Yoga is defined as a coming-together “that which brings one into reality”. The word itself means “union,” which brings together the physical, mental, and psychological beings of an individual as one.
While there are many branches of yoga that have their own unique practices, the goal is all but the same across: the union of body and mind.
Along with practicing yoga as a method of improving one’s well-being, adopting a vegetarian-based diet helps with the body’s natural adjustment the longer one practices yoga.
For yoga instructor Tet Pineda, she believes that both practices go hand in hand.
“Practicing yoga and vegetarianism goes hand in hand. You practice yoga, or what we call the asanas (physical practice) to make your body physically healthy and strong. At the same time, you also practice meditation,” she shares.
She teaches Hatha Yoga at “Yoga is for Everyone (YFE),” a daily yoga class (except Sundays) at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Diliman, Quezon City. This branch of yoga emphasizes physical postures to help master both body and mind. Through her regular yoga class, which consists of 40 participants, she became acquainted with Tzu Chi Foundation’s 21-day vegetarian lunch meal campaign.
Pineda shares that one of her students, a Tzu Chi volunteer, shared the program with her. Since attending some of Tzu Chi’s events at Jing Si (Still Thoughts) Hall such as the vegetarian lunch buffet last month, she has learned more about Tzu Chi’s tireless advocacy for vegetarianism.
Pineda has been practicing yoga for the five years. Barely three months into her yoga lessons, she decided to go vegetarian. Her reason for adapting the vegetarian lifestyle is to respect all living beings.
“Since I want to help spread the benefits of being a vegetarian along with practicing yoga, I opted to share it with my students here at YFE,” she adds.
A shared passion
Not only have Manuel and Arlene Tabunda been practicing yoga together in the same class, they have also adapted healthier eating habits. Arlene began the transition to vegetarianism before her husband.
“I became a vegetarian first because I started with meditation practice before moving to the asanas. While my husband got into the physical aspect of yoga first, I started with the mental aspect,” 55-year-old Arlene shares.
A vegetarian for the past decade, Arlene’s decision is not without criticism; in this case, her husband. When it became the latter’s turn to adapt to a vegetarian lifestyle, she recounts that their roles have switched. Now, Manuel is the stricter of the two when it comes to healthy eating.
“As much as possible, we are introducing the idea to other people, so we don’t just enjoy all the benefits—we want others to enjoy these benefits as well. That’s why we have the studio as well as vocational projects here. Tzu Chi is one of our allies, because through you we can have a long-term vegetarian challenge among our practitioners here,” 68-year-old Manuel remarks.
Three years ago, Manuel was plagued with several sports-related injuries and was undergoing physical therapy at the time. It was at this point he realized that the treatment was similar to yoga stances. After that, he decided to try out yoga the moment YFE was offered at the Celebrity Sports Plaza.
As the couple began attending the yoga sessions, Arlene suggested to her husband the next step in achieving a better physical health while practicing yoga: a shift toward a plant-based diet.
“After two months of eating a plant-based diet, during my monthly checkup I was surprised to find out that my back is good. My blood test results came back as normal despite my diabetes. I didn’t have to do anything much but to shift to a plant-based diet and somehow, my body slowly began healing itself. From then on, I’m a practicing vegetarian,” he adds.
He shares that he is slowly transitioning to veganism, which means removing dairy and other animal byproducts such as honey and eggs from his diet.
“When one wants to become vegetarian, we noticed that not too long after they try, they revert back to their previous eating habits because they’re only concerned about their health and losing weight. It’s very external, but it should really come from within. If you want to shift to a plant-based diet, it must come from within yourself,” Manuel remarks.
Arlene also adds that becoming a vegetarian isn’t about removing certain foods from one’s diet completely, but adding healthier options.
“It’s not subtraction. It’s addition. So we’re trying to put more vegetables in their diet. Eventually, by our example, our children will become vegetarian—or at the very least, eat less meat and eat more vegetables,” she adds.
Due to her adapting a vegetarian lifestyle, she has also become more conscious about protecting the environment. At the same time, it has improved her overall outlook in life.
“I noticed that I became calmer; also less stressed and of course, that’s together with the meditation and the yoga. Also, I’m not as aggressive or easily provoked. I’m less attached to material things, as well. There’s a greater calmness within, less acquisitiveness. I feel more relaxed and content,” she remarks.
A family adapted to healthy living
For 32-year-old Mahaduadasi Murillo, vegetarianism came naturally to her. Growing up in a community that practices vegetarianism, it has been easy for her to adapt. Her venture into yoga started at the age of 19 due to mild scoliosis.
“For me, it’s not an excuse to say that, even if you’re a vegetarian, you can eat a lot. Even if you’re a vegetarian, you must practice self-discipline. By taking healthy food and practicing yoga, it allows you to be much stronger and to be more mindful physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually,” Murillo shares.
She shares that being a vegetarian gave her personal focus and helped her slowly recover from her scoliosis. At the same time, she has also encouraged her three children to adapt a healthier lifestyle.
“When my eldest child asked me: ‘Mama, why am I a vegetarian, why don’t we eat meat?’ I told him: ‘The animals are your friends. You can feed them and also play with them. That’s why you don’t eat them.’ At the same time, the food that we eat is easily replaceable unlike when you eat non-vegetarian dishes,” Murillo adds.
Like many participants, Murillo is thankful for Tzu Chi’s 21-day vegetarian lunch meal campaign. It provides an option for people who are busy, like herself, to be able to eat healthy without having to worry about preparing food beforehand.
Tzu Chi volunteer Molita Chua (right) speaks with Manuel Tabunda (left), who is one of the persons-in-charge of the daily classes at the Yoga is for Everyone facility. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
Yoga itself has many different facets; one of which is the physical practice of doing the asanas (positions) in order to help one become more flexible. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
Manuel Tabunda (red shirt) assists one of the practitioners in practicing the handstand position. 【Photo by Erin Uy】
Just like her husband, Arlene Tabunda (foreground) also practices yoga. However, instead of starting with the physical aspect, she begun her practice with the mental aspect. 【Photo by Erin Uy】