What might a yogic Christmas look like?

Cow eyeWhat might a yogic Christmas look like?

Animalia Asana® posits that the upcoming holidays are a time for further enhancement of our yogic practice, be that on or off the mat; a time for indulging in the decadence of awareness and quiet reflection; a time for attuning ever further to the at times elusive connective thread between all beings. How might this be applied? It may be quality time with oneself at home or on retreat. It may be quality time with a significant other or those infrequently seen throughout the rest of the year. It may be quality time spent giving to those in need.

Christmas is thought of as a ‘time of giving’. Indeed, one study details how 1 in 3 of us donate more around Christmas than at other time of the year. An increased sense of giving may also show itself especially in less formal/non-monetary ways too through our interpersonal relations with loved ones and/or strangers. Ironically and very sadly though, the situation gets considerably worse for most animals over Christmas (aside from some spikes in the donations for some animal welfare charities, which a far cry from cancelling out the damage and disrespect done), whether that be unwanted ‘Christmas gift’ animals or the millions of animals being fattened up for feasting upon on this one day.

Some may be sourcing the animal they will eat from a local organic source. This is preferable indeed, but still accompanied by suffering and ethical issues that are inextricably connected to farming for animal meat including cutting animals’ lifespans dramatically short, methods of breeding, stressful and unnatural transportation to the abattoir at their end-of-life stage, and how they are slaughtered; whenever animals are being kept for profit (however small or large a profit it might be), at some point, their welfare is going to take a backseat at some stage to a lesser or greater degree.  It is not possible for small-scale operations that truly cater to all welfare needs (which may not even exist yet) to meet the demand for the world’s 7.6 billion human population; even if it could, significant reductioTurkey headns in the consumption of meat, fish dairy and egg would be necessary anyway…. Thus, whichever way we look at it, we need to eat considerably more plant-based foods.

Reducetarian, flexitarian, vegan, plant-based (the list goes on)… all of these efforts are valid and contribute positively towards a more harmonious world for the future. The label is not as important as earnest action of some sort to honour the reality of the suffering, exploitation, environmental damage and inefficient systems that we otherwise play a key role in. If we needed to eat animals to survive and thrive, it would be a different story; however, leading health authorities have affirmed that plant-based diets can be equally if not more healthy than balanced omnivorous diets. The feats of plant-based athletes are also testimony to this. So, none of the animal agriculture practices are “necessary”.

Can we find a peaceful and authentic practice of kukkutasana (cockerel pose) knowing what our finances would be supporting and what we would be ingesting? The same can be asked for the practice of varahasana (boar pose) or gomukhasana (cowface pose), or other animal postures that reflect animals traditionally eaten for Christmas dinner across different cultures. And how does pondering on the number of corpses generated through animal agriculture affect our authentic and peaceful experience of savasana (corpse pose)?

We don’t need to be religious or Christian to find the current mainstream Christmas practices to be a dishonor to Jesus’s birth. Let’s invite in the wisdom of yoga and move past any urges to remain willfully ignorant of animal farming practices and our involvement within them. Let’s step into our responsibility. What will quiet moments of awareness and reflection offer to you this year?

Scotland’s salmon sea lice crisis

Scotland’s salmon sea lice crisis

Scotland is the third largest farmed Atlantic salmon producer after Norway and Chile1. Its salmon sea lice crisis (SSLC)


concerns the infestation of farmed salmon with the sea louse parasite. This occurs during the saltwater stage of the multi-stage salmon lifecycle that aquaculture imitates. Naturally, predation on sea lice and infected salmon, and low salmon population densities, keep sea lice numbers low; high stocking densities in salmon farming attract sea lice2. They flourish by feeding on salmon skin and mucous. The SSLC economic and environmental costs receive considerable attention, but what are the animal welfare costs?

Welfare issues

Most scientists agree that fish are sentient. The precursor of the SSLC—high stocking densities—is itself a welfare issue. Salmon are a carnivorous and migratory species, motivated to hunt and swim thousands of miles in spacious oceanic conditions3. Typical farms enclose approximately 70,000 salmon per 40m-wide pen4, severely limiting their natural behaviour. This can then lead to physical health issues, increased aggression and enhanced intragroup disease transmission2.


Sea lice can cause significant wounds and stress5,6. This compromises salmon’s quality of life, physical health and immune system, leading to secondary infections and potentially death6. Other welfare issues (e.g., stressful husbandry practices) also weaken their immune system, further increasing their susceptibility to the negative effects of parasites5,6.

Attempts at mitigating the SSLC create additional welfare issues. Despite calls to ban chemicals such as emamectin, fisheries are using increasingly toxic treatments in sky-rocketing quantities to counter emerging sea lice resistance, causing thousands of farmed and wild fish mortalities7. Some fisheries are adopting ‘cleaner fish’ (e.g., wrasse) who eat sea lice; however, Loch Duart farm’s sea lice numbers soar above acceptable levels despite its zealous use of wrasse, suggesting this method is also unreliable8. This method raises other welfare and ethical issues concerning the farming or wild capture of cleaner fish, and their co-habitation with salmon2. To dislodge sea lice, fish may also be submerged into heated water, which has caused numerous mortalities.

Sea lice disperse into the ocean and infect wild salmonids (e.g., salmon and trout) whose migratory routes pass fisheries9. Escaped farmed salmon further spread sea lice to wild salmonids.

Current situation and solutions

In June 2017, over 61% of Scottish salmon farms failed to meet the industry’s recommended threshold of one louse per salmon10. SSLC-induced mortality rates also continue to rise11. Yet the government is neither intervening nor readily sharing sea lice data. After significant pressure from Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland, a government inquiry into the industry is due in early 201812. Closed sea cages appear the best solution to minimise harm to wild fish and the environment, yet this will not in itself safeguard farmed salmon welfare. Additional regulation is necessary to honour the inclusion of farmed fish within the Animal Welfare Act 200613. Arguably, aquaculture will always remain unethical if alternative means of economical input, jobs and nourishment are possible.

Summary and how you can help

Scotland’s SSLC is only worsening. Welfare compromises in farming salmon cause and result from the SSLC. Wild salmonid welfare is heavily impacted too. The RSPCA-assured label is highly controversial, so we cannot necessarily trust this putative high-welfare label. You can help by boycotting the worst-offending companies. For the greatest contribution, shift to a plant-based diet.


  1. FAWC (2014). Opinion on the Welfare of Farmed Fish. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/319323/Opinion_on_the_welfare_of_farmed_fish.pdf [accessed 04 Dec. 2017].
  2. Compassion in World Farming (2008). Compassion in World Farming Briefing: Welfare of Farmed Fish. Available at: https://www.ciwf.org.uk/media/3818654/farmed-fish-briefing.pdf [accessed 04 Dec. 2017].
  3. Shearer, W.M. (1992). The Atlantic Salmon: Natural History, Exploitation and Future Management. Oxford, UK: Fishing News Books.
  4. Paxman, J. (2017). The terrible cost of Scottish salmon farms. Financial Times. 11 August, 2017. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/8b73e21a-7cf8-11e7-ab01-a13271d1ee9c [accessed 03 Dec. 2017].
  5. Ashley, P.J. (2007). Fish welfare: Current issues in aquaculture. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 104 (3-4). 199-235.
  6. Nolan, D.T., Reilly, P. and Wendelaar Bonga, S.E. (2011). Infection with low numbers of the sea louse Lepeophtheirus salmonis induces stress-related effects in postsmolt Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 56 (6). 947-959.
  7. The Global Alliance Against Industrial Agriculture (2017). Sky-rocketing chemical use on Scottish salmon farms – Hydrogen peroxide use leaps from 19,000 litres in 2005 to 19m litres in 2015. 12 February, 2017. Available at: http://donstaniford.typepad.com/files/pr-hydrogen-peroxide-skyrocketing-use-feb-2017.pdf [accessed 07 Dec. 2017].
  8. Salmon & Trout Conservation UK (2016). Complaint to the Commission of the European Communities. Available at: https://www.salmon-trout.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/STC_complaint_to_European_Commission_May_2016.pdf [accessed 07 Dec. 2017].
  9. Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland (2015). The Control of Sea Lice on Fish Farms in Scotland 2013-2015. Available at: https://www.salmon-trout.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/STC-Scotland-2013-2015-The-Control-of-Sea-Lice-on-Fish-Farms-in-Scotland.pdf
  10. Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland (2017). Data reveals astonishingly high sea lice levels, Scottish Government regulation of salmon farms shown to be wholly inadequate. Available at: https://www.salmon-trout.org/2017/10/30/scotish-salmon-farmings-liciest-farms-named-and-shamed/ [accessed 03 Dec. 2017].
  11. Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland (2017). RSPCA Assured certification of Scottish farmed salmon: A report for Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland. Available at: https://www.salmon-trout.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/RSPCA_Assured_report_2017_FINAL.pdf [accessed 04 Dec. 2017].
  12. The Scottish Parliament (2017). Official Report: Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. Available at: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11034&mode=pdf [accessed 05 Dec. 2017].
  13. FAWEC (2015). The Future of EU Legislation on Farm Animal Welfare. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kT4PyOZkUa8 [accessed 03 Dec. 2017].


a) Dixon, D. (2017). Salmon Farm near Goirtean a’ Chladaich [digital image]. Distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license. Retrieved from: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5470510 [accessed 02 Dec. 2017].
b) 7Barrym0re (2003). Sea Lice on Salmon [digital image]. Available to the public domain. Retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sea_lice_on_salmon.jpg [accessed 02 Dec. 2017].

Introducing FIAPO

Update: Introducing FIAPO – The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations.FIAPO logo


This charity is to (both happily and sadly) replace the marvellous Animal Aid as one of the charity’s for which Animalia Asana® fundraises. This is no discredit to Animal Aid – quite the contrary – we hugely appreciate their work. FIAPO share a very similar approach to Animal Aid but are simply based in India. The switch is for the following reasons:

• the greater extent to which India’s milch cattle (and others) really are worse off than in Europe
• to give honour to yoga’s heritage in India
• to draw attention to the complexities surrounding cow veneration
• as Animalia Asana is attracting yoga teachers on mainland Europe, it seems beneficial to support an Indian charity as it is a country of mutual interest.

FIAPO has been informed and are excited to have our support long into the future!

International Animal Rescue remains the other charity for which Animalia Asana® fundraises. This maintains the initial decision to support one charity that focuses on rescuing animals in the here and now, and one charity focusing on education, research, policy recommendation and lobbying to help prevent suffering in the future.

We hope you agree this move is wise and understandable

Animal Yoga transitions to Animalia Asana®!

It is with great excitement we introduce the new and improved Animalia Asana®!

Animalia Asana® management and current Animalia Asana® teachers are all behind this new name, which we feel invites more intrigue and depth to the enterprise’s identity. We love the fusion of the two ancient languages of Latin and Sanskrit; we feel this suggests the balance required between faith/intuition/spirituality and science, and we feel it invites connection with our ancestry. And in the simplest sense, ‘asana’ refers to a posture (in our case, an animal-named posture!); in the broadest sense, it refers to the seat in which, through our yoga practice, we endeavour to reside ever more comfortably but firmly… the seat of connection and unity. Extending this connection and unity to other species is of paramount importance for understanding and practicing optimal compassion for ourselves, other human beings and other species.

This transition has been brought forth to prevent misidentification of our practices with other types of ‘animal yoga’ that seem to more immediately spring into people’s minds and that seem to be growing (e.g., practicing yoga alongside animals or animals themselves somehow practicing yoga).

We hope you enjoy this transition!

Animalia Asana Logo 2(300dpi)

Reconciling transitioning away from dairy with yogic philosophy

dairy cowReconciling the transition away from dairy with yogic philosophy

Today is the first ever World Plant Milk Day. The personal and societal reasons for transitioning away from dairy (and other products derived from animals) and towards plant-based alternatives span the environment, animal welfare and human health across the globe. The benefits posed by plant-based diets are detailed clearly by the new international food awareness organisation ProVeg.

Vegetarianism is often hailed by Yogic scholars as the diet most affiliated to a yogic path in terms of ethics, personal health and yogic tradition. But what about veganism? One does not have to dig very deeply before coming across a myriad of symbolism within yogic philosophy connected to viewing the cow as a milk-giving mother. Milk is also used within ceremonies and rituals as it is considered as a sacred substance. So, how can transitioning away from milk live in harmony with a yogic path?

There are numerous ways in which yogic philosophy could not only support a societal transition towards veganism, but also contribute to fostering leaders and influencers of such shifts in society:

  • Yoga increases our self-awareness and consciousness. Carnism, coined by Dr Melanie Joy, describes how eating particular animals and their products is a deeply embedded cultural occurrence. It is a violent all-pervading ideology that the vast majority of us have been raised to accept as normal, despite it being in conflict with other core human (and yogic) values. Just as, through our yoga practice, we work on our other conditioned habits and mind-sets that do not serve us or others, why would we not do the same in respect to what we are eating to the fullest extent? A key part of this is becoming aware of the defence mechanisms already engrained into our psyche. These will be ready to fire if our false sense of self feels threatened. Dr Joy explains how this has been part and parcel of every social change movement, and how, without awareness of carnism – of our conditioned food choices – we are not making free choices every time we eat.
  • Yoga brings us into presence and connection. Through yoga, we endeavour to come into the present moment, into our bodies, into the deeper essence inside ourselves and into deeper connection with that same intangible essence existing in fellow earthlings. Yoga means union – not only between the mind, body and spirit, but also between ourselves and other beings (the latter also aiding with the former). We are endeavouring to see beyond the exterior of fellow earthly creatures (human or not) to the deeper interior essence that is thought to be shared by us all. A natural side-effect of feeling close to another is to not to want to eat them or parts of them. We learn that change is inevitable. We can welcome in this compassionate dietary change in society!
  • Yoga guides us in the management of energy. Ayurveda is often associated with yoga. Sattvic, rajasic and tamasic foods can all be found within plant-based foods, so that each individual can balance their own unique energy constitution. Veganism is thought to be compatible with Ayurveda. So, that’s good news. Avoiding the consumption of negative emotions that will undoubtedly be present within the vast majority if not all animal foods is also thought to positively affect our energy. Through our asana practice, we seek to shift and direct energy, and to awaken dormant muscles – we can mirror this in awakening to the effects of carnism too.
  • Yoga teaches us about balance. Being an advocate of social change can be tiring and challenging. Due to the extent to which consuming animals is embedded in our society and institutionalised, taking another route is not always easy. We all have other commitments and our own issues as well. The good news is that being part of social change is not about attaining a non-existent perfection. Do as much as you can as every little helps. It’s not about judging each other, but moving forward together in the most positive and compassionate direction. 100% veganism is fabulous if you feel you can manage it. But let’s not forget that reducetarianism is also fantastic if that’s where you’re at – on a societal and global scale, it can be a stepping stone to veganism in the long run. We can all also aid in the promotion of veganism or plant-based diets in other ways alongside what we are buying and eating.
  • Yoga is about transformation. Let us unite all of the aforementioned attributes that yoga aids in bringing forth – awareness, consciousness, presence, connection, positive energy, balance – into a positive outcome: supporting the plant-based diet revolution as best as we can. We need to de-normalise eating animals; the aim, eventually, is for eating animals or substances from them to be socially inacceptable.

The eradication of the role of cattle in human advancement in our history does not need to occur. Shifting to plant-based diets does not challenge the notion of the cow as a mother to our ancestors; we can continue to honour this and express our gratitude. The time has come that the cow needs the human as a caring protecting mother. This video explores how one Hindu family honours their Gods using plant-based milk instead of cows’ milk (not to suggest that yoga is religious but it is widely considered to be a tool stemming from Hindu culture). Transitioning away from dairy could simply become another societal progression, similar to how many regions have outlawed animal sacrifices for ethical reasons, despite the long-standing traditions and cultural significance of such practices. Considering that humans can thrive just as well if not better on a plant-based diet, why are animal sacrifices not OK but the mass production and slaughter of billions of animals needlessly each year for food OK?

Modern milk production is a far cry from milk production methods in ancient times. Vegetarianism and veganism, sometimes hailed as western developments, have also actually historically been practiced in the birthplace of yoga since ancient times, particularly amongst Jains. The yamas and niyamas support the transition away from dairy. Every yama and niyama can be applied to the entirety of the animal kingdom, not just the homo sapien species. Shambo’s devastating story highlights a genuine full attempted enactment of the yamas and niyamas. Look at the lengths this community went to, to protect one cow. Why such effort for one individual cow but the exploitation and destruction of billions of other sentient beings each year (this is not a question for the community itself but rather for all of us, as chances are, we all wanted Shambo to live)?

Two things should be noted. First, yogic philosophy is much clearer regarding the abstinence from egg consumption. Lacto-vegetarianism already lies within the culture as eggs are considered to be the beginning of life. However, even if this were not the case, similar arguments could be made due to grave suffering and disrespect for life within the egg industry. Second, the situation may be more complex and sensitive in some areas of the world, but generally speaking these are the exceptions; many people and societies can make a clear choice whether to breed, rear, slaughter and sell animals for their meat or other products. There are initiatives such as Ahimsa Milk where the male calves are not killed (but put to work) and where the mother is not separated from the calf. Such practices are definitely an improvement; however, everyone would still need to dramatically reduce their dairy intake for these hugely low-key initiatives to provide for everyone, if such levels of provision could at all be possible. Ethical concerns would still remain as well concerning using the animals and their secretions in any way at all.

Yoga is not about remaining attached to traditions merely for the sake of tradition or due to its hold on our socially constructed identity. It is not about the denial of problems or leaving them for others to sort out when we play such a fundamental role both in the problem and the solution. Yogic philosophy need not be an obstacle to veganism. On the contrary, yogic philosophy and supporting a societal transition away from dairy can live in perfect harmony. And leaders of such social change could stem from within the yoga community. As members of the higher consciousness community, arguably, we need to be the leaders; we have a responsibility to step into this role as people look to us for guidance, inspiration and hope. Can we truly practice sitting in integrity, peace, contentment and stillness without recognising the atrocities within animal agriculture and without, at least, playing our part in the transition to the alternative? Start now (or continue!) on World Plant Milk Day.

New video highlights the illogical nature of our food choices

La-Table-Suisse 2New video highlights the illogical nature of our food choices

Why do we love some animals, and eat others? An award-winning video by Beyond Carnism encourages us all to consider this question. The video portrays La Table Suisse as the first European restaurant to serve cat meat. Viewers soon learn that this restaurant is actually fictitious. However, the video draws parallels with millions of similar restaurants that do exist. The only difference is the meat being served; that is, the meat of animals we have been taught to find acceptable such as chicken, pork, and beef.

The outrage in response to this fictitious restaurant mirrors the reactions to the all-too-true whale slaughter in the Faroe Islands and Yulin Dog Meat Festival. Many of us are appalled by the notion of eating whale or dog meat; yet, is there any logic to this if we find eating other animals acceptable? What enables us to pat our dog with one hand and eat a pork chop with the other?

La-Table-Suisse 1The term carnism describes the invisible belief system that conditions people to eat certain animals. Carnism is a dominant and violent ideology unaligned with core human values such as compassion and justice. It condones the mass slaughter of trillions of animals each year, and is so deeply embedded in societies across the world that we lack awareness of its influence.

By collectively decreasing the global demand for animal products, we can begin to transition to more rational and compassionate food choices. Veganism is the alternative and counterpoint to carnism. We can each move along this carnism-veganism continuum as best as we can, eventually creating a vegan world together. Without awareness, there is no choice; therefore, the first step is to raise awareness of carnism. Find out more here.

*Images courtesy of Beyond Carnism.