March 29, 2021
Ahimsa in Relationship to Diet & Nutrition
A common assumption I have come across since regularly practicing yoga asana beginning in my late twenties, is that I am a vegetarian or vegan. Whether aware of the first Yama or not, non-violence has many interpretations and when it comes to food, it is a topic that has been on my mind since the first time I opened my Holistic Yoga Flow teacher training manual.
For as long as I can remember, many mornings my father would come home shortly after the sunrise having harvested a wild animal. At age seven I began joining him on hunting expeditions a half-hour north of where I grew up in Santa Barbara, California. I am not too sure where my curiosity came from at such a young age, but I do know that if my dad ever asked me if I wanted to join him the night before leaving (followed by an early morning gentle shake and ask), I would always say “yes” because I did not want to miss out.
Over twenty years later I find myself asking the questions, ‘Why was I so intrigued?’ And ‘Where did that curiosity come from?’ Maybe it was instincts, or for a reason beyond my grasp, or maybe it was in front of my face and beneath my feet the whole time.
Connection is the answer. Connection to the land, mother earth. Connection to nature and everything living on earth, before and after human existence. Whether it is the birds and bees, the wild plants and trees, or the feeling of a cool breeze on my skin so cold I could see my breath. The connection with my father, and my brother, together, surrounded by the outdoors. Witnessing the wisdom of nature and all of its transitions, from night to day and from fall to winter to spring to summer. Witnessing the natural cycle of life and survival of the fittest. Lastly, witnessing the skills of my father that he has learned throughout his lifetime that have been passed down, including tracking animals, paying attention to your surroundings, and providing clean food and nutrition for loved ones and self.
So, when someone asks me about my nutrition and what category of diet I consider myself to fall under, it is more complex than a one-word answer and a title. I am not a vegan, I am not vegetarian, I am not paleo, I am not a carnivore, and I do not follow a caveman diet. I am every single one of those and more. It all depends on the day and how I am feeling mentally and physically.
More importantly, I know what foods to avoid and what ingredients to not put in my body. I eat real foods, mostly plants, organic, and from the farmer’s market, and 99% of the meat I eat has been hunted and harvested by myself, family, and friends, but occasionally I might have non-dairy vegan ice cream with a gluten-free cookie and almond butter crumbled and drizzled on top. You have to have a healthy balance.
There are times when I go weeks or months without eating meat, there are days where I fast until the evening, and most days I eat the majority of my food during breakfast and lunch. What I do not do is put myself in a specific category because in my experience that often leads to failure and unnecessary self-criticism. A downward spiral that I will never go down again.
To disconnect or create separation from others and the earth only moves us further away from living and breathing in a place of love, and love and connection are two reasons I believe why we are here on this earth and in these bodies. We are connected to everyone and everything on this planet, and the sooner we become aware of this, the sooner our planet and everything living on it will heal, including ourselves.
When I hunt, I am more connected to the earth and the animals. Every time I cook something that I or my family has hunted it is a ceremony and a blessing. I am deeply connected to the spirit and the soul of that animal, and I am honored. I understand that not everybody lives this way and that some people may despise hunters or hunting and cringe at the thought of killing an animal because it seems violent. I get it.
For those that do, I invite you to take a look through my lens, or the lens of other indigenous peoples who have been practicing these survival skills for centuries and generations. As humans we will not always agree with each other but we can respect one another and bow with humility and empathy.
Below are some recommended practices to enhance your sense or groundedness and connection: