Ahimsa, or non-violence, the first precept of yoga, requires that the yogi not harm the earth or its inhabitants. While the nature of human life is such that harm cannot be entirely eradicated, it can and should be minimized by the yogi. There are many choices we make in our every day lives that allow us the opportunity to practice ahimsa. Two of the biggest revolve around what we choose to eat and how we treat our environment. There can be no question that eating plants is less harmful than eating animals so the yogi strives to be a vegetarian or vegan. Similarly, ahimsa requires the yogi to choose products that have a minimal damaging affect on the earth. The yogi recognized that if everything is connected, then recycling and reusing is better than creating pollution and waste. The industrial meat and agriculture industries are some of the world's greatest polluters. The connection between our food and our environment cannot be ignored. The connection between body-mind-spirit cannot be ignored. Nor can the reality of the mass torture and killing of animals for the sake of corporate profits or what most less enlightened people call dinner.
There are many ways to take small steps in the right direction and, over time, the change becomes easier and can become greater. For example, you can start by giving up meat. Then stop eating fish. As you adapt to vegetarianism, taking the next step to eliminate all animal products won't seem so severe. In fact, when done for the right reasons, recognition of the drastic effects we can have on our health, the well being of millions of animals and the overall health of the environment, the choices become simple.
It can be difficult to make radical changes in ones lifestyle all at once. What does a vegan bring to work to eat for lunch when you work in an office? Where can you go out to dinner with your friends and what d you order? How do you make dinner for your family when they eat meat? There are some very helpful and informative blogs,l websites and books that can guide you on your path to a conscious decision to stop harming animals and the environment. Google 'vegan' or 'vegetarian' blog and you will find hundreds of interesting and helpful results. Here are a few books to get started:
The Diet of Enlightenment - by Sharon Gannon
This book explores the relationship between what we eat and the five ethical precepts, or yamas of the Yoga Sutras arguing that the yamas compel a committed yogi to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. It is also a practical guide to relating your asana practice to vegetarianism, environmentalism and political activism. It contains a 21-day cleansing diet, advise on how to transition to a vegetarian diet and lots of useful resources.
The Omnivour's Delimma - by Michael Pollen
A fascinating account of where our food comes from and how it gets to be the dinner on our plates. The author follows the industrial production of corn in Iowa as it is turned into a commodity used in almost every form of processed food. He explores the weaknesses of mass-produced organic products, the life and death of livestock raised as food stock, the life of a farmer running a farm as a bio-unit where everything is connected and has implications on everything else, and the ethics and practicalities of the hunter/gatherer. This book is likely to have a profound impact on your views about food and it's relationship to yoga's goals of happiness and freedom for all beings.
Here are a some links to blogs about vegan/vegetarianism:
Here are some more books, too: