Age Like a Yogi — first ever excerpt from the upcoming book by Victoria Moran

posted June 4, 2024

During the pandemic, I took Yoga Teacher Training, and then Raja Yoga Teacher Training, via Zoom. I’d been doing yoga 52 years by then, but I’d never been in one place long enough to take one of those lengthy trainings. They connected me to the decades I’d spent around ahimsa and meditation, absorbing yoga philosophy and doing my share of downward-facing dogs. The result is, I think, my best book yet, my best writing anyway. The pub date is January 14, 2025, but this next book, Age Like a Yogi: A Heavenly Path to a Dazzling Third Act, is available for pre-order now. Since pre-orders mean everything in term of Bestseller Lists and the like, I’m hoping you’ll consider ordering early. As a bonus for pre-ordering, there’s a special day-long live Zoom retreat, and an e-cookbook that resonates with the edible ideas (vegan, of course) in the book. (Instructions below for receiving pre-order extras.)

Table of Contents (abridged: within each of the Parts are several chapters, 40 in all)

Foreword by Sharon Gannon, co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga


Part One: Age as a Spiritual Construct

Part Two: Moving Into Maturity

Part Three: Eating Peacefully

Part Four: Your Sacred Schedule

Part Five: The Glow Factor

Part Six: In Search of Sattva

Part Seven: The Moral Precepts

Part Eight: The Personal Disciplines

Part Nine: The Soul of Yoga

Part Ten: Warrior Challenges

Chapter 8

Yoga’s Vegetarian Heritage

Food affects the mind. For the practice of any kind of yoga, vegetarianism

is absolutely necessary since it makes the mind more pure and harmonious.

~Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi

I resonated with the word “vegetarian” the first time I heard it. I had brought the “Four Food Groups” home from first grade. “Humph,” said Dede, my eclectically spiritual, sixty-something nanny. “There are some people who never eat any meat. They’re called vegetarians.” I wasn’t sure why, but I liked them.

            And five years later on an airplane, I met one. An Indian man was seated next to me and the flight attendant apologized that his vegetarian meal had not made it onboard. “But I’ll tell you what I can do,” she told him, her lilting voice evincing both her Southern roots and TWA inculcation. “I’ll just take your tray, remove the chicken-fried steak, and bring back everything else for you to enjoy.” He thanked her but refused, saying that he would eat after landing. I couldn’t believe it. This man would voluntarily starve for hours in order to have nothing to do with the slaughter of an animal. That was impressive.

            I made some attempts at going veg in my early teens, but it was yoga that finally got me there. All the books I read simply assumed that anyone serious about yoga would stop eating meat. For one thing, you need a reasonably clean, pure body to make progress on the spiritual path. This comes from food with its life force intact. It is taught that meditation is enhanced by refraining from consumption of meat, fish, and eggs. And because all living beings want to stay alive, experience pleasure and avoid pain, it is ethically and karmically counterproductive to interfere with their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

            For all these reasons, yoga has been vegetarian for about as long as it’s been yoga. In Patanjali’s Sutras, ahimsa, non-harming, is the first moral precept. We will go into detail about ahimsa when we look at the yamas (ways to behave ethically in relation to others) and niyamas (ways to behave ethically in relation to ourselves). Ahimsa is in the first category. Traditionally, no student was allowed to study with a respected teacher or guru until they demonstrated mastery of these character-building teachings.

            The late Professor Rynn Berry, author of Food for the Gods: Vegetarianism and the World’s Religions, used to share

Prof. Rynn Berry, vegan historian and author

this allegory. “Let’s say you’re a true yogi, imbued in ahimsa,” he would start out, “and on a hike in the woods you clearly see a handsome buck run off to the west. Then a hunter happens by and asks you which way the deer went. As a yogi, you’re supposed to tell the truth, but ahimsa is the highest teaching, so you can blamelessly assure the hunter that the deer went east. If your prevarication isn’t sufficiently convincing, you could steal that hunter’s arrows or bow. Of course, as a yogi you’ve mastered the precept of non-stealing, but ahimsa, saving the life of the dear, is the highest teaching. And if even that doesn’t work, you can turn from the sacred teaching of brahmacharya, sexual purity, and seduce the hunter if doing so would save the deer. Ahimsa, remember, is the highest teaching.”

            Berry always got a chuckle from his audience on the seduction part, and no yoga student who heard the story ever forgot it. The teaching is that to do violence, or cause someone else to injure or kill another being, opposes spiritual principles and hampers spiritual progress. And then there is the oneness concept, powerfully stated by Australian philanthropist Philip Wollen when he said: “When we suffer, we suffer as equals. In their capacity to suffer, a dog is a pig, is a cow, is a boy.”

            Always alert to interconnection, the yogis of yore also recognized how a peace-promoting diet was inherently health promoting. They determined that consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and dairy products, without meat, fish, or eggs, would aid this. Even though traditional teachings champion the use of dairy, there are plenty of reasons in the twenty-first century to steer clear of it (see chapters 9 and 24). With that sole difference, these suggestions from antiquity are eerily in keeping with current, cutting-edge recommendations in lifestyle medicine. We will delve into this further, but for now I will share something I was told early on. I’d returned from London and Stella’s tutelage and was taking asana classes at the YWCA in Kansas City. “Don’t bother changing your diet,” the instructor told our class. “Yoga will change your diet.” For me, it already had. 

Practices for the Path

Catch a veggie movie. The ninety-minute documentary, A Prayer for Compassion, follows filmmaker Thomas Jackson on his exploration of food choices and spirituality in many of the world’s faith traditions. An absorbing chunk of the film takes place in India. As of this writing, you can watch it for free at www.tinyurl.com/aprayerforcompassion.

Victoria Moran is the author of 14 books, including vegan classics, Main Street Vegan and The Love-Powered Diet, the international bestseller Creating a Charmed Life, and the upcoming Age Like a Yogi. If you order from Amazon U.S., Amazon UK, BN.com, IndieBound, or your favorite online or brick-and-mortar bookstore, and send a copy of your receipt to Marie Dore, [email protected], you’ll receive the Age Like a Yogi companion e-cookbook this fall, and a reserved space in Victoria’s Age Like a Yogi private Zoom retreat January 11, 2025, 11 a.m. to 6 pm U.S Eastern Time (and it will be recorded).

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