My journey to veganism has not been perfect one. I believe like most people on this journey it really takes time. And a slow transition is one that will last. For me yoga and veganism became heavily intertwined when I completed my 200 hour teacher training with Sri Dharma Mittra in NYC.
I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in May 2013. What seemed at the time to be a completely random occurrence, I now know my life was a ticking time bomb. I had a poor diet, an unhealthy lifestyle, i was holding on to past negative emotions and really living a life that didn't align with who I was in my heart. All the while I ignoring my own unhappiness. It was almost like I wasn't aware of it, I was on autopilot. All of this played a big part in why cancer came to visit me. And Looking back it was actually the greatest gift of my life.
I began to think, "Well, I'm seeming young and healthy, why is his happening to me?" Now I know it was for me. I had about a week to decide my course of treatment but the oncologist made it very clear they 100% recommended a radical hysterectomy and it was scheduled for 11 days from my diagnosis. After recovery from the surgery I began to really take control of my health and my life. I researched diet and lifestyle, and found how our emotions directly effect our health, and I began to practice yoga regularly.
Now, aside from this, I've always been an animal lover! At this point in my life I had rescued a dog and a cat. I definitely began to feel this connectedness to all beings as my yoga practice deepened and I got more in touch with who I really was post cancer. It was about 6 months after my surgery and lots of research on factory farming that I decided to give up meat completely. And I was a big red meat lover. The crazy part is, I hardly flinched. I don't miss it at all. It was like turning off a light switch. Because it felt so good on the other side to align to what I knew was right. It took me about another year to begin cutting out dairy. And that was a back and forth for a while. But I can 1000% say dairy wreaks havoc on my body. I can tell when I've eaten it in my skin, my digestion, my mood, even headaches etc.
Fish, well that was my struggle. My dad owned a seafood company while I was growing up and eating fish and shellfish was a huge part of my life. I've been researching for years at this point though and watching documentaries. So it was only a matter of time. I enrolled in the 200 hour teacher training this last February and decided to go all in on a vegan diet the way Sri Dharma requests. I stopped eating fish In January and it has done wonders for my body and my practice.
Not to mention I really learned to my core about ahimsa from Sri Dharma during my teacher training. I knew the definition, "Compassion for all living beings, and do no harm" but I really felt it during my time with Dharma. Ahimsa excludes no one being. I do believe my strength in practices of meditation and pranayama have brought me much more self discipline. Control of the breath equals control of the thoughts and for me that's been huge along this journey. Not negotiating with my mind is key. I feel like my higher self is at the steering wheel so to speak.
Learning about Ahimsa has evolved along with my yoga journey over the years too. At first I only considered the animals feelings and their pain and that was enough to take the first steps. Then I began to think about what eating animals was really doing to my body. Not just the nutritional part but taking on the energy of all that suffering. People never want to see or speak about the horrors of the meat and dairy industry, for obvious reasons. It can keep you awake at night. And being a part of that cycle of energy- Was that in line with my heart? To hurt another living thing, to be part of why they’d experience pain? And also what happens to that energy once I would take it on? That's a lot to contemplate. Since we are all connected, I'm not only harming the animal, but I'm doing major harm to myself as well, my physical body and also the energetic and spiritual self.
I've also learned not to judge anyone or anything. If I'm having compassion then I'm obviously not to insist or impose on anyone else's dietary choices. Which before it would pain me to watch people eat certain things. Now I realize everyone has their path and we all are working out our karma. This is all divinely guided, and I can rest knowing it's all part of a greater plan. I can only lead by example and offer my knowledge when it's asked for. My yoga has really taught me to meet people where there are, which has been a blessing for all the relationships in my life. As well as the one with myself.
As I stated at the beginning my journey hasn't been perfect and neither am I. There have been times when I've compromised and say had butter in restaurant food or a hint of cheese to save a gracious hosts feelings, and I think it's important I share that. Yoga has taught me to accept myself and all my beautiful divine imperfections. Through ahimsa, I should do no harm even in my thoughts. I don't have a heart attack if I make a mistake because after all I am only human in this experience for a reason.