I once had a teacher tell me that in her opinion, to be a yogi, one also needed to be a vegetarian. I respect this person and her opinion very much. However, this statement ruffled my feathers. For one, I am not a vegetarian and Two, I had just paid this person ooodles of coinage for teacher training. Here I was, on the path to become a yoga teacher and my teacher was saying that I would never really be a yogi unless I stopped eating meat. Hmmm…
First of all, let me say that I have nothing against vegetarianism. I have practiced a vegetarian diet many times throughout my life,and now eat meat on a very limited basis. The benefits of vegetarianism are endless, not only for the person, but for the animal lives saved and the lesser environmental impact. Vegetarianism in and of itself is an excellent lifestyle practice. However, I do not see it as a prerequisite for your enlightenment, happiness, or yoga path.
This topic gets under my skin so bear with me. When we tell our students that they NEED to be ‘this’ or ‘that’ in order to be a yogi, what we’re actually telling them is “you’re not good enough as you are.” This is bullsh*t and it creates dogma in Yoga. I, for one, believe Yoga is no place for dogma. The more we label what someone ‘should’ be the less we see them as they are. The more ‘should-ing’ we do, the more labels we create and the further we stray from Yoga’s ultimate goal – unity, oneness and love.
So please hear this: Whether you’re a smoker, a drinker, meat eater or breatharian YOGA IS FOR YOU! You are, can, and will be a yogi. As my spiritual guide likes to say, “stop should-ing all over yourself” and simply choose to be at peace with who and what you are. The rest will take care of itself.