The V-word

I’m a vegan. Here it goes, I said it. It’s hard for me to say, for fear of the reactions people around me have when I say it.

Recently, someone I know posted on FB that they were anti-vegan. It hurts. And there is no good response. If I intervene and say “Hey, so you… want to see more suffering? that’s what you mean by “you’re anti-vegan”?” I’ll be seen as preachy, just because I identify as vegan. But that’s all it means, being vegan, is consciously making better decisions to reduce suffering.

“Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose.” – The Vegan Society

NB: Humans are animals too, so this includes slave labor etc.

Everyday, you make hundreds of choices. In an ideal world, for all of these choices you make you would have all the information you need and all the necessary time so that you can make the best choice. Obviously, this not the case, and we make most choices out of habit and convenience. If you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, nobody will judge you because you choose either option. But most days, you have the power to make a better choice and reduce suffering, and if you consistently make take choice, in my book you’re a vegan.

So with this definition, you can be a vegan and eat meat, as long as you’re trying to reduce your consumption. Yes, this will be a controversial point of view, and I’m certainly not saying that the poor cow or chicken did not suffer during its life and death being “raised” for food. In my opinion it’s better not to eat meat than to eat meat, because it’s a direct way you, as a consumer, have power to reduce your impact on Earth.

But I was born and raised in France. Culturally, eating meat is an entire part of the French cuisine and by extension, lifestyle. I was raised, like most people, with the idea that animal products were healthy and even necessary for survival, and only crazy people would be vegan (since it is unnatural and you would have to be unhealthy). So I ate meat, and let’s be honest, for most people, meat tastes good. It’s convenient to eat. But is convenience and taste a good enough reason for the environmental havoc it is creating, the suffering it brings to farm animals, notwithstanding your arteries and your waist?

It took a long time for me to stop eating meat. Information about factory farm, like Earthlings, the impact of meat eating on the environment, like Cowspiracy, and other documentaries about the health aspects like Fork over knives and many others, slowly changed my mind. Information is power. However, it took me a while. I got diagnosed with  gluten and dairy allergy, so I had to eliminate those first. When that was done, I slowly started reducing my meat and fish intake, not buying any for home but eating it if there were no other options at a restaurant or a friend’s place. I had to learn how to plan and propose to bring food when I travel or am invited. I am still viewed as an extremist, when all I want is literally to do no harm, or at least as little as possible.

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Being vegan in the US is so easy. Lots of convenience food, options in restaurants everywhere… Definitely not as easy in Europe. But getting there. I try to lead by example, showing that I am not craving any foods because I can always make a vegan version of it, being very active and healthy so that nobody contests the fact that being vegan is healthy. Of course, you should pay attention to your B12 levels, but then again I believe vegans are asked about their health so often that they have to be healthier than meat-eaters, who often do not care about their diets and think they eat healthy without actually ever checking (beware, this is a generalization!).

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It’s not always easy to know what is the best option for all of these choices we have to do everyday. For example, I sent some shoes I had (from before I went vegan, so leather) to get repaired. I love these shoes, and I thought this was the best option – repairing rather than buying new ones would be both cheaper and better for the environment. However, what I did not realize until I got the shoes back, is that since the lining of the shoe was in leather, the shoemaker used leather to repair them. It was too late when I got them back to change anything, but I don’t know what I would have done if I had realized this before.

Other of my difficult choices include products which use palm oil (extremely bad for the environment), gluten-free breads that contain eggs (I usually don’t buy them anymore but it’s hard…), clothing (what about sweatshops and human exploitation?), and so many. Still, I try to inform myself to make better choices each time. I’m not perfect. I will never be. But I can strive for self-improvement and make a better choice than the previous one. That’s what veganism is all about for me.

Conclusion? Inform yourself (especially if you claim to be a scientist!), and maybe you’ll end up becoming a vegan too!

In the same spirit:

So, I’m just gonna leave this link here in case you decided you want to learn more; you’ll see links to some of the movies I referenced (and some more here in case you think it’s different in your own country, I know it is an argument I used to have), Vegan Sidekick in case you have very logic arguments against veganism (don’t think they’re original, we’ve heard it all before ;)). I highly recommend Happy Cow to find out nice restaurants (also linked). And of course, you can always reach out to me or any other vegan friend you might have, I’m sure they will be more than happy to help you transition to veganism or answer any questions you might have!

Brand sustainibility check: https://rankabrand.org/home/what-we-do

Some cool vegan youtube channels and blogs if you’re looking for ideas:

https://www.youtube.com/user/hotforfoodblog ❤

https://www.youtube.com/user/rawvegannotgross/videos ❤

http://veganheaven.org/

http://accidentallycrunchy.com/

http://www.twocityvegans.com/

http://cookieandkate.com/

http://minimalistbaker.com/ ❤

http://www.unconventionalbaker.com/

 

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5 years of yoga practice

It’s been five years people!!!! Five years since I started practicing yoga, so in yogic years I’m finally starting school and learning to read (which was my favorite part IRL so I’m very excited!). Of course, many things change in five years, whether you do yoga or not. I moved abroad, (almost) finished a PhD, met amazing people, became vegan, started teacher training, and learned so much.

The tip of the iceberg, but the most easy benefit to show, is how many of the things I thought I would never be able to do with my body, I actually can now. Two examples below:

Handstand, jumping up with two legs together. When I started, I couldn’t do handstand at all. After three months of practice, I started managing to get up there once in a blue moon, and at six months of consistent practice, I could consistently jump up one leg at a time. However, for the next four years, there was barely any progress on the handstand front, no matter how much I tried jumping up with two legs (and exhausting myself in the process). Until one day during teacher training, one of my co-trainees made me try jumping up with a bolster against the wall and her close by, and I very surprisingly got up into handstand! Incredible what fear can prevent you from doing…

Anyhow, after some more months of reproducing that result, with bolster, then without bolster, another teacher “forced” me to do it a little away from the wall, and once again, to my surprise, after a couple of tryouts I managed 😀 Next step: pressing up into handstand (it’s been my dream since seeing a video where Kino does it – like WTF she makes it look SO EASY).

Another one:

Scorpio. Long way to go until my feet get onto my head, but the fact that I can be stable enough to even attempt to perform it is quite crazy to me. As for handstand, it’s been a long journey, using first a belt, a block and a wall, to getting rid of the belt, then the block and the wall and practicing with either only block or only wall, learning how to fall, and finally doing it without props without my hands falling in towards each other.

I could go on for a while, with all the arm balances, and padmasana, and and and…. So many things I thought my body would never be able to do and actually can. Never give up! With practice, anything is possible.

So one of the things my practice gave me is confidence, and trust in my body. Self-love is probably the biggest gift I ever received from my yoga practice, and it all happened when I stopped caring about how I looked like and started caring about what my body could do.

Tomorrow I’m teaching my first ever “Level 2” class, I’m so excited about the opportunity! The theme is going to be effortless effort. My idea is to teach a challenging sequence leading to eka pada galvanasana (flying pigeon pose, which depending on who comes, we may or may not attempt but we’ll build up towards it) all the while reminding them of the importance of the breath, lifting up the abdomen and creating space in the groins. And of course, to take child pose whenever necessary.

I love the concept of effortless effort; I remember struggling so much as a beginner in any pose, and I’m so grateful to past me for sticking up with it. I remember feeling effortless effort for the first time while balancing in Sirsasana, and the quietness it brought to my brain. Recently it’s been spreading to the rest of my practice, starting with backbends and now standing poses. However, this leads me to wonder if I am not practicing bhoga yoga, so I try to keep on challenging myself; there is still so much to learn!  Re-reading The Tree of Yoga and Light on Life is as usual very instructive.

Linking to the concept of effortless effort, I have been trying to find literature about seemingly opposite actions in asana, like turning the upper arm out and the lower arm in, and how it helps with straightening the limbs and bringing awareness to the arm. I’ve recently been using this a lot also in my own practice, especially with standing poses which I think is what led me to the effortlessness (for example resisting the lower  bent leg in Virabradhasana I&II as if I wanted to straighten the leg without actually doing it, so that the direction of the shin is opposite to the one from the thigh). However, I was not able to find back where I learned this concept from, so if anyone reading knows of scripture talking about this, please leave a comment!