AuthorPoppy Pickles

I’m a Yoga Teacher and I Eat Meat

Yoga Teacher Meat Diet Image Credit: Rawpixel.com via Pexels.

There is one thing that you can guarantee all yoga teachers will share: a love of yoga.  Apart from that, the only other thing you can guarantee is that they will be entirely different. And that’s what’s so great about them!

But, there is a clichéd view that if you’re a yoga teacher you should be a vegetarian (at the very least).  You should also be a teetotal, green-juice quaffing, new-age hipster, wearing mala beads and smelling gently of incense.

And if you ARE exactly like that, then how 100% cool, but if you’re not, it doesn’t mean you’re any less of a yoga teacher. Or does it?

I gave up eating meat in my twenties, but when I fell pregnant I started eating it again as my body was craving meat. Now, with a fast metabolism and a busy and active life, I still eat meat occasionally, but I do question whether this is in line with the principles of yoga. And I know I’m not alone.

So, does it go against the principles of yoga to eat meat?

What the ancient texts say

Let’s go straight to the Granddaddy of Yoga – Patanjali. He codified the ground rules of yoga over 2,000 years ago, so if it’s important, it’ll be in there. After a thorough search I can guarantee that there is nothing specifically endorsing vegetarianism, but in the Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra II.30, it says:

Yoga Teacher Diet Meat and Yama
Image Credit: Jinen Shah via Unsplash.

‘Non-violence, truth, abstention from stealing, continence, and absence of greed for possessions beyond one’s need are the five pillars of yama’.

The principles of yama are guidelines of how to live your life according to yoga. Many yogis take the first principle of non-violence (ahimsa) as the grounds for being a vegetarian, as to them this means non-violence to all, including animals.

But what about non-violence, or kindness, to yourself? I know that for some metabolisms eating animal protein is the healthiest option.

What the modern-day yoga founders say

In Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar states that “A vegetarian diet is a necessity for the practice of yoga”.  However, just a few pages later he qualifies this statement, by saying, “Whether or not to be a vegetarian is a purely personal matter as each person is influenced by the tradition and habits of the country in which he was born and bred.”

This acknowledges the fact that being a vegetarian while being the norm in India, is a different kettle of fish (or meat – ha) when you’ve been brought up in the UK, or other Western countries with a varied diet of meat, fish, and vegetables.

T.K.V Desikachar, the son of T. Krishnamacharya, is emphatic in his view on the subject. In his book ‘Health, Healing and Beyond’ he states:

“Let me emphatically clear up one widespread misunderstanding. Nowhere in the Vedas or in the ancient teachings is it said that you must be a strict vegetarian.”

This is pretty clear. He feels strongly that according to the ancient yogis country of origin (see paragraph below), it is a matter of preference that they have a vegetarian diet, but for others, it is a choice the depends on beliefs, philosophy, culture, and taste.

What yoga’s country of origin ‘says’

Yoga Meat Diet Indian Culture Vegetarianism
Image Credit: Sharon Christina Rørvik via Unsplash.

Yoga has its source in India. In this great continent, the issue of vegetarianism is a complex one. Vegetarianism is a cultural issue that is interwoven into society through the religious beliefs and its accompanying caste system. The ranking of the caste system in India splits Hindus into four hierarchical sections of society: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and the Shudras. Roughly translated these are priests and teachers, warriors and rulers, farmers and traders, and labourers.

Those in the highest caste, Brahmins, are aiming to achieve purity in body and spirit, and it was believed this could only be achieved through a vegetarian diet. There is also the belief that some animals are associated with different gods, and are therefore revered and would never be eaten, such as the cow, who is seen as a sacred mother.

What the scientists say

My own teacher trainer, a very experienced senior Iyengar yoga teacher, was very impatient with vegetarianism, insisting that especially when doing intensive physical practice, the body needed the protein from eating meat.

For those of us exercising vigorously every day (and I occasionally include myself in that category) the capability of the body to increase muscle tissue, as well as repair damage to muscle, is enhanced by the absorption of proteins and other minerals, fats, and nutrients contained in meat and fish.

The NHS recommends a healthy, varied diet, including oily fish and lean meat in order to build up muscles, but does clarify that it’s not necessary to eat more protein than you would usually eat, as ‘not all the protein you eat is used to build new muscle. If you overeat protein, the excess will be used mostly for energy once your body has what it needs for muscle repair.’

However, Derek Tresize, (very aptly named, as he is virtually ‘tree-size’), is a vegan competition-winning body-builder, who is adamant that a plant-based diet is not only adequate to build muscle mass, but preferable, as he insists that from personal experience he has found that eating plants will provide all the essential nutrients needed to build healthy lean body mass.

What your own body says

BKS Iyengar’s daughter, Geeta Iyengar, an acclaimed teacher in her own right, says in her book, ‘Yoga: A Gem For Women’, that ‘it is important to notice the change that the practice of asanas brings. In the beginning, the appetite grows as digestion improves. Later the intake of food is reduced, without affecting energy.’

Yoga Teacher Diet Laying Twist Jen Armstrong
Image Credit: Jen Armstrong via www.zenarmstrong.com.

It’s certain that the practice of yoga has a direct effect on digestion and appetite. Any yoga teacher can confirm this as at the end of a yoga class, the peace and quiet of savasana is often interrupted with the gurgles of various stomachs having been awoken from their slumber.

Twists deeply massage the digestive organs, backbends make you hungry, inversions first thing in the morning help to get things moving along. As our yoga practice deepens and we become more sensitive and attuned to our bodies, we start to understand what it is that we really need to eat. Geeta again:

‘By regular practice, one’s own constitution guides one as to what is food and what is to be avoided in food.’

So perhaps, as my body prompted me to go back to eating meat, in time, I will find that I no longer need it anymore.

Poppy Pickles

How to Stop Feeling SAD this Winter

Stop Feeling Sad By Jen Armstrong

It’s easy to feel SAD at this time of year. And no, I don’t mean actually sad (boohoo), but the mental health condition, Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to the mental health charity MIND, the reasons for why people suffer from SAD during the autumn and winter months is unclear, but a combination of the effects of reduced light levels, a disrupted body clock, low serotonin levels, and high melatonin levels, could all be triggers that set off this condition.

Featured Image Credit: Jen Armstrong via www.zenarmstrong.com. Featuring Yoga Instructor and YogaLondon Graduate Zaz.

Living in a temperate climate like our own, we can relish the changes of the seasons, and the contrasts that each one brings. For most of us, Christmas means sparkly lights, cosying up by the fire with family, and frosty walks in the low summer sunlight. For others who suffer from SAD, however, winter can be incredibly hard and lonely. SAD can cause serious symptoms, such as changing weight, appetite and sleeping patterns. All these can combine to have a detrimental effect on your physical, as well as your mental health.

Feeling Sad Affect And Sleep
Image Credit: Gregory Pappas via Unsplash.

SAD can affect all of us

For those people that have suffer from chronic SAD the symptoms are severe and debilitating. However, the lack of light, hectic social scene and reduced immunity that occurs at this time of year can take their toll on most of us. SAD isn’t just feeling the ‘winter blues’ either.

Therapeutic Yoga Practitioner, Bo Forbes, explains that “Many people don’t realize that SAD has three distinct phases,” she says. “In the dead of winter, it looks like depression, with symptoms such as lethargy and carbohydrate craving. But in the fall and early spring, it is often characterized by hypomania, where people tend to have physical agitation, racing thoughts, and a decreased need for sleep and food.”

Traditional SAD remedies

Stop Feeling Sad With Light Therapy
Image Credit: Bethany Legg via Unsplash.

Apart from upping sticks and moving to the Caribbean (tempting), SAD is treated like other forms of depression by cognitive behavioural therapy and antidepressants, with the addition of light therapy. The NHS also recommends some simple solutions such as trying to get as much natural sunlight as possible (haha), making your work and home environments as light and airy as possible, sitting near windows when indoors (but the draft!) and the usual triumverate of regular exercise, a balanced diet and reduction in stress.

However, at this time of year as the barometer plunges, the days get ever shorter, the mince pies come out at every social occasion and the pressure of organising Christmas mounts up, that trio of exercise, diet and ‘no stress’ seems harder to achieve than ever.

How yoga can help

So, what can we do to help ourselves?  If you’re finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning, and are finding that you’re carb-loading crisps at the Christmas party, it might be that your body is offering up a cry for help. And this is where yoga comes in.

Light therapy can be effective for some, but for others, it provides little relief. For SAD sufferer Natalie Engler, light therapy had little effect, and it wasn’t until it was combined with yoga, pranayama and meditation that she was able to alleviate her symptoms.

Restorative Yoga is the Key

Feeling Sad Restorative Yoga Jen Armstrong
Image Credit: Jen Armstrong via www.zenarmstrong.com.

But it wasn’t just yoga that she found helped, it was specifically restorative yoga, Forbes again:

“Restorative yoga may look passive from the outside, but it’s very active internally on both subtle and dramatic levels,” says Forbes, “Our nervous systems are designed to respond to minute fluctuations in our environments. Restorative yoga, combined with breathwork, is a potent tool to recalibrate the nervous system.”

Restorative yoga really does what it says on the tin – restore you. It may not feel like much is going on, but as you surrendour your body to the supported structure of poses that open and re-energise the body, as well as allowing the body to come into a true state of rest, the body’s natural healing response is given the time and space to work its magic, without the interference of adrenaline surges or cortisol.

For more on this topic read here and here.

Poppy Pickles

5 Yoga Techniques to Survive Your Family over the Holidays

5 Yoga Techniques to Survive Your Family over the Holidays

‘Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, children singing Christ-i-an rhyme’, go the lyrics of possibly the most saccharine Christmas song ever, although there are quite a few contenders. Naff Christmas music is just one of the many irritants that you’ll probably have to survive over the next few weeks, but there are a few ways out!

(more…)

Poppy Pickles

On Yoga Teaching: the Injured Yoga Teacher

On Yoga Teaching: the Injured Yoga Teacher

Yoga is good for you. This fact has been pretty much established by scientists, researchers, experts and long-lived, healthy yogis themselves. Yoga is now prescribed by some GPs, people are referred to yoga classes by physiotherapists. It has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of high blood pressure, heart disease, lower back pain, depression, and stress. It also helps to increase muscle strength, combat osteoarthritis and improve balance. (more…)

Poppy Pickles

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