Can you do yoga if you drink? And no, we’re not talking about doing the two at the same time! We’re talking drinking. And meat eating. And doing things that yogis traditionally sort of frown on…
The ancient gurus would have probably frowned on drinking. Then again, they led simple, monastic lives and would have probably frowned on yoga pants, youtube videos, and pizza too. And we’re not giving any of those up. Especially youtube videos. And especially this one. So go ahead and enjoy this video. Then read our thoughts on yoga and drinking below.
Look, yoga has evolved a GREAT DEAL over the years. According to David White (one INCREDIBLY smart professor of yoga studies at Princeton), those who are practicing so called “traditional yoga” are most often practicing just one strand of yoga (which was brought to the US a relatively recent 150 years ago).
Truly traditional yoga (whatever that means anyway – but we’ll say that we’re talking about the kind that was developed about 2,000 years ago); that kind of yoga was INCREDIBLY ascetic. It was practiced by relatively few members of society and it was practiced by those who rejected any material comforts in the search for enlightenment (so if you’re saying no to drinking, then you should say no to just about everything else in modern society too – including that soy latte).
To search for enlightenment, a system of yoga practices was born with a series of “steps.” Adhering to this system would help one find enlightenment.
At first these systems dealt mainly with meditation. Eventually these rules were expanded to include how you should interact with the world (along the lines of be nice to thy neighbor), what you should eat and drink, and how you can use certain physical poses to get your body and mind ready for enlightenment.
This pursuit of enlightenment, and yoga in general, has many of its roots steeped in religion. Obtaining this enlightened state was to recognize that you were a part of something greater (god). It’s important to recognize that history when practicing yoga today. That spirituality that some yoga instructors practice in class? That does have its roots in a religion that may be different than yours.
Moreover, there are parts of that history that would sound absolutely crazy to you today – such as the part about yogis who could see through you and yogis who could eat your soul.
Modern yogis should never pass judgment on those who decide to drink or to eat meat, especially when they preach openness and tolerance, and especially when the original yoga practitioners thousands of years ago were eating things that would be all together different from our modern diet. And no one wants to go back to drinking horse milk.
Just like our diets, culture, opportunities, technology, and priorities, so too has yoga has changed.
Let’s call a spade a spade here, and recognize that yoga has evolved over thousands of years and that today, that it is okay to keep evolving it, and that we do not have to participate in all of the tenants of yoga in order to get its benefits.
Check out David White’s book about the history of modern yoga. It’s dense and stuff and probably meant for people smarter than us, but it’s fun and objective, and pretty much THE authority on the subject.