When you are Self-confident the need to hurt, humiliate or kill another being is absent from your personality. Only a person with low self-esteem would harm another to feel better about themselves. Self-esteem and Self-confidence are the results of yoga practice, and they have their highest manifestation in Samadhi.

 

Samadhi is the aim of the Yoga practice. It is a Sanskrit word meaning 'same as the highest'. It is the identification of the individual with the Absolute supreme consciousess which is Truth, Knowledge and unending Bliss. What keeps us from that Supreme Realization is our own selfishness; thinking that we are separate from the Divine Source.

 

The great yogi Jesus said that if you want to know yourself as one with the Source then follow this practice: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Notice that he did not specify the gender, color, or even the species of "others". As long as you perceive others and not the One, then treat those "others" with kindness, respect and compassion. In other words, "love thy neighbor as thyself" and you will realize that "I and my father are one." In other words, you wil realize Samadhi.

 

The first step in Patanjali's system of Yoga is Ahimsa, which means the practice of non-harming and nonviolence. This is the reason vegetarianism is a main tenet of Yoga. You simply cannot eat another being without harming them first. The practices of Yoga are meant to be practices, meaning you work toward the attainment of perfection, knowing that perfection may never come.

 

As long as we are living in physical bodies we will continue to cause some harm to others on this planet. So the practice of Ahimsa becomes one of trying to cause the least amount of harm. Everyone knows that eating a vegetarian diet uses up the least amount of natural resources and so causes the least amount of harm to the whole planet.

 

As you get better at Ahimsa, you get closer to the realization of your True being as that which is Peaceful and free of debilitating internal conflicts. Many people have difficulty with accepting a vegetarian lifestyle as intrinsic to the practice of yoga asana. Perhaps we can clarify that by examining the Sanskrit word "asana". It means "seat." Seat means connection to the Earth. Earth means all things: animals, plants, minerals, all existence. To practice asana really means to practice your relationship to Earth and all of her manifestations.

 

Yoga has been called the perfection of action. All actions originate as thoughts, so a perfect action must come from a perfect thought. What is a perfect thought? A perfect thought is one that is free of selfish desire, anger and hate. We return to Ahimsa as the means to perfect action. See yourself in others, all others, and then go beyond seeing. BE yourself in others until there are no others, until there is only Love, only One.

 

The single most important part of your yoga practice is the strict adherence to a vegetarian diet, a diet free of needless cruelty, harm and injustice. Ahimsa is not an optional part of the program, it is the first step.

Sharon Gannon is a 21st-century Renaissance woman, an animal rights and vegan activist and a world-renowned yogini, perhaps best known as the founder, along with David Life, of the Jivamukti Yoga Method. She is also an accomplished writer, dancer, painter, musician and chef. Sharon has devoted many years exploring the role of diet in promoting physical, emotional and mental well-being as well as spiritual development. She lives in a 125-acre wild forest sanctuary in Woodstock, NY.

A student of Brahmananda Sarasvati, Swami Nirmalananda, K. Pattabhi Jois, and Shyam das, she is a pioneer in teaching yoga as spiritual activism and is credited for making yoga cool and hip—relating ancient teachings of yoga to the modern world. Sharon's book Yoga and Vegetarianism has been called the "seminal" work on the subject, exploring the relationship of veganism to the teachings of yoga.

Sharon is a musician and is a featured vocalist on many CDs including Sharanam, which is her 2010 solo album, produced by Frenz Kallos. She has produced numerous yoga-related DVDs and is the author of several books, including Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body & SoulThe Art of Yoga, Cats and Dogs are People Too!, and Yoga Assists. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Toward 2012, Arcana V: Music, Magic and Mysticism, What comes after Money, Semiotexte, Yoga Journal, Mantra, and Origin. She writes a monthly essay called the Focus of the Month.