Yoga at Brandt Fitness and Self Defense in Fort Worth

Can you be Paleo and a yogi?

The other day I was reading the comments on another yoga blog post and one of the commenters said that you can’t be a true yoga practicioner if you eat meat.  The commenter was particularly radical in his beliefs, but lots of yogis believe that. The idea is that yogis practice ahisma, which means doing no harm.  Logically, that means not killing anything. But ahisma also means not doing harm to yourself…and I (as do many CrossFitters) believe most humans need meat to be healthy. Vegetarianism is in stark contrast to the nutrition values we hold dear in the CrossFit community.  Most CrossFitters at least work towards eating Paleo-style (more info here), which means lots of lean meat, veggies, fruits and nuts, zero processed foods, zero grains, almost zero sugar and very low amounts of dairy. Eating paleo and vegetarian would be almost impossible.

So, because we believe not eating meat would harm ourselves, do we not deserve yoga? Obviously, the answer is no. That would be  like saying that because you sin you don’t deserve Christianity. Yoga, like religion, is for anyone. Everyone can practice yoga on their own terms regardless of their religious beliefs, lifestyle or diet. Yoga isn’t just about the poses. It’s about connecting the body, mind and soul–and you can’t do that if you aren’t nourishing yourself properly.

Unless you are really diligent about only purchasing only locally grown foods, checking out the farms they come from and what is used to produce them…you can never really be sure that what you are eating isn’t causing some sort of harm to someone or something. For example, if you regularly buy pasta at the local grocery store do you know where the grain came from? How much fuel was used to power the machines that harvested it? What happened to the animals that lived on the land we now use to grow wheat?  Have you researched who picks the coffee beans you use every morning and if they are paid a living wage? There are so many questions when it comes to what we eat and the practice of ahisma. I think that the only way we can start is do no harm to ourselves. I am a true believer in the old adage that “if you don’t take care of yourself you can’t take care of anyone else,” meaning, you have to put your needs first in order to meet your true potential.  Thoughts?


20 responses

  1. I whole-heartedly agree with you that we must take care of ourselves first. Over the last couple of years I’ve become obsessed with learning everything I can about real food, where it comes from and what fake, industrialized diets has done to our health. And truth of the matter is, if you really start looking into things one would see that not all fruits and vegetables are free of harm either. Industrial strawberry and tomato pickers are modern day slaves. Unfortunately, the more you learn about where food comes from, the harder it is to know what to eat with an ethical conscience.

    I see it this way – do your best and make the better choices when you can. Local foods from farmers you know. Grass fed meats from local purveyors if you can find them. Organic. Pastured chickens and eggs. In Food Inc, Joel Salatin beautifully explains how every aspect of his farm enhances the other aspects in a dance. Everything perfectly interplays with each other as God intended if you’ll just allow it. How can this be harmful? I love Michael Pollan’s quote, “They should be really happy animals that had one really bad day.” The foods that are treated and raised the way they should be – veg, fruit, dairy and meat – are significantly healthier for you, taste better and feel better both physically and emotionally. Our personal nourishment should be first priority so that we can continue to help others.

    *exit soapbox, stage left. 😀

    April 12, 2011 at 0:00

    • Melinda,
      Thank you for your thoughtful response! That is exactly the point I was trying to make…very few of us are able to say that our diets do not harm anyone or anything, we just have to do our best!

      April 12, 2011 at 0:00

  2. Chris


    Patanjali ain’t never heard of Paleo.

    Meanwhile, Guruji BKS Iyengar is actually saying it, in just so many words :

    ” A carnivourous diet is at odds with being a Yogi, because killing animals is a violation of the Principle of Ahimsa.” – BKS Iyengar

    As for your specious argument that denying oneself meat is an act of violence towards oneself, note that there are 600 Million Vegetarians in India alone. Besides, there are so many examples of elite athletes, who are vegetarians. One can be a top athlete, a brilliant academician, or a stunning performing-artist, while still being vegetarian. Being vegetarian does NOT harm a human.

    So, the answer to your question would have to be : No, you cannot be a Paleo and a Yogi !

    Think about it.


    July 1, 2011 at 0:00

    • Just because a famous yogi believes something, doesn’t mean the rest of us have to. If vegetarianism is in your ancestry, it is probably the most healthful choice for you. If your ancestors ate meat, that is what you need to be healthy.

      Yoga is for everyone, no matter what. Think about that.

      July 1, 2011 at 0:00

      • chris

        1) Getting Bendy on a Mat

        is different from

        2) Becoming a Yogi

        A Yogi HAS to be a vegetarian.

        A Bendy-Person can eat anything he or she wants to.

        July 1, 2011 at 0:00

      • this is untrue.

        and for such a “bendy” person, you sure are inflexible.

        July 1, 2011 at 0:00

    • Thank you for this I totally agree with you! There are millions of vegetarians and there have been vegetarians from the beginning of time.

      October 31, 2013 at 0:00

  3. Chris

    > this is untrue.
    Is true too ! A Yogi HAS to be vegetarian ( that pesky “Ahimsa” clause).

    > and for such a “bendy” person, you sure are inflexible.
    What can I say ! I have principles.

    July 2, 2011 at 0:00

  4. Yoga IS for EVERYONE.

    July 6, 2011 at 0:00

  5. Chris

    Ahimsa is enshrined within Yoga, so, of course, meat is off limits for any good Yogi. This requirement of being vegetarian is not some hip New-Age “Deepak Chopra-esque” idea, but rather the sublime wisdom originating from the very grounded 5000-year-old Hindu religion.

    There is no crying in Baseball, and there is no meat in Yoga.
    You can no more eat meat while being a practitioner of Yoga, than you can smoke while being pregnant. It’s as simple as that.

    July 12, 2011 at 0:00

  6. Meghan

    Sarah, thanks for this great post. I found your blog through your comments on the article you mentioned, and I’m thrilled to find another Crossfit/Paleo yoga instructor! I do Crossfit and follow the Primal Blueprint, and I’m also a yoga instructor preparing to open a studio in Austin, TX. Beyond that, I have advanced training in medicine and nutritional science. I’ve always felt quite frustrated with the members of the yoga community who treat dietary choices as dogma rather than a logical scientific conclusion. I feel very strongly about the evolutionary diet model, I find veganism to be both nonsensical and unsustainable health-wise (vegetarianism I’m okay with–it’s certainly possible to be sustainably healthy if one is incorporating eggs). I also find that most vegans I meet haven’t thought through the reality of their food choices nearly as much as those of us who are paleo/primal; i.e., our community in general places a huge focus on local, humanely-raised, organic products, whereas I see fellow yogis at workshops I attend shoveling highly processed, cheap, GMO, shipped-from-who-knows-where tofu and inhumane, industrially-raised eggs into their mouths while lecturing me on why killing animals for food is wrong. It really, really confuses me.

    I think there is certainly a “self” component to ahimsa. When I first started practicing yoga back as a teenager in college, I went vegetarian and then vegan within a year. I was very happy eating that way, and I completely bought into the dogma that I was right and all the carnivores were so, so wrong, and why can’t they just think about the animals and the planet and yadda. Then after a couple of years, I quite suddenly became very ill; looking back, I realize that it wasn’t sudden, it was a buildup of many, many small symptoms and maladies that slowly became a full-blown disorder. I had thyroid problems, huge hormone imbalances, constant IBS, and the beginnings of celiac-style intestinal breakdown, not to mention the havoc wreaked on my gut flora. I was anemic, with dry, pale skin and brittle hair. I was constantly cold. I thought I was “healthy” because I ran five miles a day and I was VEGAN, after all. How could I not be healthy? (And for those who will say I “wasn’t doing it right”, I was deeply mired in pre-med training at the time and knew enough to eat a wide variety of complete proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. It wasn’t me, it was the diet.)

    The decision to go back to eating meat caused me considerable angst and required a lot of meditation. I’m so glad that in my research I found the evolutionary diet/fitness movement, which made complete sense to me where my nutritional studies had often made me scratch my head with how illogical it all seemed. Through years of reading, study, and further medical training, I developed a strong foundation of knowledge and therefore a strong belief in the concept of an evolutionary diet. My body evolved eating meat. It certainly did not evolve eating soy and a truckload of grains. In order for my body to run at peak capacity, to be at my best health, i.e. to “not harm” myself, I need to eat what my body was built to eat.

    Coupled with this is my belief, which is obviously quite radical in the yoga community, that it simply is not wrong to kill animals for food. I believe that the earth is a living organism, that we are all part of that living organism, and to remove myself from the natural food chain constitutes a harm in and of itself. I am wholly against industrial farming of any kind and procure 90% of what I ingest from local, organic farms and co-ops. But there is a food chain, and I am part of it, and I’m quite happy to fully exist in my place there. I practice ahimsa by realizing my place and my role in the life form that is our planet, by fulfilling my role as naturally and humanely as possible in this crazy modern society we have, and by doing what I strongly believe is best for my body and my health–and what I strongly believe science has shown is best for my health time and time again.

    Anyway, thanks again for the post. I’ll be excited to look you up when I become part of the Texas yoga community!

    July 13, 2011 at 0:00

    • Meghan,
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful post! I completely agree with you on all counts. I tried vegetarianism for a year also and just gained weight and didn’t feel good at all. We source the majority of our produce from a local co-op (which is very cost effective, by the way) and get as much of our meat and eggs as we can that is organic, free range, etc. We eat as ethically as possible and have no guilt about our diet whatsoever. It is no nice to hear from people like you who have researched it so thoroughly. Also, welcome to the texas yoga community! Please let me know when you open your studio. also, where do you do CrossFit?

      July 13, 2011 at 0:00

      • Meghan

        Right now I’m living temporarily on the east coast and just go to the local Crossfit box occasionally; once I move I plan on joining the Crossfit community in Austin whole hog. I’m excited! Texas seems to be an incredible fitness capital. Plus, the weather’s warm. 🙂

        July 13, 2011 at 0:00

  7. I was vegan and guilty of all types of judgmental feelings about meat-eaters, until I developed some serious health issues that seemed to be worsened by veganism. I eat meat now (low carb and intrigued by Paleo) and I’m reversing the damage I did. Meghan, let us know where you open your studio in Austin. I live in Texas and I frequently travel to Austin.

    August 26, 2011 at 0:00

    • Janet, thank you so much for your comment! I hear a lot from people who developed health problems from being vegan. I highly reccommend Paleo…we love it.

      August 26, 2011 at 0:00

  8. Thank you for this post! I have been practicing yoga (though not consistently, but I’m taking control of my health again) for almost two years, and I just recently discovered paleo. It’s like everything is falling into place for me, health-wise. I stumbled upon this page while searching for paleo + yoga. While scrolling through the comments I noticed the mentioning of Texas, which is where I recently moved to, and then saw that your studio is in Fort Worth – which is exciting, since I live an hour from there and am actually planning on moving there within a few months! Now I am even more excited to move, since there will be a great place for me to pick up my practice again….!

    September 11, 2011 at 0:00

    • That’s great! Please look us up when you come to town. We are at the corner of Hemphill and Magnolia (inside the police station building) and would love to have you practice with us!

      September 11, 2011 at 0:00

  9. All interesting, since I have become a vegetarian and been practicing yoga and pranayama daily most of my health problems have gone. Migraines, sciatica, arthritis, frozen shoulders, fits of anger, anxieties and many more. Most of these problems I have had for many years, migraines for over 30 years just gone by becoming a vegetarian and practicing yoga and pranayama.
    I belief we are all different and therefore have different needs and approaches. Depending on where you want to get to with your yoga. If you just want to do yoga and teach yoga I guess, it is okay to eat your meat, if you want to develop spiritually with yoga and use it as a daily spiritual practice, you may change your diet to a vegetarian diet. As deeper I am getting into my yoga practice as more I get the feeling and the need to be a vegetarian. My diet is becoming more and more sattvic and seems to become lighter and I am feeling so good with it . So we are all different and as more serious we take yoga as a spiritual practice as more we want to follow the way the yogis have been doing it for the past 5000 years.

    Most of all do what feels best for you and where you are at with your belief and practice.

    October 31, 2013 at 0:00

  10. I agree with you, at the end of the day do what you believe and do what makes you happy and feel good. If you don’t like meat don’t eat it, but if you do, then do eat it!

    I personally think yoga goes fantastically well with the paleo diet.

    November 11, 2013 at 0:00

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