The yoga that I follow isn’t just about the postures. Yoga goes beyond breath and body work. It’s a lifestyle. That’s why I’m a vegan yogi. I stopped eating animals 40 years ago, after visiting a slaughterhouse in Mexico. I said no to dairy and eggs once I realized the inhumane treatment that factory farming produces.
While everyone chooses how to incorporate yoga into their lives, even if it’s watching a video once a week, or going to the gym for a workout, I try to take in the whole enchilada. That means that I refrain from consuming alcohol, caffeine, or animal products. Nixing of alcohol and caffeine is part of the Ayurvedic sattvic (clean and balanced) practice. I’m just as passionate about that part of my life, as I am on the mat component. So I’m a teetotaling, caffeine-free vegan yogi.
The foundation for yoga are the ancient teachings from the Indian subcontinent. The very first tenet is Ahimsa: do no harm/non-violence. That means to all beings and oneself. That living of the first sutra goes with me everywhere.
I recently went to New Orleans for an Rx Road Trip. I filled up on kirtan, yoga, gong baths, meditation, and vegan food.
Yes, New Orleans is known for its seafood, pork, and booze. However, there’s always a strong circle of like-minded passionate people I seem to encounter. We’re like magnets attracted to the same places and environments.
One of my favorite mantras is Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu which speaks to ahimsa. Sukhino refers to free from suffering, and samastah is all beings. The mantra is frequently translated, and sung in English, as “may all beings be happy and free.”
Edgar Cooper owns Seed, an all-vegan restaurant in a boho-type neighborhood. Inside is a quote on the wall, “May all beings everywhere be happy and free.” Cooper says, “I really believe that humans are no different than any animal and we should respect them. There is a natural Darwinian aspect to survival in the animal world, but I feel that humans have/should evolve and we should make compassionate choices.”
He sees meat-free eating has been on the rise since Katrina. In part, from transplants that want vegan food in New Orleans.
For those yearning for a real taste of N’awlins, Seed tries to be “garden-based, NOLA taste.” They serve Cajun-inspired dishes like Southern Fried Nuggets, Chili Cheese Fries, Creole Zucchini Wraps, Po Boys, Gumbo, and the only vegan beignets in town.
Cooper has been vegan since 1995. “What started as 100 percent animal-related has grown into more environmental and health.” Seed tries to ensure 100 percent non-GMO at Seed. “A trip to Malaysia in 2013 really triggered a desire to make a difference and a number of things aligned so that I could start Seed. Our dietary choices are creating a huge impact on the rest of the world. The planet can’t sustain the farming required to feed farm animals to then feed humans,” he says.
Cooper is also concerned with all the hormones that are in today’s food chain. “I think that the hormones in meat products are well documented and causing significant changes in how children grow/develop. The more whole and natural/organic foods that you can eat the better.”
Vegan New Orleans agrees that the tide is turning. “Veganism is definitely growing in New Orleans, with more vegan businesses, groups, events, and interest than ever before.” But, NOLA still has a ways to go, especially compared to places like Southern California or Austin, Texas. “Seafood and butter seem to be in just about everything,” adds Vegan New Orleans. “I’m trying to change that. If people see what vegan options are out there, going vegan seems possible.”
As a vegan yogi, I believe in Good Karma. There’s a 100 percent vegan restaurant with that name, underneath the Swan River Yoga Studio in NOLA. The Good Karma Cafe is owned by life-long vegetarians. Open for breakfast, every day but Sunday, if I were in NOLA for a week, I could eat something different here for three meals a day. A good diverse selection of Southern Traditional cooking, Indian, Mexican, and modern fusion. Great smoothies, juices, salads, and bowls.