Excerpt for Q & A from my Chair Yoga teacher training 35+ online course.
Link on www.sunlightyoga.com
Can I teach Chair Yoga if I am not a vegetarian or vegan?
This questions may arise. No, you do not have to eat any certain diet or live any certain way to teach Chair Yoga or yoga. It is your own journey to what feels comfortable and best for you. (Ashrams which are traditional yoga communities do not have fish or meat in them nor allows it however, and animals are friends to the yogis so are not included in their diet).
II feel blessed, to be raised vegetarian, with the entire family. I feel blessed, at age 45 to still never have eaten animals, (didn't even try it, not even once, any fish, nor chicken nor animals, nor ever wanted to). I shifted to vegan (no eggs or dairy) 7 or so years ago. My health feels even better as a vegan than vegetarian. If you makes shifts, learn some nutrition basics though. (Ex: I take a B-12 supplement because I don't eat eggs, and add nutritional yeast for B-12 into soups and salads and meals.) The rest of nutrients I can get in my plant-based vegan diet. I even tested my blood work 6 months after shifting to vegan after 30-40 years vegetarian, and again this year (2020 at age 45) and every test showed 100% healthy for the nutrients (vit B-12 was fine and all).
I do include this topic here however, even though it is each person's choice, because it is very much a part of yoga lifestyle, o eat a certain way, in harmony with the animals. Some choose to practice or teach only the yoga exercises, asanas (poses) and meditation and not change their diet or teach about it. That is each person's choice.
Keep in mind also, to teach or practice yoga, you do not have to be a 'perfect' yogi or yogini (women who practices yoga)- according to the Yoga Sutras and rules. They are guidelines to learn and live by if it resonates, like an ethical guidebook so to speak. But yoga is not a religion, it is a universal path to live in health and harmony and peace with all around us and ourselves. We can just do our best and can raise consciousness, compassion and awareness, as we choose, and if we choose. Even small steps to eat healthier, more vegetables and eat less animals is a step to save animals lives, to help your health and the earth. If that is of interest to you, know that you can take your own journey with it. Some shift as in an all of nothing with their diet, and some take smalls steps.
I add this topic in my course, because the ethics and yogic philosophy teaches that for nonviolence (ahimsa in Sanskrit) and compassion, for harmony of the earth and all beings (and for optimal health), the yogis are vegetarian (now really vegan to keep up with nonviolence, as cruelty is there also in the egg and dairy industries).
The yogis also say it helps meditation and the yoga practice, to have a healthier body. Try it as an experiment. Practice your yoga postures on days you ate fried food, junk food or animal products (meat or dairy) vs. days you ate plant-based vegan or vegetarian. See how your body and energy feels. Which allowed you to focus more also? Our food choices effect our mind as well as our energy and body. 81 year old vegan yoga master Dharma Mittra says "if you eat food that is dead and fried, you will feel dead and fried." That is one way to make a light joke about it, yet has truth to it.
Many commercial modern yoga trainings do not add this topic, because not everyone wants to be vegetarian or vegan or is, so it is not a popular topic. If they are concerned more with their business incentives of getting registrants, vs. teaching the full yogic path, that may be why some do not discuss it. I personally would not want to leave out this crucial part of healthy yogic living. However, I am not judging, nor instructing what those who take my courses 'should' or have to do as far as eating goes. It is everyone's personal choice.
This topic however, may get a little controversial for some and can trigger some discomfort or strong opinions and ideas. Yet, comfort does not always make us grow and reflect and I want to be authentic to the yogic teachings as I understand them. So I didn’t want ignore it, but I’m careful not to put too much about this topic as it is an aspect, but not the only aspect of yogic living and teaching. The yoga masters and lineages and in yoga ashrams however, will not talk about eating fish or meat as part of yoga though, or allow it in their trainings or ashram communities. But even if people don’t eat vegan or vegetarian they can still go to ashrams, practice yoga and teach it. (Try adding more vegetables to your diet regardless though, and see if you feel more energy and get inspired to continue eating in a way that brings you radiant health.)
I actually love the vegan eating topic now, because it makes you feel so good when you eat healthy, it helps animals and the earth so is a win-win-win for all. So overtime I might actually add some vegan cooking videos on this course, just for fun.
You are ultimately control your own eating habits and choices. We all know habits are hard to break. But yet possible. Each has their own story and history to unravel with society, family and cultural teachings on eating and emotional eating habits. Finances can be a factor too in food choices and availability of foods in certain areas (food justice and social justice can be factors). The yogic path teaches us ways to minimize harm to other beings and our own bodies.
I hope this section gave you 'food for thought', no pun intended.
In summary, no, you do not have to be anything but yourself, and make your own educated choices when teaching yoga and Chair Yoga. But also no, yogic diet does not include living beings (no fish, meat or animals). We may also not be a "perfect" vegan or vegetarian even with good intentions, but try not to let that discourage you. Making shifts anyway towards healthier eating, in harmony with all beings can bring so many benefits.
To learn more read the book (out in 2020) "Yoga and Veganism" by Sharon Gannon, founder of Jivamukti Yoga, or her prior book Yoga and Vegetarianism. Or these below:
I recommended these books highly:
Click here for the Ahimsa Diet page on my website
Stacie Dooreck is the author SunLight Chair Yoga: yoga for everyone !and Yoga for Everyone! books and ebook. Stacie is a Stress Management Specialist for the Ornish Heart Disease Reversal Program in N. CA and wellness instructor of companies. Stacie is a based in Marin/Bay Area CA and is a certified Sivanadna Yoga instructor since 1995, a Kundalini Yoga and Gentle Integral Yoga Certified instructor.