My life’s journey into yoga and veganism has been a messy, yet beautiful one. Though it took me almost thirty years to find and commit to both, they have been waiting for me all this time. Now that I have arrived, I will never go back.
I grew up in the southeastern part of the United States, specifically in the state of North Carolina: the country’s capital of pig and hog farming. Animal products were (and sadly still are) a staple in my family’s household. Animal meat was the front and center of every meal. Butter and eggs were found in every side dish. Mac-and-cheese was considered a vegetable. This was all very normal to me for a long, long time.
But I also loved animals more than anything: I disliked playing with dolls, but had a room full of stuffed animals. Free Willy was my favorite movie. I wanted to grow up and become a marine biologist or attend NC State’s veterinary school. Horseback riding was the one pastime I looked forward to every week. Yet I ate animals and animal products—it took adulthood for the light bulb in my brain to finally turn on.
Though the food I ate was at the height of my unhealthiness, I was a very active adolescent. I was a gymnast and spent my entire youth outdoors playing in the woods and riding bikes through my neighborhood with my younger brother. I was a competitive Irish dancer throughout middle and high school. College was when my physical activity levels drastically died down, and my poor eating habits began to catch up with me. In my late teens, I tried to find a physical form of exercise that I enjoyed and could make time for between being a busy college student.
I found myself in my first yoga class sometime during my college career. My roommate at the time loved yoga and encouraged me to try a class with her my senior year. I enjoyed the class so much, I decided to take NC State’s yoga class for the last of my two physical education requirements. Unfortunately, my head was not in the best space to be able to focus on my yoga practice; I treated it as just another class I needed to graduate. At the time, I was working three full days a week at my internship and finishing the last classes of my degree. Once I left NC State, I left my yoga practice as well. It wasn’t to be found again until years later.
Upon my graduation, I immediately fell into the workforce without any sort of break. I was arguably burnt-out before I even began “real” adulthood. I worked long hours in a field I didn’t enjoy or find any satisfaction in. I never felt whole as a marketer; yet instead of making the change I needed, I ignored signs of the unhappy path I was going down.
My unhappiness in my professional life began to seep its way into what I consider the most important part of my life: my health, both mental and physical. I used unhealthy food and alcohol as coping mechanisms. I stopped making the time for physical exercise. I gained almost 40 pounds and started to hate my body and how I looked; but I stuck with my unhealthy habits. I didn’t know what mental health was.
When I was 25 years old, I went to the doctor for my routine annual physical. My lab-work had come back with numbers that startled my doctor. My triglycerides were off the charts. My cholesterol was at a very scary level considering how young I was. I’ll never forget her looking into my eyes and telling me that if I did not make some healthy lifestyle changes, I would die of heart disease at a young age. I was frightened. That very real conversation I had with my doctor was all I needed to get started on some serious introspection and figuring out the new path I needed to go down.
I began making slow changes to my eating habits. I drank less alcohol. I opted for the side salad over the fries. Those little changes led to greater ones, including introducing exercise back into my life. I invested in a FitBit and aimed to get my 10,000 steps in daily. I tracked my food. I started reading nutrition labels. Those changes lead to even greater ones. I found the professional path I actually wanted to go down and finally felt brave enough to change career fields entirely. I started to recognize the health was more than just physical—it was mental as well.
After three years of transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, I had made vast progress. My lab work came back better and better every year. I was happier. But something was still missing in my life. Veganism still wasn’t quite on my radar, but it was working its way there.
In February 2018, a new friend told me about her membership at CorePower Yoga, a national studio known for its hot power vinyasa flows. I remembered how much I had loved yoga when I was in college, and went with her to try a beginner-friendly class. I signed up for my unlimited membership instantly. I was hooked. Over the course of 2018, I grew into a consistent yoga practice. Yoga became more than just a physical practice for me; it became a lifestyle. I dug deeper into the history of yoga, and came across the Sanskrit word “Ahimsa” and its connection to non-harm to all beings, including non-humans.
At the same time, I was still refining my diet. I wasn’t completely happy with how I was eating. Research on diet lead me to the discovery of veganism. I watched YouTube videos from vegan activists and bloggers for months before I started to dabble into eating plant-based. It wasn’t until I found Maddie Lymburner, a young and healthy Canadian vegan YouTuber, that I got serious about going vegan. She linked the video to Gary Yoursky’s “The Most Important Speech You Will Ever Hear” to one of her posts, and I watched it in its entirety. I watched in horror. I soaked it all in. I cried. It was the night of July 20, 2018 that the light bulb turned on. I made the vow to go vegan from that moment forward; I have been ever since.
My yoga practice grew deeper alongside with my vegan journey. There wasn’t a better time for two wonderful practices to merge and blend together so perfectly.
Yoga gave me the beautiful, encouraging community that I surround myself in daily. Yoga taught me how to be more mindful. Yoga taught me that taking an hour for myself on my mat was self-care. Yoga brought me mental and physical strength. Yoga healed me in times of loneliness and sadness. Yoga lead me to living my practice even when I leave my mat and go back out into the world. Yoga saved me. Because yoga had done so much for me personally, I wanted to share it with the world. I want everyone to experience the joy that a consistent practice, both on and off my mat, had brought me.
In February 2019, I signed up for my 200-hour yoga teacher training with CorePower Yoga here in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was the life-changing experience I needed. Learning about Eight Limbs of Yoga was what finally, officially connected yoga and veganism together for me. Ahimsa has been my favorite of the Yamas ever since. I became an RYT 200 in May 2019 and have been teaching at CorePower since. Because I can’t get learn enough, I’m continuing my teaching journey and starting my 300-hour training with Asheville Yoga Center this fall of 2019.
It is still perplexing to me how many yogis have yet to make the connection of Ahimsa and veganism, so I’ve made it a personal mission of mine to spread the message in my teachings and personal blog posts. I am so grateful to have found the Yoga Is Vegan podcast; I now know that I am not alone and we are all on the same mission together. I am hopeful that one day we will live in a world in which every yogi is vegan.
- Featured Yogi, Laura Daughtry
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