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In the yoga world (and perhaps, the rest of the world), there is a heated debate about the consumption of meat. At the heart of this debate is the principle of ahimsa, or non-harming. Many schools of yoga preach that eating any animal product or byproduct is equivalent to consuming negative energy, and thus creates further karma that must be worked out in future incarnations. In other schools that adhere to Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga), there are certain types of people that require meat to remain in balance.  And then there are schools that say “Do what works for you.”

With all of this conflicting information, what is a yogi(ni) to do?

Let’s start with fleshing out ahimsa a little more. This means non-harming. Not just to animals, but to every living thing. Now, even if you adhere to a strict vegan diet, you are still picking fruits off plants, which may cause harm to the insects that would like to feast off of them. Indeed, in order for a crop to be fruitful (especially on North American farms) insect repellents (natural or otherwise) are utilized. Ahimsa? Not so much. Not to mention that being a vegan is great, but forcing those ideas onto others could also be considered a form of harm.

The food cycle has been carrying on since the beginning of time, and was designed in accordance with the universal intelligence. You learned about this in science. Plants grow from soil, the small animals eat the plants, larger animals eat smaller animals, dead animals are broken down by decomposers and the nutrients are returned to the soil so that plants can grow. Where do humans fit in here?

Vegans eat no animal products or byproducts, thus only eating plants, and typically in raw form. Vegetarians typically consume animal byproducts (like honey, which does not harm bees to produce if done in a natural setting). Everyone else consumes a little of everything. Most vegans I know will cite animal cruelty as the primary reason for their dietary choice. Many vegetarians feel the same way, but typically second it with health, spiritual, or consciousness based reasons.

So, who’s the “better” consumer?

The answer comes not from what you eat, but where your food comes from. As you practice yoga, your vibrational quality (consciousness) rises, which urges you towards foods that are naturally and holistically better for you.  By choosing foods that are better, you automatically raise your consciousness, so you can get there through either or both ends. For example, meat is not inherently evil, but choosing meat products from places where animals are slaughtered in factory settings incurs negative energy — you are literally consuming all of the fear and anxiety that arose in the last minutes of the animal’s life. Strawberries are plant based and fabulous, but in the wintertime in New York, they are not local, typically not organic, and thus require a great deal of fossil fuels to get to your plate. In the same vein, plants that are genetically modified may contain harmful components, thus causing harm to your own body, which should be the first place you are practicing ahimsa.

Remembering the acronym SOUL can help you to make conscious food choices. S = Seasonal O = Organic U= Unprocessed L= Local. Ahimsa at its finest, it ensures that the least amount of harm possible is done in every aspect of getting the food from the farm to your table.

Where to get SOUL food? Try a local farmer’s market, or see if there is a CSA or Co-op operating in your area. If space allows, try your own hand at farming.  And stay tuned here, as I’ll be posting deliciously nutritious recipes sure to entice even the most stubborn of carnivores, and taking you on the journey of turning 10 acres into an intensive farming experience.

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