Recent studies reveal that animals have feelings. Shocking, right? To me, it is shocking that studies need to have been made to show something that was so obvious. Any one of us who have spent any time with an animal, either through observing them or living with them, knows that they indeed have feelings. They are souls. They have different moods. They can be happy or sad, excited or disappointed, playful or angry. They dream. They have preferences. They remember things. They have individual personalities. They also protect the ones whom they love.
I have a dog named Scrappy and he is quite a character. Many say his name suits him. One time, I was getting a home massage. All was fine and peaceful until the masseuse started to make the chopping motion to massage my back. Then Scrappy became hysterical. He barked loudly and jumped in between me and the masseuse. And then I had to reassure him. I said, "Scrappy, it's ok. Be nice." The words "be nice" are familiar to him. I tell him that when I notice he is starting to get agitated and might bark or even pounce on another dog. So when he heard those words that day that I was getting a massage and he thought I was being hurt, he tilted his head to one side, confused, not sure what was going on. Even though we did not speak the same language, we were able to communicate with each other. One way to see this interspecies connection is that soul is more dominant than the body. As for the massage, I no longer get them at home because Scrappy is quite the self-proclaimed bodyguard. Scientific studies showing that animals have feelings- don't we already know that? Is it not obvious that all beings, including animals, wish to protect the ones whom they love?
When you practice today, dedicate your practice to someone you love, someone you would protect and keep out of harm's way. Let today's practice be an offering. Feel the bond you have with this person. Feel the connection. Feel the gratitude. Think of this person when you do your urdhva danurasana. This is someone you are willing to bend over backwards for.
When you come to virasana or hero pose, consider what it is that makes one a hero. When you think about it, a hero is really not that different from us. The hero merely takes action to protect the ones he or she loves, like us. The hero perhaps has a broader definition of who they love, including not only immediate family and friends, but even strangers, seeing them as souls worthy of protection.
When you come into gomukhasana or cow face pose, consider that like us, cows too wish to protect the ones whom they love. But unlike us, they are unable to do so because of human prejudice and domination. Dairy cows used to produce milk, cheese, ice cream etc. undergo forced impregnation. For nine months, they carry their baby inside their womb, just like humans. After she gives birth to her baby, the baby is taken away from her within days, never to be seen again. Even though she feels the same desire as us to protect the ones that she loves, the fact that she exists only as a slave to the animal exploitation industry simply does not allow this to happen.
The practice of yoga is to see all beings as souls, and in this commonality we work towards finding oneness of being. Thinking of the person whom we love and whom we wish to protect may inspire us to let other souls do the same, to allow them to love whom they love, to allow them to protect whomever it is they wish to protect.
Being vegan is one important way of expressing this choice. By being vegan, we oppose mothers and babies being separated from each other. By being vegan, we drop our prejudice that we are somehow better than animals. By being vegan, we choose to see animals as souls. By being vegan, we choose love and we choose to protect the ones whom we love.