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What should yogis eat? Michael Pollan joins the discussion

Michael Pollan Yoga Journal Conference
Michael Pollan (Photo: Berkleyside)

Does Michael Pollan know what he’s getting himself into?

The Yoga Journal just last week announced that Pollan, the author The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, will be the keynote speaker at the magazine’s New York City Conference in May.

Pollan’s talk on Friday, May 13 will be called “Change your Diet, Change the World.” While Pollan is the beloved guru of the Slow Food movement, the yoga crowd—even with overlapping fanbase—may be his toughest audience yet.

The author is about to encounter the complicated issue of what yogis should eat—a menu of passionate ideas and emotions inspired by ancient Hindu scripture to contemporary food politics—played out as a point of tension between modern-day yogis and the interpretation of yoga philosophy.

In An Animal’s Place, Pollan, after exhaustive research and carefully-reasoned consideration, decides that the healthiest and most ethical food system—for humans, the planet, and even the animals themselves—is not one where we refrain from eating animals, but one in which their deaths are transparent and humane, and our consumption of their flesh respectful.

meat-free diet
A meat-free diet is strongly suggested among yogis

This conclusion may not sit well in a culture that yogi Sadie Nardini once described as “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it comes to eating meat.

In fact, it’s possible that Pollan’s premise might be down right unpalatable to handful of conference attendees (and sponsors) like Jivamukti, a studio community that believes the true yogic path requires Ahimsa, a prohibition against causing harm that has been interpreted as a call to Veganism.

Perhaps intentionally, the Yoga Journal Conference also includes a session called “The Yoga of Food” (on Sunday, May 15, 1:30–2:45pm), which will feature panelists across the yoga-diet spectrum—from Seane Corn (a vegan) to David Romanelli (who pairs yoga with wine and chocolate).

It’s about time this yoga-food debate was brought to the proverbial table.  Come May and these conference sessions, we should all have some healthy ideas to chew on. —Lisa Elaine Held

To purchase tickets to the Yoga Journal Conference (starting at $250) or to Michael Pollan’s lecture only ($59), visit