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 reductions 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?