The Ethics of Eating

[Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Melina Meza BS Nutrition, 500-RYT, with some advice on on how to live your yoga through ethical food choices. Bon Appétit!]

As unique beings we all have different hopes, fears, conditioning, expectations, and agendas around our health and our relationship to food and eating. Over the years of teaching and doing nutritional counseling, I have found it valuable to establish my own set of personal ethics in regards to my health and that of the planet. As Marion Nestle says, “We change the world by what we eat or chose not to eat.” I believe this to be true and am a firm believer that each person choosing with their fork CAN make a difference!

I’ve used the Yamas from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras to make a wheel of ethics, which support and frame my holistic lifestyle. From my own experience I have found a great deal of benefit from weaving these principles – compassion, honesty, non-stealing, moderation, non-hoarding, cleanliness, contentment, heat, self-examination, and faith – into my daily life routines beyond the yoga mat. As a nutritionist, I find exploring these moral values in relationship to food and eating fascinating. UCLA Professor Peter Sellars poses the question, “Can you put your belief system into your body?” It’s a question like this that moves me to look deeper into my own ethics with food and eating. I often ask myself, “Am I putting my belief system into my body?”

The Yamas prepare you to see how you and Nature are one. How you treat the outer world (Nature) reflects how you care for your inner landscapes. John Robbins does a wonderful job incorporating the essence of the Yamas in this statement in the book The Food Revolution, “I don’t care whether your diet is politically correct. I care whether your food choices are consistent with your love. I care whether they bring you health, uphold your spirit, and help you fulfill your true nature and reason for being alive.”

It is through conscious application of the Yamas that you will learn to see that compassion is your birthright, trust begins with yourself, healthy boundaries make healthy relationships, and balance is not as bad as it sounds. Although the Yamas are all interrelated and work together, if one Yama stands out more than the others, consider spending some time deepening your relationship with that one principle.

Here’s a brief questionnaire to get you started reflecting upon these ideas. I’ll be discussing this arena in more detail in my upcoming workshops at Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, CA (March), and Surya Yoga in Yakima, WA (April), Savannah Yoga Studio, Savannah, GA (April).

Ahimsa (non-violence): You, Food, and the Environment

·        How do I practice ahimsa towards myself?

·        Towards others/community?

·        Towards the planet/environment?

Satya (truth/honesty): Eating Healthy Food & Knowing the Benefits of Healthy Food

·        How do I practice satya towards myself?

·        Towards others/community?

·        Towards the planet/environment?

Asteya (non-stealing): Rotate Seasonal Practices & Eating Frequent Meals

·        How do I practice asteya towards myself?

·        Towards others/community?

·        Towards the planet/environment?

Brahmacharya (moderation): Moderation vs. Extreme in Everything

·        How do I practice brahmacharya towards myself?

·        Towards others/community?

·        Towards the planet/environment?

Aparigraha (non-hoarding): Sharing Resources, Time, and Community

·        How do I practice aparigraha towards myself?

·        Towards others/community?

·        Towards the planet/environment?


Melina Meza, BS Nutrition, 500-RYT

Melina has been exploring the art and science of yoga and nutrition for over 18 years. She combines her knowledge of Hatha Yoga, Ayurveda, whole foods nutrition, and healthy lifestyle promotion into a unique style called Seasonal Vinyasa. Her devotion to yoga and eating well, to teaching and nutritional counseling, and to traveling and experiencing different cultures combine to create a colorful and enlightening perspective from which to share that which she loves about yoga in its entirety. Meza is the author of the Art of Sequencing books and Yoga for the Seasons – Fall Vinyasa DVD.

What is Seasonal Vinyasa – Yoga for the Seasons?

Seasonal Vinyasa describes an artistic style of sequencing asana and seasonal daily rituals. The main inspiration for Seasonal Vinyasa comes from the Hatha Yoga and Ayurveda traditions, two complementary sciences that promote health in body, mind, and spirit. While inspiring the self-knowledge to adjust day-to-day choices and align with what is occurring outside in nature, Seasonal Vinyasa emphasizes the teachings of the yogis—that there is no separation between humans and nature.


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