views on the subject of vegan eating, as well as the de-merits of drinking alcohol regularly (coming away from a cultural upbringing of binge drinking that I needed to quell for my health). It was really hard to find anyone who was open enough to embrace veganism as a major marker point for personal health, spiritual awareness, or even global change. Back in 2011, it was common to hear the response that the strange and strict ‘vegan food fad’ would not take hold here in the strong (& Northern) British meat-eating culture.
This viewpoint defends the farming culture, which is a common cultural sensitivity. Let it be said that if you question anything about the traditions of farming, and the fact that it has produced meat, eggs, wool, skin, milk and cheeses for ages, there is often little to be said other than, “Well, it must be worse off in the US, where I come from, where industrial farming is at a disgusting rate of inhumane cruelty and disease.” To which, of course many will agree proudly, and reaffirm the cultural justification to eat animals and dairy products from their own country.
Ultimately, the conscious awakening that ensues from eliminating animal products from your diet allows you to see how and why killing and torturing animals for gastronomic pleasure is unnecessary, selfish, and cruel. As we mature physically, emotionally, and intellectually, it becomes clear that we can sustain ourselves and satisfy our needs without warfare, violence, or the subjugation of animals. This realisation is the start of a world view that is thankfully gaining popularity with each successive generation, which is amazing to be a part of. Still, there is progress to be made.
When one decides to ‘go vegan’ – that decision is the first major step. It takes time to tailor your experience in relation to shopping and food preparation, to socialising with others and sharing your food choices. Automatically, you begin discussing (and defending) your right to choose vegan. It’s hard to find the perfect balance of diplomacy (in the beginning) when talking about your own diet, so the most important thing to work on is yourself, and developing a sense of comfort, strength, and confidence in why you choose vegan.
When you are clear in your own mind about what you want/do/eat - then when people question you, it will not feel like a personal attack. During the initial stages, when it is new for you, it is all about finding and spending time with those who will support your decision, and help reaffirm your reasons for doing so.
Which brings us to the point of this article: I want to encourage others to try changing their diet, and experience a new way of being. No matter what reason you decide to go vegan, please start on the path, and navigate the beautiful journey. When we realise that this life choice is more than what we eat, and how it extends to the principles by which we live our lives, it becomes easier to allow and support others to make changes in their own way and time also. Cultural norms are slow to change, but once they do, they often stay for a long time - for worse, and for better.
For me, I will continue to choose a non-violent diet, even at the expense of my own health, because it comes down to: Ahimsa (non-violence) - the first limb of Yoga.
My life is of equal value to every other life. Therefore, it is not justified for me to put someone else through torture for my own pleasure, gain, or survival. In an ideal world, filled with consideration for others, it is the challenge of humans to offer the care, kindness, and good intentions that we would hope to receive. We are at a very special place in time where this choice is viable and necessary.
If this sounds too difficult to do because of anger, hurt, resentment, fear, or guilt, then this lifestyle IS for you. You have the power to purge yourself of negative torment from the past, and find freedom in your own body/mind. It can be difficult to strive for positivity, peace, and well-channeled emotion, but that is what it means to ‘be a yogi.’ Those who seek to master the body/mind of the human being, and to live in a more full and connected way.
I understand the horrors of the death camps made for animals, and I do not support that at all. While there are so many brave and amazing activists creating awareness about animal cruelty through slaughterhouse vigils and hunting saboteurs, I feel that my niche for activism has landed in talking about the type of consciousness expansion desired through yoga, how a vegan and high raw diet expedites this awakening, and how sharing good food with others in an open manner really ‘convinces’ people. Serving beautiful food with good intentions is the perfect judgment-free way to educate people by representing the vegan cause in person.
Over the past 3 years in Sheffield, UK, the vegan ‘scene’ has gone wild! It is such an amazing thing to see. Even if I have contributed just a small part by teaching yoga, selling vegan items, buying vegan clothes and products, and promoting vibrant living through vegan, raw food and cold-pressed juices, I am glad the movement continues to grow. I wish every vegan eater, enthusiast, and business the best, with full love and support. I do believe we are creating positive change.
Yoga is Vegan. When we remain in the silence of the infinite through meditation, we understand that we are all connected, that we are all the same. We are all living beings on this earth who “fear death and want life” from the core of our very nature. The yogi knows that this earthly life is temporary, but is a field for learning and development. We can refine our life habits, our choices, and even curb our own needs in order to support the needs of others. A bit of self-sacrifice goes a long way to benefit someone we may never meet.
It is from this mindset that, for a yogi (one who practices & studies yoga) going vegan may be less about personal physical health and longevity (although it is proven to excel in this area), it may be less about sustainability or the environment (again, this diet excels in its effects there as well), but the main thing for a purposeful and long held view on veganism from the yoga perspective, is the ability to refrain from harming another living being: do not kill or cause harm to others, or partake in any action that promotes harm. From observing the first limb of yoga, observing all the other limbs naturally arises.
We are sick of war, sick of fighting, tired from indulgence, and ignorant of our part in this sick play. By taking one simple step, changing your diet, with the help of great, new and sustainable food options being brought to the mainstream, or going back to our roots by keeping it simple, there is a world of plenty for everyone. That is real compassion, yoga beyond the mat, beyond the body, and considerate of everyone.
Observing a vegan diet has been the most profound, and naturally awakening experience of my life. It is such a blessing to have been introduced to this way of living. Much of my confidence in my life and dedication to Yoga teaching comes from knowing that what I eat represents everything about me - how I feel, what I think, knowing that physically and emotionally, I am much more alive than ever, even remembering the disturbing thoughts and suffering I’ve left behind. As I continue to follow my inner compass, living in accordance to principles dedicated to health, curiosity, and love in diet and lifestyle, it is clear that every moment in life is a yoga practice, and I am so thankful for the journey.
* * *
I can endure
So much more
I can receive
So much love,
From a diet of light
Whole, high raw foods -
Waking wonders for the vital experience.
We know intuitively,
To ingest fear, pain, suffering, egoism,
Into our lives through diet,
Is to choose separation, violence and hate.
Every theology has stated this: moderate, and negate.
Anyone alive long enough
To feel pain of their own,
Can turn compassion into a path towards truth.
Let Ahimsa be the main goal -
We go on!
Yoga is Vegan
— Anne Marie Gordon