I learned about veganism and various forms of interfaith/new age spirituality and self-awareness or improvement mentalities prior to yoga’s entrance into my life. This was in my teens. I also already had a belief in the power of movement prior to yoga featuring in my life, primarily through the form of dance and voicework. So, when I learned about yoga and how it essentially seems to interweave all these aspects together into one whole system, this enticed me and made perfect sense to me.
I dived into my yoga teacher training quite quickly (arguably too quickly in hindsight). By the end of the training, I was beginning to see other connections between yoga and animals (human and nonhuman) aside from an emphasis on vegetarianism; I was curious to explore such connections further. This was the beginning of the Animalia Asana® initiative, a 100% voluntary and charitable project dedicated to exploring and raising the profile of the multifaceted animal element in yoga. We do this primarily through offering international online courses for yoga teachers on the animal element in yoga: 50% of all funds raised go to FIAPO and IAR and 50% is reinvested back into Animalia Asana.
The animal element in yoga includes the 100+ animal-named postures, the 30+ animal-named mudras, the animal-based mythology, animal-oriented chanting, the human practitioner animal body, and numerous teachings that relate to and can potentially impact upon human-animal relations in the world of both yesteryear and today. Personally, I am interested in yoga from numerous perspectives. I’m interested in yoga’s historical and traditional roots, yoga’s various modern manifestations, both spiritual and secular/scientific approaches to yoga, all the different styles and lineages of yoga, and the contemporary challenges or ethical issues in yoga communities. The multifaceted animal element in yoga remains apparent to me from all of these different perspectives.
I have just co-published a paper on UK yoga teachers’ beliefs about the moral status of farmed animals and attitudes towards plant-based diets: you can find it here. The paper confirms the higher prevalence of vegetarianism, veganism, and plant-based diets found amongst UK yoga teachers (and most likely other western yoga teachers) relative to the proportions in the bulk of the country’s population. This is of course reason to celebrate; however, we should also remember that the paper reports how a majority of UK yoga teachers (and thus potentially also yoga teachers in other western countries) are still consuming either animal flesh or other products from animals. I think the most important result from this study was that nearly 75% of UK yoga teachers desire to follow a 100% plant-based diet. I think this is a massively positive result: it suggests there are tonnes of support for veganism amongst UK yoga teachers but underscores how becoming vegan is not immediately accessible for everyone to the same degree due to a whole host of factors. I think this is an important message that many animal advocates need to listen to carefully and compassionately and to understand fully.
Another paper is due later in 2020 based on more in-depth interviews with a subsample of yoga teachers from the aforementioned study. This sheds further light on some of the complex results. Do check back on Animalia Asana by the end of the year to find out about it!
Finally, I’d like to finish with sharing that I care for three ex-commercial hens. They have been hormonally implanted so they no longer lay eggs, which will hopefully ensure improved quality and length of life for them. Yoga inspires me to focus on the sincerity of my acts rather than the grandiosity. It inspires me to focus my attention on what I can do rather than what I cannot do.