When we consider the yoga of eating, most people will turn to the Yamas as written by Pantajali in the Yoga Sutras. We read in the Sutras that we are to be non-violent beings, causing the least amount of harm and suffering as yogis and yoginis. From the concept of Ahimsa, it is very often extrapolated that as a yogi or yogini you should adopt a vegetarian diet in order to align with the principle of not causing harm to other beings.
As yoga has become more and more popular in the West, we are seeing that people are taking the concept of Ahimsa and re-interpreting it a little. We see people who are choosing to continue consuming animal products as a way of not causing harm to themselves. They are mindful about the meat that they consume, and do so in a way that causes the least amount of harm overall, considering their own biology as a part of the picture.
I believe that in both cases the practitioner is doing their best to avoid harming another life, and I feel that needs to be acknowledged and honoured. We do know that we are all at different places in our lives, in different states of health, and inhabiting different biology, so we cannot say that there is a one-size-fits-all diet. So how is one to decide what the yogic diet should look like for them?
Should You Have A "Yogic Diet"?
I feel that adopting a way of eating because one feels as though they "should" is not the root of what Pantanjali was trying to teach us through his words. Looking to the sutras as a guide for how to live one's life is wonderful, but a degree of genuinely wanting to do something is invaluable. This is what changes the act of eating something because you feel that you "should" or that this is the way it has to be into a genuine heartfelt expression of Self.
Turning from doing something that was taught to you into doing something out of the call of your inner Self is a powerful change. It is not to say that changing your diet and the way you eat in order to align with the teachings of the Sutras is wrong, it is actually fantastic. But making a shift in your eating due to a desire for a higher connection with your body, the Divine, and the other living beings that inhabit our earth? Now THAT, is nothing short of beautiful.
You will undoubtedly learn many valuable things about yourself and this world through this action. You may also find that sometimes the path to truly feeling something is through acting it out first. For me, it is when the decision to eat in a certain way comes from a stirring in the heart that it becomes the least harmful act. I believe that nothing that comes from the heart can be harmful. So next time you are wondering which is the "right" way to eat, sit with your heart for a moment. What feels truly genuine and authentic to you? How can you best express yourself through your eating?
Remember that there is no one way, there are several paths all leading to the same place. Find your authentic heart-based relationship with food and watch it transform your life.