So I’ve had this idea lately. It’s still developing, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the “McYoga” epidemic and how the neo yogis can survive it.
Consumerism and materialism have done a number on watering yoga down. The evolutionary force of yoga is being overshadowed by the superficial results. The many recent innovations are wonderful but at this point it’s yesterday’s news. You wouldn’t know that from looking at a copy of Yoga Journal. Speaking of which, I flipped through one recently and didn’t find a single thing of interest in it.
Not even one.
I see gifted teachers falling into step with the politically correct monoculture (hey, everyone has bills to pay). The teachers who have stayed true to the call are widely dispersed. Some of them stay well underneath the radar. I can understand why.
The yoga market is a slippery slope.
On the flip side the iron is hot right now. Yoga has become a household word and people are ready to dive in. But they don’t necessarily know which pitfalls to avoid. These are revolutionary times and there have been some recent explosions in the yoga world.
It’s easy to get disillusioned and cynical but I do believe that within the widespread interest lies a seed of greater possibility. We are experiencing a resurgence of ancient wisdom in a technological era. It’s a blessing to be alive in this information age. We are part of a shift in the collective consciousness and people are waking up.
The potential for personal evolution is mind blowing and it’s all the more reason to meditate. But we have to shed the extraneous distractions and resist segregating ourselves.
Let go of the petty story lines.
It doesn’t matter whether or not you eat meat.
The greatest style is no style.
Enough with the New Age elevator music.
You’re not your fucking lululemons.
Let yoga be the discipline of freedom that it IS.
19 thoughts on “Neo Yogis”
Thank you Emily! I hope that each door we open leads to another .. And another leading us closer to our atman – for some this might be a longer process – keep leaving us bread crumbs…
THIS post should be in Yoga Journal. Thank you for being real.
Though I agree with you that the essence of yoga has been exploited by our consumerist society, whether to eat meat or not is far from petty. Vegetarianism is not a fashion statement. Those who choose to be vegetarians are practicing for ethical reasons-ahimsa. Veganism can be applied to all the Yamas in how we treat animals used for food,etc. We see our connection to our sentient friends, and wish them to not suffer. Although, I was a vegetarian long before I learned about the link to yoga philosophy, my teacher made such a valid and insightful point, ‘It is not the dharma of animal to give its life for food, for they run and fight to prevent suffering and death. Plants on the otherhand give of themselves freely.’
On the otherside of the practices in yoga philosophy, we have the capacity to witness an animal suffering. We see their pain and hear their cries. Just because you don’t see this directly in your external world doesn’t mean that it is not happening and creating a mass of suffering for the whole..and surely you aren’t killing your animal for meat yourself. When someone eats a hamburger, at least three individuals are being harmed. The cow, the person doing the slaughtering, and the person eating it. Not to mention the devastating harm meat and dairy production is doing to our environment/our mother earth. It is devastating to our physical and astral health as well. Physically, watch the movie ‘Forks Over Knives'(diabetes, heart disease, cancer) and energetically, this is why the yogis were on sattvic diets, consuming meat means consuming the fear and suffering the animal experienced upon imprisonment and death.
We are a web of consciousness, and what we experience in the outside world is a direct projection of what is happening on the inside, that is, collectively. If we want to experience love and peace in this world we must live life compassionately accepting the whole of life. Einstein has a beautiful quote illustrating this message, “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest-a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.” ~Albert Einstein
Informative video and documentaries:
I honor your process and your truth. I agree with you that exploitation of animals and inhumane practices are widespread and demand attention. Just to clarify, I didn’t say that vegetarianism or animal rights are petty. I said it doesn’t matter if you eat meat or not. It doesn’t make a Yoga practitioner more or less ethical if they eat animals – it’s the intention that they bring to table (no pun intended… well maybe just a little).
Humans are omnivores. We have canines and can choose whether or not to eat meat. The hype around veganism and vegetarianism in mainstream yoga would lead people to believe they must adhere to these practices in order to be true yogis. There are Yogis in parts of India who eat meat, due to the climate and what is available to them. It’s gotten to the point where I’m seeing a great deal of peer pressure in the Yoga community to sway people towards veganism, and I’m ready to see this behavior evolve.
Before someone commits to making drastic changes to their diet they need to know all the angles. Depending on the individual and their body type, veganism may have a violent impact on their health. And they may disregard their body’s signals by convincing themselves that they are doing the so-called right thing.
Who is to say that plants don’t feel pain on some level? How far does non-violence go? Do we avoid walking on grass to avoid trampling on bugs? It’s up to each individual to choose how they live their lives. Clearly you and I have taken the time to absorb and digest the options to find our respective conclusions. And as Yoga teachers it’s our responsibility to point people towards doing the same. I personally adhere to the idea of “use what works and leave the rest.”
My point is that in all of the diversification of attention we are losing track of what YOGA IS FOR. The veganism/vegetarianism/carnivore debate has been going on for some time now. Let’s say it and move on. We have bigger fish or tofu or whatever you want to eat to fry.
Awesome response Emily!
The minor adjustments that one chooses for their own practice of ahimsa, is just that, for them individually. We cannot expect others to follow our own personal code of ethics in any matter.
Yoga is the journey of each individual to unravel their own Karma and karmic behaviors, that produce harm.
I am so onboard with your opening quote:
I pledge allegiance
to the Truth
and the united state of Samadhi
The space beyond any judgement, any decision, any dualism….that is Home.
I have heard these same questions over the years and thought I’d share my perspective. I’d like to make reference to the species closest to humans, the ape. Apes’ too have ‘canines’ but do not tear into flesh. They are basically herbivores with the occasional bug eating. A question from my perspective, if you place a bunny and an apple in a crib with a baby which one will the baby eat?
The vegetarian diet has proven to be a disease preventing diet as well. (The China Study is a good reference for this)Of course any diet can be unhealthy if you aren’t eating properly, healthy eating would include a whole foods plant based diet.
A common question I’ve heard over the years is in reference to the plants. Do plants feel? I do believe plants have a consciousness. We even have about 30% of the same DNA as a daffodil. We truly resemble all. Plants do still give of themselves freely. They don’t run. They bear beautiful color and scents which delight our senses. They basically hold out their branches to give of themselves. We don’t see them actively suffering as we do with animals. And, Of course plants can be exploited too, i.e. GMOs..another topic I speak of often.
Lastly, how far does violence go? Personally, I look down when I’m walking, avoiding stepping on a little life. I can’t do it all, and I certainly understand that, but I do as much as I possibly can to eliminate suffering. A quote I like in regards to this comment, ‘Don’t do nothing just because you can’t do everything.’Colleen Goudreau
I appreciate your open space to have these dialogues~
Margie, at this point I need to ask you to re-read what I have written and reflect on what I am saying. I know that you are well aware of much larger issues that are hand right now, so I have to say that expending relentless energy on pushing a vegetarian agenda is like rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic. Please hear me when I say I understand and value your strength and wisdom, but yours is not the only path.
For a moment, let’s all stop thinking of ourselves as yoga experts and remember those who actually expounded yoga to us, because no matter how many teacher training courses or asana we do, WE are THEIR students. As americans, we really know little of yoga unless we are dedicated to study and true disciplined practice and even still, it is heavy duty stuff and requires commitment. No matter how confident and tough we try to sound in our position on this, there just is no argument here, it is not a matter of opinion:
“The most important part of a Yoga practice is eating a vegetarian diet.”
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Swami Sivananda said:
…purity of food leads to purity of mind. Take a dose of champagne and sit for meditation. Take a dose of orange-juice and sit for meditation. You will know the difference. Different foods exercise different influences on different compartments in the brain. By taking champagne and meat, the mind will be confused and will become restless when you sit for meditation. By taking vegetables and fruits, you will get good concentration.
Our rishis lived on vegetarian food. The Chandogya Upanishad says, “Pure food leads to purity of mind and then one attains moksha*”. You should have dietetic discipline.
Non-vegetarian food is not sattvic. It is not good for a seeker. Practical experience will tell you that meat-eating is bad for the mind…..” -Sivananda
..the Yama and Niyama are ethical precepts set forth for us, so it makes no sense to say that it is not more ethical to chose not to eat an animal..? This goes against the very foundation of what we are teachers/students of. It doesn’t matter? It does. That’s why it’s taught.
Our true intentions are lived in every step, every bite, every word…
No, I won’t be ‘moving on’ from this matter, I don’t have bigger things to fry. Nothing is more important than the respect of life and the tenderness with which we treat all souls, especially those born attached to a nervous system. Ouch!!
It actually is a matter of opinion for some.
Enlightenment is not prevented by the consumption of meat or animal products.
Thank you for your contribution. I hear that promoting vegetarianism is your primary objective as a teacher. I wish you well in achieving your mission.
I am very aware of who has expounded Yoga to me. I do not support bullying people into vegetarianism or veganism by using select perspectives from the Yoga tradition. I’ve heard those examples before, digested them and moved on. Another perspective that I’ve considered is the Aghora tradition, a lesser known but no less important branch of Yoga. I choose to hold space for people of varying dietary practices. I find that the conversation is much richer.
I will say that your response is a classic example of the kind of closed mindedness that I’m working to alleviate in the Yoga community. The respect of life and the tenderness with which we treat all souls is a step in the right direction but it is not the goal of Yoga.
There is no need for you to be unkind to me Emily. I don’t know you and you don’t know me. I say what I say and abide by the ethics of my heart and the heart of Yoga because it hurts me so bad to see so many people and animals suffering needlessly in the world.
Oneness is the goal of Yoga. Obviously you don’t understand that. Yoga means Unity. Therefore, the more you relate to your fellow being, the more Yoga you become, and one of the ways the sages advised us to feel oneness was by stopping the act of hurting and eating animals. You hear nothing, but your chatter of your own ego that you still insist on calling truth. We all go through that. Some hold on to stasis longer than others though and try to argue with those who are simply trying to point out truth for your own good.
Im bullying? Im close minded? Get real. I will never visit your blog again, for you have a lot to learn and many ways in which to open and grow before you, if ever, hear the call of the Goddess, i just hope the animals you hurt will be few. You have nothing to teach me except how prevalent ignorance of Yoga continues to be and how powerful the ego is in convincing us to continue doing things that are wrong. YOU are the classic example of the unfortunate path Yoga has taken by westerners. Dumbing it down, lessening the austerities, because you can’t handle the sacrifice. (We currently see where such attitude landed john friend) Humble yourself and learn from teachers who have been at this longer than you especially the teachers who honor and respect the Gurukala system. Calling me close minded shows your immaturity and lack of awareness. Your claim to be following Aghora yoga is boarder line comical. I seriously laughed when i read that. They advocate cannibalism and all kinds of grossness. Good luck with that path, there’s a reason so few regard it as beneficial. And instead of telling margie to re read what you wrote, YOU reread what you wrote and what she wrote. Maybe eventually you will see how incomplete your responses and thought processes are. And the movie links she kindly shared with you are great ones.. Blessed be.
For you and your friends:
Those high-souled persons who desire beauty, faultlessness of limbs, long life, understanding, mental and physical strength and memory should abstain from acts of injury. Mahabharata 18.115.8
The very name of cow is Aghnya [“not to be killed”], indicating that they should never be slaughtered. Who, then could slay them? Surely,? one who kills a cow or a bull commits a heinous crime. Mahabharata Shantiparv 262.47
The purchaser of flesh performs Himsa (violence) by his wealth; he who eats? flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does Himsa by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing: he who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts off the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells or cooks flesh and eats it — all of these are to be considered meat-eaters. Mahabharata Anu 115.40
More quotes….Ahimsa is the highest Dharm. Ahimsa is the best Tapas. Ahimsa is the greatest gift. Ahimsa is the highest self-control. Ahimsa is the highest sacrifice. Ahimsa is the? highest power. Ahimsa is the highest friend. Ahimsa is the highest welfare. Ahimsa is the highest teaching. Mahabharata a18.116.37-41
He who desires to augment his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures lives in misery in whatever species he may take his birth. Mahabharata 115.47.
What is the good way? It is the path that reflects on how it may avoid killing any creature. Tirukural 324
All that lives will press palms together in prayerful adoration of those who refuse to slaughter and savor meat. Tirukural 260
Regardless of whether or not you ever visit this blog again, I’m still going to respond to what you wrote.
You are correct that we don’t know one another, but my sense from reading your projections is that you think you do know me. My guess is our mutual friend Margie invited you here to unleash your perspectives. You could use a little restraint when it comes to being a house guest. (Margie – please take note.)
If you had taken the time to read the “welcome mat” on the main page of my site, you would have seen that this is a place for DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES to be shared. You are clearly against the idea of anyone eating meat, Yogis or otherwise – this is what I meant when I said you are closed minded. Obviously you can’t handle hearing this from me, but it is the truth.
And clearly I’ve triggered you which you’ve interpreted as being mean. All I can do is offer you a mirror and encourage you to realize that one finger pointing out is three fingers pointing back. I have no issue with your dietary choices, and would never attempt to sway you from them. You speak of oneness, but you have segregated yourself from anyone who does not share your belief system.
Just to clarify I never said I was following Aghora Yoga. I said I have CONSIDERED it as an example of how diverse the Yoga path is. I encourage anyone who is serious about Yoga to do the same.
To Erinn or anyone who reads this I want to reiterate my original post: “We have to shed the extraneous distractions and resist segregating ourselves.” Thank you Erinn for helping to prove my point and being an example of what I meant. And thank you for helping me to grow as a teacher. If you ever decide to visit this site again I invite you to learn a little more about me by reading my next post, entitled “Dangerous Yoga.”
You may or may not read this….What i find lacking your responses is any discussion of your own personal insight and realization. You quote lots of fine scripture, but that means nothing. It reveals nothing about your practice, realization or commitment to the actual goal of Yoga, enightenment.
Perhaps you would find your audience much more receptive if you actually discussed your personal journey, not quoting verse like a typical fundamentalist of any tradition.
Millions of words have been written about how to live one’s life. They are absolutely meaningless, until they become enlivened through one’s actual practice and realization.
What an INCREDIBLE post! While not a yoga practitioner myself, my Lady is… and she has been to many new-agey yoga classes with the same icky feeling after each. Your keen insight to the necessity of clear truth in experiencing yoga is fantastic.
I applaud your ferocity!
Ahimsa means non-violence. It does not mean “do not eat meat”. Eating meat non-violently would mean eating an animal that was killed humanely. If you have violence in your heart, committing a violent act only demonstrates the violence that is there. Killing an animal without violence in your heart, wishing the animal liberation, and thinking of the divine while you eat the meat, is eating meat non-violently. In the Gita, Arjuna asks KRSNA how he is supposed to kill his cousins in the war? KRSA tells Arjuna, “You are a warrior! Think of me and fight!”. IN other words, he was telling Arjuna to fight not with violence in his heart but with the divine in his heart. Thus, Ahimsa. May all be blessed and liberated.
And Apes DO eat meat. They hunt.
There are also many stories in Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism & Buddhism) that tell of beloved animals who have given their lives to their beloved masters, the gurus. The guru eats the animal after the animal has freely given its life. The guru is blessed and the animal is blessed. End of story.
Erinn needs to be whipped and dominated. Some egos only understand the language of liberation through loss of control.
I feel the need to answer Erinn’s comments.
My worry is that she speaks with a disembodied voice. The quote-mining shows this. How many western hippies think dissociation is enlightenment? I shudder. Enlightenment is a skill, like playing a piano. You get better at it if you practice. It’s not about angel choruses or finding the right formula. No finger from a cloud saying “Lo! I betokeneth thee a halo!”
Being is fleshy. It is not a concept. It does not exist and can not be referred to outside of a physical body. And bodies do inconvenient things. If that scares her, if she hates human bodies like she seems to, maybe she needs to look more deeply at her own unexamined assumptions. There is a subset of vegetarians/vegans who resemble a young Martin Luther, whipping himself 16 hours a day to mortify his flesh. I don’t think it’s too farfetched to say that some modern “health” diets serve the same purpose.
To a larger point: it’s not surprising that people obsessed with the concept of “self” are prone to dissociation. It’s sad and my heart goes out to them. I was like that once. And I suspect this is where the false perception of antagonism between matter and Something-Beyond has its origin; we dissociate because of extreme discomfort, minds floating unanchored in the sea of our bodies. It’s a profoundly frightening experience and any foothold will do to end it, even a self-defeating foothold. But we need to find a way to keep moving or the foothold becomes a bad habit.
Most of what we do and think and feel is a reaction to something outside our control, whether that something is pleasant or stress-inducing. That’s why yoga, meditation, or other spiritual skills are so important. A mindful reaction, an acknowledgment that we are not fully in control, is where creativity starts.
It’s endlessly amusing to me that these ‘earth goddess’ types tend to define the feminine as the peacekeepers, the nurturers, the mama figure. Nothing wrong with any of that of course. But when confronted with Kali Ma, her castrating knife, dance of death, and her talent for throwing severed heads, it’s types like Erinn who get totally freaked out. They talk of feminine power but when confronted with it baldly, they flee to the nearest drum circle.
Erinn needs to vacate to India and see the Ganges as the pollution-choked petri dish it actually is. Jumping in feet-first and yelling “I am cleansed by the purity of these waters!” won’t make it any less hazardous to one’s health- if you jump in the Ganges you’re going to be waist deep in all kinds of smelly excretions that trigger your instinctual disgust response. Those are the conditions in which a lotus thrives. The conditions that repulse us are the conditions from which we grow. Pure waters, on the other hand, are by definition nutrient-free.