I'm a huge believer in the healing powers of plants and plant foods. Countless studies have shown the benefits of a plant-based diet for our personal and ecological health. As a yogini, I live by the principles of yoga, and for many years lived as a vegetarian and a vegan in accordance with the notion of ahimsa and the belief that my hunger should not mean the loss of an animal’s life.
A couple of years ago began feeling sick — very sick. I had no energy. I couldn't keep food down. My stomach was so bloated I looked like I was seven months pregnant. With twins. Twin elephants. My hair started thinning, my skin was terrible, and I couldn't walk some days because of the stomach pain I was in.
I saw doctors. I saw gastroenterologists. I saw naturopaths. I saw herbologists. I saw iridologists. I saw dieticians. I saw nutritionists. I saw Ayurvedic healers. I saw Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners. I saw chiropractors. I had acupuncture. I had Reiki. I had reflexology. I ate only organic foods. I ate fermented foods. I sprouted my foods. I took every kind of herbal, probiotic, prebiotic and digestive enzyme concoction prescribed to me. I followed the nutritional advice given to me. I cut out wheat, gluten, dairy, sugar, flour, processed foods, fermented foods.
Result? I was still as sick and bloated as I was before — maybe even worse. I decided that this must just be my life, and I should live with it, that it would sort itself out.
Unfortunately, my mystery illness only got worse. As any good vegan should, I lived of a diet of fresh, low-sugar fruits and vegetables, green powders, coconut oil, soaked sprouted grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, seaweeds, tempeh and miso. It soon became clear that one (or a combination) of those foods was irritating my gut and leaving me bedridden for days on end. My personal life suffered because I couldn’t go out unless I knew the nearest bathroom could be reached in three seconds flat. My studies suffered and my yoga practice suffered.
After some testing, I was informed that my intolerance for grains, legumes and soy were the cause of the continued bloating, and that I should cut out fermented foods and most fruit until my gut began to heal. I was told that I could continue to have vegetables, but only steamed or baked — never raw — coconut oil and small amounts of soaked nuts. That’s it. And if I continued to eat the foods that irritated my gut, it would lead to long-term and irreversible digestive scarring.
I am a proud yogini, and believer in the rights of all humans and animals alike. And I was being told that unless I wanted to live off steamed vegetables and a handful of soaked nuts a few times a week, I had to introduce chicken and fish. This was devastating to me. Morally, I was against it, but after a few weeks of getting sicker and sicker to the point where I couldn't move or talk, I decided to meditate.
I spoke to the universe. I asked the universe why this was happening to me. I asked the universe what lessons were being taught to me, what path was unfolding. Thinking about how I felt about this, I started to listen to my inner voice and realized that it wasn't my body that was telling me not to eat meat — it was my mind. My mind was constantly filled with negative thoughts: “How will you walk into yoga? How will you look your fellow yogis in the eye? What will they think? What would Kris Carr, Tara Stiles or Gabrielle Bernstein say if they heard this? Would they still want to talk to me? How can I call myself a yogini?”
A few more weeks passed, and I continued to become sicker. I thought back to my meditation and asked myself at what cost to my health and my life had my commitment to veganism come? I couldn't even practice yoga anymore, as I had no strength or energy. I could barely leave the house.
I decided to make a deal. I'd look at my situation as temporary, for the purposes of healing. I would eat only organic, free-range meat and would call and speak to the farmers I was buying from first to inquire how their farms are operated. I would bless every meal before I ate, and give thanks to the life of the animal.
Within weeks, I had my spark back.
Do I have a problem with eating animals? Yes.
Do I think that factory farming is a disgusting process? Yes.
Do I think I'll eat meat for the rest of my life? No. I've accepted this situation as temporary, and I'm just giving my body what it needs FOR NOW so it may heal.
Sometimes our own insecurities and beliefs can cloud our better judgment, and I know that for many vegans, they could never imagine introducing these foods no matter what circumstances they came up against. But I had to ask myself, if it were my mother, father, daughter, son who was facing the obstacles I am, would I think less of them for trying something new which could see them get their life back?
The ability to listen to my own inner voice is a gift that yoga has given me, and in keeping with my resolution to live in the present, I'm taking my life and my health one day at a time.