Category Archives: YOGA

Are Plants Sentient Beings?

How many times have we vegans heard those who eat animal flesh ask us the following? “You talk about having a diet and lifestyle where you avoid killing any living thing, but what about plants?  Plants are living things and you kill them.” It seems like they would like to make a case about the futility of being a vegan, since we vegans are committed to eating only plant-based foods and plants want to live as much as any animal does. In other words, they wish to imply that if we’re all destined to be murderers anyway, what difference does it make who or what we’re murdering, or whether it’s a plant or an animal?

Are Plants Sentient Beings?

But what they fail to realize is that plants are qualitatively different from humans and sentient non-humans. And although plants are certainly alive, they are not sentient. Plants do not have interests. There is nothing that a plant desires, or wants, or prefers because there is no mind there to engage in these cognitive activities. When we say that a plant “needs” or “wants” water (or sunlight), we are no more making a statement about the mental status of the plant than we are when we say that a car engine “needs” or “wants” oil. It may be in my interest to put oil in my car. But it is not in my car’s interest; my car has no interests.

A plant may respond to sunlight and other stimuli but that does not mean the plant is sentient. If I run an electrical current through a wire attached to a bell, the bell rings. But that does not mean that the bell is sentient. Plants do not have nervous systems, benzodiazepine receptors, or any of the characteristics that we identify with sentience. And this all makes scientific sense. It would indeed be a cruel creator that would evolve plants to have developed sentience (to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively) when they cannot do anything in response to an act that damages them? If you touch a flame to a plant, the plant cannot run away; it stays right where it is and burns. If you touch a flame to a dog, the dog does exactly what you would do – cries in pain and tries to get away from the flame. Sentience is a characteristic that has evolved in certain beings to enable them to survive by escaping from a noxious stimulus. Sentience would serve no purpose for a plant; plants cannot “escape.”

This is not to suggest that we humans cannot have moral obligations concerning plants, but we certainly do not have moral obligations that we owe to plants. That is, we may have a moral obligation not to cut down a tree, but that is not an obligation that we owe to the tree. The tree is not the sort of entity to which we can have moral obligations. We can have an obligation that we owe to all of the sentient creatures who live in the tree or who depend on it for their survival. We can have moral obligations to other humans and non-human animals that inhabit the planet not to destroy trees wantonly. But we cannot have any moral obligations to the tree; we can only have moral obligations to sentient beings and the tree is not sentient and has no interests of its own. There is nothing that the tree prefers, wants, or desires. The tree is not the sort of entity that cares about what we do to it. The tree is an “it.” The squirrel and the birds that live in the tree certainly have an interest in our not chopping down the tree, but the tree does not. It may be wrong morally to chop down a tree wantonly but that is a qualitatively different act from shooting a deer. Try this; at your next dinner gathering, chop a head of lettuce in front of your guests. It’s pretty much guaranteed that you will get a different reaction than if you were to chop the head off a live chicken while it was trying to escape.

Stay tuned, coming up next, “Transitioning from Vegetarian to Vegan”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Violence and Compassion in Veganism…

Compassion is generally defined as the awareness of suffering, and is most often accompanied by a desire to alleviate that suffering. The indisputable fact of biology that non-human animals possess the capacity to suffer is also a matter of pure common sense. Non-human animals strive to avoid pain and their reactions to it, just like we humans do, and even though they do not have the ability to express it in spoken language it still remains immediately recognizable as suffering. We human beings do not have a monopoly on suffering, and it is compassion that enables us to realize that the capacity of non-human animals to suffer is analogous to our own.

In order to be truly compassionate, consideration for, plus a desire to alleviate the suffering of all animals, both human and non-human, is imperative. Then it will naturally follow that we must not abuse or mistreat any animal (human or non-human). If we accept this as true, then we must also embrace the notion that abusing animals by proxy is also completely incompatible with a compassionate existence. It will not suffice to merely refrain from direct acts of abuse or violence toward animals; we must also withdraw any of our support, morally, ethically and practically, from those activities. There really isn’t any appreciable difference between committing an act of violence ourselves and paying someone else to do it on our behalf? After all, commissioning an act of violence is the moral equivalent of committing that act.

“No matter how much a person distances themselves from the act of violence that they have paid for or persuaded someone else to perform on their behalf, will that distancing extricate them from the moral implications of the deed itself.”

The truth that the production of meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy involves tremendous suffering on the part of tens of billions of animals each and every year is both inescapable and incontestable. In just the USA alone, eight-billion chickens are slaughtered for human consumption every year. Consider this: by the time you finish reading this sentence; over two-thousand chickens in the United States alone will have had their throats slit in order to satiate the gastronomic preferences and appetites of humans. It is directly opposed to the principles of compassion to condone or in any way support violence and cruelty, especially on such an enormous scale. Simply stated, any diet that includes meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy is altogether incompatible with the desire to lead a compassionate life. There is no avoiding the fact that such a diet must rely on (actually it is inseparable from) the abuse and slaughter of those creatures who are at our mercy. The abuse and slaughter of non-human animals for the sensory pleasure of humans who consume meat and dairy is completely and undoubtedly irreconcilable with the basic premises of compassion.

Those of us who are concerned with cultivating compassion in ourselves and in others must not allow our notion of “mercy” to be restricted to our own species, but instead we should extend our sphere of compassion to all sentient beings by living a cruelty-free, vegan life-style while relying entirely on nutritionally dense plant-based foods for our dietary requirements.

In order to cultivate compassion it is required that we be mindful of our intentions and that our intentions be consistent with the basic precepts of compassion. Mindfulness of this kind requires constant and continuous effort and although lapses of attention are unavoidable, the devotee of mindfulness and compassion must avoid consciously exempting or excluding any part of their lives or their behavior from the practice. And there is no logic whatsoever in the idea that mealtime should or would provide us with three opportunities a day to disengage our mindfulness and insulate ourselves from the suffering of others. Actually it is just the opposite; whenever we sit down to eat, we are making a conscious choice: either to alleviate suffering or to perpetuate it. Whenever we are motivated by compassion, that choice is perfectly clear.

Stay tuned, coming up next, the question, “Are Plants Sentient Beings” will be considered in respect to the common assumption that plants have feelings too.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

The Spiritual Aspects of Veganism (Part 2)…

At the onset, let it be known that no one can tell you what is right (or wrong) for you to do  in absolute terms. When it comes to your diet you must follow your own discernment when determining what you need to consume, and under what terms. That will be your spirituality. But let’s keep an open mind and be honest with ourselves.

One good reason to be a proponent of veganism is the lack of interest in paying other people to do things for you that you wouldn’t readily do for yourself. This means that veganism is a lot about facing up to the truth. A lot of people prefer to turn their heads in regards to what goes on throughout the meat industry. And; quite apart from the insane cruelty that goes on in modern factory farms (slaughter aside), how many among us would actually have the wherewithal to slit an animal’s throat, gut it, skin it and butcher what was left?

There are plenty of people who’d prefer not to think about the fact that what they are eating is a dead animal or parts of a dead animal’s corpse. They find to put it like that is distasteful (even though it’s the truth). These people only eat cuts of meat which don’t look like any creature they know or recognize.

In our society we rename the flesh of animals to further disassociate ourselves from living beings. We call dead pig meat “pork,” dead deer meat “venison,” dead cow meat “beef” and meat from dead sheep “mutton.” It’s like we are using a different names to make us think that what we are eating is something different from the animal it comes from. In the supermarkets, packaging has tried its best to make meat look desirable and delicious and only by making the parts appear quite unrecognizable from the whole animal, as they did when alive.

Veganism is all about sensitivity. There are still a few people who choose to go out and kill animals for food. That way, they know that they are eating meat out of choice and not by default. There’s not much to say to these people except to honor and respect their choice. However, it is hard for some of us to imagine killing animals for food if you have reached a certain level of sensitivity. How is it possible to maintain sensitivity and still succumb to the needless violence which a true omnivore’s diet entails? Reason dictates that you’ll either change what you do, or you need to suppress your sensitivity to be able to continue.

As we evolve spiritually, it just seems right to actively aim to develop sensitivity and compassion towards all sentient beings. Sensitivity literally is having your attention focused in your senses rather than your thoughts. When we get too stuck in our thoughts, we tend to become what we “think” we are, rather than what we really are, and we “think” about what we experience rather than directly experiencing it in the here and now. Thoughts are all too often reflecting on the past or anticipating the future. This can bring a lot of suffering, although sometimes that can be a subtle thing to realize.

Don’t just aim to become sensitive because someone (me or anyone else) told you that you “should.” Let your heart show you your true path, allow inspiration to be the stimulus to prompt the nurturing of sensitivity and watch as that leads to real joy and happiness and truth.

Explore for yourself – Veganism as a spiritual practice 

Stay tuned, coming soon: “Violence and Compassion in Veganism”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

The Spiritual Aspects of Veganism (Part 1)…

Attracting Negative Energy:

So the question arises, why would anyone consciously attract negative energy? Well from a metaphysical standpoint, it’s generally because there is a sort of withdrawal (or contraction) from the delicate world of sensitivity, and that contraction most often is generated by either addiction or fear.

Negative energy in the world is elusive, and is mostly unknown to the majority of people and this is because one of the more common modes of negativity is deception. Basically some “vampiristic” astral spirits (and even some people here on Earth) need negative energy in the form of anger, conflict, fear, etc. And, they need to create it in others to be able to feed.

Negative energy is known to have the quality of addiction. Its deception is meant to make you believe in that you’re dependent on it, offering “poisoned” treasures which make it hard to break free. Negative energy numbs positive emotions, keeping you in a state of dullness and apathy. This apathy enables  you to ignore pain and suffering, but in the long run it is actually what is causing the majority of your pain and suffering.

With proper awareness, we can intuitively sense that it is the world of negative energy which has created a powerful lobby out of the meat industry; by getting government subsidies to make meat and animal products seem cheaper than they really are, by brainwashing people into believing they need animal protein (when they don't), and by stirring up hysteria and dread about veganism being unnatural by conjuring up a long list of nutrients which animals are supposedly better sources of than plant-based foods.

Mindfulness enables us to sense emotions in meat. When you eat animal flesh, you’re also eating the negative energies it contains, including those produced by the animal’s screams as it’s on its way to slaughter. (And from a physical perspective, consider that negative emotions spawn toxic chemicals, too).

The Spiritual Aspects of Veganism

In closing, let’s look at how veganism can really make a difference.

Die hard meat eaters will argue that “veganism won’t make any difference.” And this rational helps them because they don’t want to give up meat anyway, and they also refuse to believe that there is any environmental damage caused by raising animals for food.

It’s hard to imagine all of the suffering animals in the world? Even if you really care about them it will continue to remain hard as long as they remain in your head, because the only place you can express love and caring is here and now, in your senses and feelings and not through your thought-stream. Use your head to remain aware and mindful, then follow your sensitivity, and rest assured that the outcome will be good. In fact, the purpose of following your sensitivity is not entirely about the outcome, in and of itself, but to promote sensitivity simply for its own sake.

Keep in mind that you are not separate from those around you, and whatever you do, including the lead which you take, and the energies which you transmit (both consciously and subconsciously) will only help to bring about change. Whether it’s for the good, or for the bad, it’s your choice. Furthermore it’s your responsibility whether you take it up the challenge or not, because our constant influence on the world that surrounds us is not something that we can renounce.

Stay tuned for The Spiritual Aspects of Veganism (Part 2).

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Effects of a Plant-Based (Vegan) Diet on Mental/Emotional States…

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older (this is 18% of the population). Depression also has a major impact, affecting 9.5 percent of the adult population, accounting for $83 billion in lost productivity each year. It's not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Approximately one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Sadly, one of the most obvious (yet under-recognized) factors in the development of major trends in the declining state of mental/emotional health in America are the roles of diet and nutrition. The body of evidence linking diet and mental health is growing at a rapid pace. Diet’s impact on short and long-term mental/emotional health is a solid indicator of the fact that food plays an important contributing role in the development, management and prevention of specific mental/emotional health problems; especially problems such as anxiety/stress, depression, schizophrenia, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Over 65% of those healthy individuals who do not report daily mental health problems eat fresh fruit and/or drink fruit juice every day, compared with less than 1/2 of those who do report daily mental health problems. This pattern is almost identical for those who regularly eat fresh vegetables and salad.

More and more nutritionists are now claiming that empty carbohydrates are often to blame for contributing to negative feelings, including anxiety, depression and feelings of anger. When compared to individuals who eat healthier foods like fruits, leafy greens and legumes, those who consume packaged or processed foods are often mentally unbalanced, emotionally unsettled or irritated more easily. Nutritionally-sparse diets filled with processed foods, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, trans-fats, etc. have been directly associated with a host of unstable mental/emotional health issues. In addition, those who indulge in animal products are often known to exhibit more violent and aggressive tendencies.

Foods that help control anxiety, stress, anger and other conditions that lead to depression and other problems are almost always plant-based. As a matter of fact most plant-based foods are known to help keep negative mental emotional flare-ups at bay. A great example is leafy greens, which have high vitamin “C” content, an antioxidant known to fight stress. Leafy greens also contain magnesium, a nutrient responsible for relaxing muscles and reducing anxiety.

According to a study published in the March/April issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, an 18-week, plant-based dietary intervention program boosts employee productivity, while alleviating symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue.

Researchers with the non-profit “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine” placed GEICO employees with a BMI (body/mass index) of 25 or above, or who were previously diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, on a low-fat, low-glycemic, high-fiber vegan diet. The study participants experienced overall productivity and measurable improvements in anxiety, depression, fatigue, and general health, according to the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) and the Work Productivity and Activity Impairment Questionnaire. Study participants also lost an average of 10 pounds, lowered LDL cholesterol by 13 points, and improved blood sugar control (if they had type 2 diabetes).

Effects of a Plant-Based (Vegan) Diet on Mental/Emotional States

During the study, healthful vegan options, including vegetable hummus sandwiches, seasonal leafy green salads, and black bean chili, were available in employee cafeterias. And because their menu featured a variety of fruits and vegetables, it was nutritionally-dense and rich in vitamins and minerals. Study participants favored healthful carbohydrate-rich foods, including brown rice, steel cut oats, and rye bread, which help regulate serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin helps control mood.

One of the study authors, Neal Barnard, M.D. says: “The same foods that curb the risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, may help boost overall mood.” The study authors also hypothesize that when individuals improve their physical health, they may become more physically and socially active, increasing their mood and overall quality of life.

“Helping employees improve their health through a plant-based dietary intervention is a win-win situation for employees and the company,” notes Dr. Barnard. “Who doesn’t want to feel great, increase energy, and maximize productivity in the process?”

Stay tuned… Coming soon… More articles on the spiritual/mental/emotional aspects of a vegan diet and lifestyle.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Snacking – Vegan Style (W/Bonus Recipe)…

Having quick, simple, healthy and vegan-friendly snacks on-hand doesn’t have to be hard by any means. Actually, with a little planning, it can be quite easy. It’s really fun and simple to keep your fridge stocked with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, a sure way to get most of the nutrients you will need to keep your body and mind fueled. Combining your produce with nuts, nut butters and seeds will make your snack even more substantial. These snacks are not just for strict vegan, but for anyone looking for some handy, healthy snacks. Naturally, fruit and veggies are great snacks and should be at the top of anyone’s snacking list. However, here’s a list of other snack ideas.

Some of the Healthier Vegan Snack Ideas:

  • Vegan yogurt with granola or fruit
  • Baked tofu, store-bought or homemade
  • Tofu jerky
  • Pretzels
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter or jam
  • Edamame
  • Granola
  • Kale chips
  • Vegan trail mix
  • Sweet potato fries
  • Pita and hummus
  • Pita and baba ghanoush
  • Dates (watch these, very high in calories)
  • Apples, bananas or celery with peanut butter or another nut butter
  • Nuts, sunflower seeds
  • Applesauce
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola bars or protein bars
  • Banana chips
  • Dehydrated fruit leathers
  • Crackers with olive tapenade
  • Chips and salsa
  • Chips and guacamole
  • Veggies with goddess dressing
  • Cucumbers with vegan sour cream
  • Frozen grapes
  • Soy nuts
  • Popcorn (really good with nutritional yeast)
  • Sesame sticks
  • Graham crackers (not Honey Grahams)
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Crackers with pesto
  • Chips with bean dip (store bought or homemade)
  • Homemade granola bars
  • Bagel with peanut butter, hummus or guacamole
  • Vegan muffins
  • Vegan brochette

A Bit Less Healthy Snack Ideas:

  • Vegan ice cream
  • Vegan cookies
  • Vegan deli meats wrapped with vegan cheese
  • Frozen hash browns, French fries or tater tots
  • Vegan chocolate
  • Vegetarian pepperoni slices
  • Fried or baked zucchini chips

*Note: It’s best to avoid vending machines, though the snacks served by them may be convenient, the vegan options (if there are any) are often lacking the nutrients you need. They’re also not the best sources of energy.

Tips:

  • Make an extra large (or double) batch of muffins, and cookies, etc. and freeze them.
  • Clean and cut your fruits and veggies for the week ahead and put them in the fridge until you’re ready.
  • Soak your nuts and seeds in advance and dehydrate them and they’ll be ready to grab and go.
  • If a dip will be part of your weeks’ snacks menu, prepare it ahead of time and refrigerate.
  • When planning your meals for the week, plan your snacks also.

Bonus Recipe:

Vegan Cheese Dip

  • 1 Can – 15½ oz. Great Northern, Navy or Cannellini Beans (drained)
  • ½ Cup – Roasted Red Pepper (or Pimiento)
  • 3 Tbsp. – Nutritional Yeast
  • 3 Tbsp. – Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 3 Tbsp. – Sesame Tahini
  • 1 tsp. – Sea salt
  • 1 tsp. – Yellow Mustard
  • 1 tsp. – Onion Powder or Granulated Onion (not onion salt)

Put everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. Can be stored in fridge for up to a week.

Stay tuned…Coming soon…The next series of articles will cover the spiritual/mental/emotional aspects of a vegan diet and lifestyle.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Veganism – Getting Started

Adding love and compassion to your life with a plant-based diet is not as hard as you might think.

Everyone has heard the phrase, “every journey begins with the first step.” And that first step is prompted by desire. There are many reasons to transition to a vegan lifestyle and everyone’s reason is going to be slightly different. A large percentage of vegans believe that there is a solid link between animal foods and a host of degenerative diseases such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension for example. Some people adapt a plant-based diet because they simply love animals and don’t want to be a repository for their corpses. There are other reasons like the environment, religion, weight loss and the list goes on. Whatever particular reason you choose, you will inevitably end up widening the circle of compassion in this world. Your mind and body will soar to new levels health and well-being.

George Bernard Shaw: “Animals are my friends…and I don't eat my friends.”

When starting off, don’t try to be a perfect vegan, just do the best you can. Every day it gets a little bit easier. With a little time and experimentation you’ll find a strategy that works for you. If you’re one of those rare individuals that feels eliminating all meat, fish, and dairy foods all at once works for you, then do it. If you need more time to adjust to a vegan diet, just take it slowly and start eliminating non-vegan items from your diet every day (or week). Make changes that you feel comfortable with, at your own pace. Some start by giving up red meat and fowl but continue eating fish (Pescatarian). Others give up fish in addition to meat and poultry but continue to consume dairy products and eggs (lacto-ovo Vegetarian).

For many people it helps to network with other vegans through blogs, web sites etc. You will soon learn much from the vegan community and will become a more informed consumer.

Stay away from processed foods, fast foods and avoid ingredients like hydrogenated/trans fats and refined sugars. Read labels, some companies remove the word “animal” from their ingredient labels to deceive the consumer. A good rule of thumb is: if you don’t know what it is, or if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

It’s not all hard to eat out at non-vegan restaurants if you’re a little selective. It just takes some time to learn what to order and adjust. Some restaurants now inform their customers that they’re “vegan friendly.” Quite a few restaurants will accommodate you and cook your veggies etc. without dairy or lard. It’s not always a good idea to proclaim you’re vegan because there’s still a lot of people that don’t understand that. Simply tell them you’re vegetarian and allergic to dairy (milk, butter & eggs). They’re more likely to take your request seriously if you say you have an allergy.

The best food you can eat is the food you prepare for yourself. Although some people are challenged to find sufficient time or energy to cook, but when they can, look at cooking as creative time. Put on some appropriate music, have fun and create. Whenever possible set some time aside during the week to make some vegan “go to” options. These will come in handy at a later date when you’re tired or short on time. Cooked grains last quite a few days in the refrigerator (like rice, quinoa & farro). Add a quick stir-fry to them or make a cold salad with cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. Learn to sprout seeds (alfalfa, lentil seeds and mung beans are easy). Consider starting a small indoor herb garden, growing cilantro, basil and rosemary are popular choices and are simple to grow.

Mindfulness is one of the most important things a vegan can practice. Mindfulness itself can and will change your life and the way you eat. Never eat in front of a computer screen or television set. Instead sit somewhere quietly or with family or friends and enjoy the food. The practice of mindfulness, combine with eating slowly will help you eat less and enjoy food more. You will also find yourself practicing mindfulness in other areas of your life.

Remind yourself daily that the key to kicking meat and dairy is giving yourself enough time to feel the wonderful and extraordinary changes as they take place in your mind and body.

Stay tuned…Coming soon “Vegan Substitutes for Animal Products”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Sattva, Rajas & Tamas – The 3 Gunas

Within Hindu (including Tantric/Yogic) philosophy, the manner in which the universe manifests itself is described with numerous intersecting and overlapping concepts, explaining how Brahman (as the non-dual consciousness) becomes duality; bringing the material (observable) universe into being.

Brahman’s very impulse to know itself as ‘other than self’ is considered to be the reason the universe exists, as Brahman is the ultimate essence of material phenomena. The sages of the Upanishads teach that Brahman is characterized as having the ultimate freedom to do or become anything, being (or containing) the source of all things

This impulse prompts Brahman to split into Prakriti (un-manifest matter) and Purusha (pure consciousness), the original cause all creative processes.

The Sanskrit term Prakriti comes from the root words ‘Pra’ (before) and ‘Kri’ (to make); and so can be interpreted as “prior to anything being made.”

Prakriti is entirely composed of the three Gunas; Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.

The Gunas are the measured qualities of the manifest world and combine their various forms as the mind, the senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) and the elements (earth, water, fire, wind, space) and virtually all that can be known, including the knower.

When viewed in this way, Prakriti is the actual source of the world and everything in it.

The Gunas are associated with various qualities and when these qualities are combined they can be used to describe any “thing”. Some of the qualities inherent in each Guna are:

  • – Sattva– Positive energy, harmony, balance, unity, happiness, light, spirituality, “beingness”; Sattva is the higher or spiritual potential.
  • – Rajas– Energy, action, change, movement, creativity; the intermediate or life potential.
  • – Tamas– Laziness, heaviness, impurity, darkness, sleepy, dullness, inertia, inactivity, materiality; the lower or material potential.

These three Gunas co-exist, merging to form all objects, people and “things” in varying degrees.

One Guna is usually predominant over the others, and so certain tendencies (heavy, light, dark, warm, hot, dry etc.) become associated with objects, and this forms a part of how we understand and relate to the world as it is perceived. The predominant Guna is dynamic (not static) and may change over time.

The significance of the Gunas in regard to human beings is how they manifest in our health, the food we eat, our thoughts, our actions, our moods, the seasons of the year and weather and so on.

In Yoga practice, it’s preferable to work towards a more Sattvic lifestyle. Some Rajas may be necessary, but minimizing Tamas should be the primary goal for attaining optimal health and wellbeing.

When Sattva is increased it naturally and automatically reduces Rajas and Tamas. The Yogi or student achieves this by maintaining Sattvic thoughts, diet, lifestyle and home/work environments etc. The more Sattvic your body, mind and life becomes, the more peace and joy you and those around you are likely to experience.

When minimizing Rajas, keep in mind a balance must be maintained. If Rajas is eliminated in your life, you won’t have the necessary desire to keep living, working and doing things. On the other hand, too much Rajas will manifest as aggressiveness, cruelty, carelessness. Rajas can be reduced by regulating your diet (not eating too much Rajasic food), and avoiding excessive or extreme behaviors (working, partying, even exercising too much).

Tamas is not entirely ‘bad’ as such, but the amount of Tamas in your life does need to be carefully managed because too much can result in depression, fear, obesity and negativity. Tamas is reduced by avoiding over-sleeping, over-eating or being slothful or inactive and also with diet (by avoiding Tamasic foods).

The Gunas and their relationship to foods…

For optimal health, it’s imperative to pay attention to the foods we eat as our diet greatly impacts both our physical and mental wellbeing.

The Gunas of food aren’t limited to just the food itself, but also its current condition; whether it’s fresh, stale, rotting etc. The way food is treated is also a major factor; different methods of storing, cooking or preserving can also change the state of the food, and consequently the Gunas.

Some common foods and the Gunas they’re represented by…

  • – Sattvic food: Cereals, whole-grain bread, fresh fruit & vegetables, pure fruit juices, legumes, nuts, seeds, herb teas. Eating “mindfully” contributes to a food’s Sattvic quality.
  • – Rajasic food: All hot substances & stimulants; fried food, coffee & tea, spices, fish, eggs, salt & pepper, chocolate/sugary foods. Eating hastily is considered Rajasic and bad for the digestion and assimilation of food.
  • – Tamasic food: Meat, alcohol, tobacco, onions, garlic, fermented foods, stale foods overripe foods, processed foods and leftovers. Overeating is also regarded as Tamasic.

Sattvic food has been shown to be the most ideal for those practicing yoga. By eating a Sattvic diet you’re supporting a peaceful state of body and mind and meditation comes more naturally and is less easily disturbed.

An imbalance in favor of too much Rajas will destroy one’s equilibrium. It will also over-stimulate the body and make the mind restless, overactive and unduly energetic resulting in a tense and willful (or aggressive) disposition.

An overly Tamasic diet weakens and/or destroys the body’s immune system and tends to fill the mind with negative thoughts and emotions like anger, fear and greed.

Purification of the Gunas is essential for spiritual evolution and for that evolution to take place Sattva must predominate moment to moment in one’s body and mind.

The three gunas can also be associated with the Trimurti (‘three Gods’ or ‘three forms’) which describes the three faces of god as being:

  • Brahma (the Creator/Sattva)
  • Vishnu (the Preserver/Rajas)
  • Shiva (the Destroyer/Tamas)

The symbolism of the Trimurti conveys that all three gods (and by extension, everything in this universe) are really all part of the one supreme consciousness (Brahman).

The creation of living forms cannot occur in a vacuum (it must exist in time and space); so along with creation (Sattva), there must also be change (Rajas) and dissolution/death (Tamas).

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Yoga and Muscle Conductivity

Muscle conductivity is simply the ability to conduct impulses, either electrical or chemical, along the muscle membrane.

Muscles enable you to move. The muscles in your arms lift and pull. Muscles in your legs help you stand, walk and run. Thumb muscles help you to hold things. Muscles in your chest help you to breathe. You have more than 600 muscles and muscle groups in your body. Muscles help us to move if we don’t have muscles we can’t move of our own free will.

Muscles function in many aspects of the body. There are three basic types of muscles:

  1. 1. Skeletal muscles function to move your body during any activity such as walking, etc.
  2. 2. Smooth muscle is found in your blood vessels and can regulate blood flow.
  3. 3. Cardiac muscle is what your heart is made of and is necessary to pump blood to all of your body.

One purpose of the skeletal muscles is to allow movement of the limbs, whereas the smooth muscles keep the body functions going. Also, the heart is a four chambered cardiac muscle, whose sole purpose is to pump blood round our bodies and keep us alive.

Traditional yoga from the ancient East didn’t emphasize how yoga can sculpt one’s body, but it definitely was all about the mind-body connection. Much of the West has evolved yoga to its own purposes, adapting it to the modern world. Originally, yoga was a way of life and being, rather than a way to look better in clothes. Nonetheless, whenever we look at a typical “yoga-crafted body,” we can’t help but admire their limber physique.

Many now believe that yoga, however, is a more balanced approach to strengthening and toning than resistance training and weight lifting. For one, it trains conscious muscle conductivity and conditions your body to perform things you do every day: walking, sitting, bending, lifting. Your body moves in the way it was designed to move.

As our understanding of the human body as a matrix of electromagnetic and chemical energies deepens, we come to see that the fascia or connective tissue (structuring, sheathing and interconnecting our circulatory system, nervous system, muscular-skeletal system, digestive track, organs and cells) is actually an energetic communication system dependent on conductivity.

The collagen that most of the connective tissue in your body is comprised of is liquid crystalline in nature. Liquid crystals (known to be semi-conductors) are designed to conduct energy in similar way that wiring system in your house conducts electricity. They are also able to send, receive, store and amplify energy signals, almost like your high-speed internet connection.

Because our fascia interconnects every system in the body, it provides a basis for both information and energy transfer beyond purely chemical origins. That is to say; while we’ve traditionally thought of communication in the body as mechanical (where chemical molecules fit into receptors like a key into a lock), we now realize we can open the lock much faster with energy (like remote control devices).

Yoga seeks to open and release the tightest places in our bodies (connective tissue, joints, ligaments and tendons) which routinely become tight and restricted through injuries, repetitive stress, poor postural habits and even emotional trauma. The amount of neural conductivity it takes to do just one simple action is huge, and any movement of the body requires an intense amount of brain power. As we perfect a physical skill, such as yoga asana most of this happens subconsciously. However, yoga can also teach you to have finer control over these movements and you progressively become more skilled.

Yoga helps better tune mind-body connection through conscious conductivity. Ultimately, yoga enhances the way you create motion and move through life. With proper yoga instruction and practice you can train yourself to become more aware and in control of all the physical actions you perform.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Discovering Your Dharma (your true life path)

 

Discovering Your Dharma

Dharma Wheel

Probably one of the most commonly asked questions in life is “why am I here?” This line of questioning originates from our True Self and leads us to look beyond the world of ordinary appearances. It provides us with the opportunity to discover the divinity that lies within.

There isn’t an exact or accurate single English translation of the Sanskrit word dharma, but it can be paraphrased as “right (or righteous) living”. Dharma is the path we are meant to travel, the life we are meant to live; in general as a human being, but also as an individual with a particular set of lessons to learn, experiences to have, and gifts to share. In a nutshell, our dharma is also our mission in life.

The physical/mental/emotional vehicle we manifest is unique to each of us and is meant to fulfill a purpose only we can accomplish, this is our dharma. Discovering our dharma can be a bit of a laborious task, but once we learn to adapt and live in our dharma’s harmonious flow we become aware of our awesome potentiality. Discovering and living our dharma enables us to create a destiny that includes as much joy and happiness as we want because we remain aligned with our spiritual domain. Here we may discover a different dimension of reality, the unlimited source of all creation and manifestation.

The discovery or realization of our dharma takes some effort in the beginning and for some this can be a time of struggle. But underneath all our worldly aspirations we will eventually find that there has always been something calling deep inside. This becomes clearer as it becomes obvious that our dharma is what “upholds” and “sustains” us as individuals. Each of us is destined to serve a certain need in the universal scheme of things. The significance of an artist is just as important as that of the president. Each and every path has an equal value because they all serve a unique purpose. Whether our purpose is to be an entrepreneur, an artist, an activist, a yogi, a spiritual leader, a parent etc. we must believe in that purpose and not get sidetracked. Additionally, we also need to accept that our purpose is fluid and can change over the course of our life or even the course of a day. Spending time in deep reflection or meditation is helpful in tuning out the “noise” and listening to the call of our personal dharma.

Discovering, accepting, and finally enjoying your own personal path is a not only a great achievement, it’s also a wonderful blessing. When guided by the spiritual wisdom of our dharmic path, we are granted the privilege of stepping into a higher vision of our life, seeing it as an expression of divine universal creative spirit.

From this superior viewpoint, we can look at ourselves with a more objectivity. We can even observe our faults, mistakes and shortcomings without beating ourselves up over it. Knowing our inherent greatness trumps the “ego/self” and increases our self-respect while setting a solid foundation for exploring, refining, and weeding out any aspects of our earthly expressions that are not in harmony with our True or Higher Self.

Take a few moments and say the following words: “I am great exactly as I am.” Say this phrase a few times out loud and then repeat the words mentally with each in-breath and each out-breath for a few minutes. It’s a great place to start.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500