My path toward a plant-based diet begun years ago, as I leaned into vegetarianism and, health and spirituality. I struggled, however, to remove fish and cheese from my diet, until I watched the film Forks Over Knives in May last year and overnight I changed my life for higher.
Turning vegan, alongside quitting alcohol, has been an empowering life change. I have practiced yoga since my late teens, yet my practice had been sporadic and more fitness orientated than spiritual. That is, until I switched to a plant-based diet and soon thereafter adopted veganism as a way of life.
The eight limbs of yoga
If you’ve ever read the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, you’ll be familiar with the eight limbs of yoga, which make up the eight principles that all yoga practitioners should be adopting in daily life. The first limb, known as Yama, refers to the ethical rules or moral imperatives, with the first rule Ahimsa stating: “Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings”.
In the West we have been so removed from the entire process of where our food comes from, and the ease of picking up a chunk of steak wrapped in plastic at the supermarket has significantly desensitized most consumers from identifying steak with a cow in a paddock. Admittedly I first became interested in veganism for the environment, yet it was for my health that switched the light switch ON. Diving further into the journey has opened my heart to all beings and allowed me to decondition all that was taught to me as a child; that animals are raised for us to eat and that’s just how it’s supposed to be.
My kids naturally adopted veganism and together we have a beautiful love of all living beings; this sensitivity has flown through to deepen my spiritual practice as I will share with you below.
Plant-based foods and flexibility
The first fundamental difference I noticed with my daily home yoga practice was subtle improvements in my flexibility. I have had to work at flexibility even in my days as a teen gymnast, and yet a month in from turning vegan I was moving deeper in various asanas particularly hip openers and even found myself enjoying previously agitating poses.
Animal foods are high in fats and toxins which both inhibit flexibility. I add hemp protein to my smoothies, and eat a lot of hemp seeds and rub hemp oil all over my body whenever I can, and studies suggest that the Omega-3 fatty acids found in hemp may lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve blood vessel function, and, at higher doses, may ease inflammation of the joints.
Diets high in plant protein also have a positive effect on collagen production in the body. This ‘glue’ that holds the structure of your body together is found in your bones, muscles, skin and tendons; healthy collagen levels can surely be attributed to increased flexibility in the body.
Studies also suggest that silicon is beneficial to bone and connective tissue health, and plays an important role in assisting calcium with the growth and maintenance of our joints and bones. Silicon heightens bone flexibility by increasing levels of collagen, and silicon levels are much higher in plant-derived foods including grains such as barley, oats, rice bran and wheat bran, and vegetables like green beans and root vegetables.
Knowing my vegan diet is having a direct effect on flexibility in my yoga practice, after decades of struggling, has profoundly shifted my mental state and greatly increased my love of yoga. Growth and progress, as they say, equals happiness.
Awareness was another major change; increased sensitivity inside and outside the body is a beautiful byproduct of adopting veganism as a way of life. My body is constantly lighter, stronger, and I am so much more in tune with how it is feeling. I am not bogged down by heavy meats, toxins and animal fats, and this heightened sensitivity takes me deeper in each asana, allows for free-flowing pranayama, and of course, deeper and more focussed meditation. This lightness in the body and mind calls me to the mat with a newfound joy for my daily practice.
Fresh, organic fruit, vegetables and whole foods
Going vegan for me meant going as clean, green and healthy as possible. I emphasize this as you can be an unhealthy vegan; sadly processed fake meats are an easy alternative to meat especially for new vegans transitioning from animal proteins yet your body will feel sluggish and heavy if you are filling your body with these substitutes. When recently visiting Colombia we would once-weekly visit the only local vegan restaurant in Bucaramanga City. Despite all the meals being handmade, most offerings were fake-meat substitutes and often deep fried. I would always leave the restaurant feeling heavy, internally damp, and extremely bloated. Forget doing a yoga practice for hours after that kind of vegan junk-food consumption.
Vitality and joy
Now I know my body, and mind, thrives on fresh, organic produce, and as I fuel her daily with fresh juices, filtered water, and homemade vegan meals made with love, she rewards me with prolonged vitality and radiance. My daily home yoga practices have doubled in length and I often catch myself smiling for no reason as I move through my asanas. Meditation, of which I practice Vipassana and Ananda Marga, has become a joy rather than a forced ‘must’ and I sit longer and deeper through each session. Single motherhood is now a joy as my little boys revel in this rad vegan lifestyle and I love to watch them play on my yoga mat whenever I leave it lying around.
Perhaps the most beautiful discovery has been the likeminded vegan yogis I have attracted into my life since making this easy change. Shortly after becoming vegan I began working with Divine Goddess and have met a beautiful community of warrior women coming into their true spirit. I have just returned to the Byron Shire after eight months travelling the world and am delighted to find four new vegan restaurants in town; Susi and I will be introducing you to these very soon!
By Angie Davis