Ali Hale Tilley (yoga teacher and NZ Yoga Centre owner), explains why she gave up eating meat two decades ago, and has gained numerous benefits from her choices.
My relationship with India taught me that a strict vegetarian lifestyle, together with a disciplined yoga practice, promotes real spiritual clarity. We are what we eat! Therefore, my dietary choices are reflected in the longevity and clarity of my yoga and meditation practices.
Plus, choosing sattvic food (pure and alkaline), which means eating fresh, locally grown vegetarian or vegan food, provides me with huge vitality. Similarly, eating ‘pure veg’ food, which excludes all meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and gelatin products, supports my spiritual and physical well being.
My Guruji took dietary purity to another level. At his ashram in Barsana, we always cooked bhojan food, which prevented us from tasting food during cooking, and yet allowed us to offer ‘pure veg’ food to the temple deities. Blessed food becomes prasad.
As a result of my commitment to pure eating, I can walk into any spiritual environment and know my conscience is clear and my spiritual vibrations are fine-tuned enough to receive any blessings available.
My godfather was a pig farmer so I got to see first-hand the squalor and stench of pigs! Similarly, feeding testosterone to beef cattle, estrogen to chickens, and using chemicals to disinfect sheep can affect our hormonal systems, leading to high rates of aggression, endometriosis, and immune dysfunction.
In contrast to the purity of sattvic food, meat products are tamasic, which means they are dead, highly acidic, and full of toxic waste, such as heavy metals, antibiotics, fertilizers and parasites.
With my gut is clear of tamasic pollution, I have the intuitive advantage of having the clarity to navigate through life’s journey with confidence and enthusiasm.
Ahimsa, the first of yoga’s moral codes, means practicing non-harming and non-violence. Yoga asks us to restrain our violent and selfish urges, and avoid causing cruelty or contributing to the suffering of any sentient beings.
Personally, I cannot see how one can reconcile meat-eating with the practice of ahimsa. As a yogi, I practice what I preach and would feel hypocritical saying ‘Namaste’ or chanting ‘OM’ one minute and tucking into a piece of fish or meat the next. No one can afford to ignore the karmic debt of consuming animals that have suffered on the way to the dinner table.
New Zealand’s Primary Industries (meat and dairy) have contributed to native forests being cut down, land being cleared, grass being chemically fertilized, and pastures being irrigated with communal aquifers. Grazing animals belch methane, toxic effluents washes into waterways, culled meat requires expensive transport systems, and abattoirs stink like hell.
However, by leading an organic vegetarian lifestyle, I feel I am doing my small part to slow down the looming climate crisis. My dietary requirements invite crop diversity, organic composting, sustainable production, and community gardening. I am actively invested in helping save the planet, and my diet is part of that intention.
I am ethically opposed to animals being force fed antibiotics and growth hormones, and exposed to inhumane killing methods. How can I talk about gaining personal inner peace and going with the flow in my classes if I personally rely on energy sources that are traumatized, sick and suffering?
I recognize that although I rely on dairy produce, which can also use inhumane treatment of dairy cattle, I try where possible to buy locally produced organic products from suppliers that ethically look after their animals. Maybe it is time to invest in a crowd-shared cow if anyone is interested!
Due to my vegetarian and yogic lifestyle I never get colds or suffer from the flu and I have such a strong immune system that I rarely get sick or visit the doctor. My largely alkaline diet means I have plenty of energy and an excellent gut flora. I am currently reminding myself to chew my food properly so my digestions stays strong!
Recent studies have linked red meat consumption with bowel cancer and breast cancer, and not a week goes by without a new case of a salmonella or e-coli outbreak from meat related products.
Many meat eaters thinks that vegetarian cooking is difficult or expensive. However, with a million vegetarian recipes on Google and the mindset to go meat-free a growing concern, there is no time like the present to join the global movement of taking ethical responsibility for the planet by going MEAT FREE!