Pardon Me, Yogi – Did You Order the Bacon & Wine Combo?

Some Argue the Road of Good Intentions is Paved with Chocolate

The ‘New York Times’ article When Chocolate and Chakras Collide scrawls a thinly positioned, but investigative line around the narrative of modernized, some would argue highly Westernized, yoga. Specifically eyeballing the American yoga-hub of Los Angeles, California, a clear claim to a theoretically ethical, as well as practical, crisis has evolved concerning the value and yogic benefit of food. But not just any food… Well, actually yes, ANY food! Some yoga practitioners are offering yoga classes which, after flowing through a thorough an intensive, yet welcoming workout, immediately offer luxurious cuisine to class members right on their sweaty yoga mats.
“All had signed up for a strange new hybrid of physical activity: first an hour of vigorous, sweaty yoga, then a multi-course dinner of pasta, red wine and chocolate. As soon as the lights went up, dinner was served on the floor: an (almost) seamless transition designed to allow the yogis to taste, smell and digest in a heightened state of awareness.
‘It’s a little weird to sit on a sweaty yoga mat and eat soup,’ said one woman, not pausing as she spooned up a smooth, cinnamon-spiked butternut squash purée from a bamboo bowl. ‘But people are used to doing some weird things in yoga class.’”

A Stick in the Mud, or a Piggy’s Paradise?

A particularly controversial aspect surrounding the food served during these classes is the departure from traditional fare one would expect to be ubiquitously endorsed at yoga studios. Many would, and have, sounded out against the thematically layering statements made by New York based yoga teacher, Sadie Nardini, who claims “The culture of judgment in the yoga community — I call it “yogier than thou” — is rampant, and nowhere more than around food… Nowhere is it written that only vegetarians can do yoga… We do not live in the time of the founding fathers of yoga, and we don’t know what they wanted us to eat.”
The undeniable pretension purveying from various collectives of outspoken members within the yoga-lifestyle has certainly negatively affected both internal and external views of yoga. However, one cannot argue with the virtues of sincerely adhering to the basic facets of the practice.
“’The very first teaching of yoga forbids us to eat meat,’ said Eva Grubler, director of training at Dharma Yoga in New York, one of the most venerated yoga centers in the country. In the Yoga Sutras, a primary text of yogic philosophy, ethics are broken down into five yamas (things to not do) and five niyamas (things to do). Ahimsa, the first yama, is a prescription not to harm others. But the definition of ‘others’ — whether it includes all animals, or only people, or should perhaps extend to the plant kingdom — is in debate.”

“’Ten years ago we would not even be having this conversation,’ said Ms. Grubler, who added that a vegan diet was a given for her. ‘Yoga used to be much quieter, but now there are more people, they are more activated, and they are questioning everything.’ She says that the true yogic path gradually and organically frees people of desire for meat, dairy, caffeine and alcohol.”
“‘A pure yogic diet is one that is only calming: no garlic, onions or chili peppers, nothing heavy or oily,’ said Ms. Grubler. ‘Steamed vegetables, salads and fresh juices are really the ideal.’ Yogic food choices can also influenced by ayurveda, a traditional Indian way of eating to keep the body healthy and in balance. Some yogis determine their dosha, or dominant humor, vata (wind/air), pitta (bile) or kapha (phlegm), and eat accordingly. Foods are invested with properties like warming or cooling, heavy or light, moist or dry.”
David Romanelli, a yoga instructor based in Phoenix, Arizona who claims to teach “Yoga for the Everyman,” serves bacon and wine during his classes. He’s well aware of the implications of his practice regarding food. The promoted “anything goes, as long as it tastes good” motto has caused many a third-eye to blink twice. More and more yoga teacher are admitting to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” stance towards consuming meat, many agreeing that they’ll happily enjoy the flesh so long as they are aware of its source. For most, however, wine and meat is off the table.
“Bacon, he (Romanelli) said, is a yogic teaching tool, providing an opportunity to contemplate principles of attraction and revulsion, desire and self-denial, and why we are so attracted to things we know to be unhealthy. (It also, of course, provides priceless shock value.)… ‘It’s a way of getting people in the door,’ he said in an interview. ‘The world is a better place if people do yoga. And if they come because chocolate or wine is involved, I’m fine with it.’”

There’s No Justice in Judgment

For many, it may be hard not to become the pawn of pessimism when reflecting on this current trend, Astavakrasana-ing their minds around how such an ancient practice went so ‘wayward.’ While these free-wheeling ‘foodie’ yoga studios may be churning out more indulgence-laden members than Willy Wanka has Oompa Loompa’s, it’s important to stay grounded and to effect change through the sincere practice of yoga. Boulder, Colorado-based yoga instructor, Mary Taylor, having studied with Julia Child at Les Trois Gourmandes, offers this discourse, having established a “middle path” of maintaining her own vegan lifestyle while abstaining from becoming priggish towards those who are not:
“‘If we become aggressive and intolerant towards those who do eat meat, is that an act of kindness?’ she said. ‘If your grandmother is making a wonderful meat dish that you have loved since you were a child, is it yoga to push it away?’”
We’d like to think that since Grandma loves us so much, she’d understand. Grandmas are yoga like that.

Sources

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/27/dining/27yoga.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all
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