As the growing numbers of both celebrities and civilians alike buy yoga mats and start yoga practice, the consumption of meat becomes an increasingly disputed question. Can you be a real yogi if you snack on hamburgers? Does going vegetarian make you more true to yoga?
Traditionally, yogis have at least 2 reasons not to eat meat:
Karma – in Vedic philosophy meat consumption means bad karma. The person who eats meat absorbs all the negative feelings the killed animals had. All the anger, fear, pain and sufferings that the consumed meat contains, block the spiritual development of the yogi. Meat prevents the energy from flowing freely in the body, which basically makes meditation, pranayama, and doing poses useless. Thus, the mind of the yogi who eats meat will never realize the reality.
Ahimsa – the "do-no-harm" principle that should be a part of the yoga lifestyle. There's no need to explain how meat consumption harms the animals.
On the other side of the argument, people claim that Buddha and his monks ate meat, the only condition for that being the knowledge that the animal wasn't killed just to feed them. Some people may use that very same argument if they see a random piece of meat in the supermarket: it's ok to eat it, because the animal wasn't killed just for you. However, this would mean supporting cattle breeding by regularly buying meat and that's not the point we wanted to make here.
Being a yogi is not just about going vegetarian, but rather about being consistent in your actions. You have to be compassionate to all the living things that surround you and let your veggie diet be a part of this compassion. If you simply choose to never eat bacon or steaks, but don't feel any love for people and animals, you won't benefit from your diet. You may have only vegetables in your fridge, but if you're cutting people off in traffic, don't help your parents, and generally fail to notice that your actions harm other people, it means that you don't really follow the ahimsa philosophy. So eat your meat if you want, because it doesn't change your mind and spirit.
Everything ultimately depends on the goal of your yoga practice. If you view yoga as the way of fighting stress and keeping your body toned, you probably don't need to force any kind of diet onto yourself. You have to feel some deeper need to stop eating meat. And if there's none, there are plenty of studios that offer yoga routines for fitness purposes with almost no philosophy involved. So you can just benefit from yoga exercises without feeling obliged to change your lifestyle. However, if you wish to use yoga to develop spiritually, you'll need to decide if you are really prepared to change your outlook – not just your eating habits.