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I believe it all started in San Francisco. In 2013, our yearly retreat took place in a big house on the pan handle and one of the many highlights was a hatha yoga flow session at the Yoga Tree Stanyan lead by the lovely Brenna Geehan. I had never set foot in a yoga studio before and the experience was a combination of feeling like a fool, sweating like a pig and admiring some of my fellow coworkers who were like fish in a pond. Now that's a mouthful of metaphors! Getting back to the subject though, little did I know that this event would set the stage for a series of changes that have ultimately transformed me in a way that I could not have expected or foreseen at the time.
Now it's true that even before our retreat in San Francisco I had become more aware throughout the years about the issues surrounding food production in our mondialized society. In 2003 I had met the founder of what turned out to be a short lived organic restaurant (too much of a precursor, Paris wasn't ready yet I think) at an entrepreneurship program at the ESCP-EAP business school in Paris which is now known as ESCP Europe. I had lunch at the restaurant and had found the food to be relatively unsavory. Although being a consumer of organic fair trade coffee for years, it was going to be tough to get used to this if that's what the rest of organic food tasted like! Nevertheless, over the years the proportion of organic foodstuff in our grocery cart increased a lot, especially for products containing oil or fatty substances which can more readily absorb toxins.
Photo credits: fretless88)
In France, we have the amazing luck to have a world class culinary culture that is deeply engrained with a vibrant living tradition of open air farmer's markets. Produce from these markets can be of the highest quality thanks to an outstanding distribution network which finds it's nexus in the form of the Rungis market where most goods are shipped to for redistribution to the citizens of the Paris area. However progressively concerns about the provenance of goods, the costs involved in shipping, the carbon footprint, etc... led us to adopt a more local style of consumption. At a nearby boulangerie, two farmers would take turns every other week setting up a stand where we would buy their local products. I had become a locavore!
But back to yoga. It turns out that after that summer a lot of us at work started to develop their yoga practice, including me! After trying out a couple of different traditions, I ended up liking Sivananda as taught by my teacher Christy because it strikes a nice balance between postures, balance, and my favorite, relaxation. The practice and discussion with the other yogis in my class turned out to be very interesting and beneficial in opening up to larger concerns.
Then just before the year's end I got lucky. The French distributor of Fork Over Knives ("La Santé dans l'Assiette" was the French title) was making their rounds, organizing showings in cinemas here and there in our area. When we went to see the movie there was also a presentation by a nutritionist and a member of the local AMAP which is an national NGO promoting traditional farming. By the end of the movie I was convinced we were doing it all wrong and from already low levels of meat consumption I decided it was time to take the level down to zero. Now I was a newbie vegetarian!
It turns out I was not alone in my reaction with very well known people like James Cameron reportedly going vegan because of this same movie. It seems I was in good company, however about this time, our family was already going through some upheaval in our diet because of newly discovered intolerance related to milk and wheat products. This turn of events created a lot of constraints and although exploring new foods and recipies was great for a while, it was definitely getting hard to find something to make for dinner!
Things did settle down and today, after a couple of months of this regimen, I definitely feel that although I might have come to this eventually without the yoga, it certainly might not have been such a no brainer. I feel very lucky that our policies at Balsamiq encourage taking time to be and stay healthy, both physically and intellectually, by giving us time during the week for learning and exercise. I might have gotten started in yoga by myself, and then maybe not! So I also really appreciate that yogic kick in the rear in San Francisco that got me and maybe some of my colleagues started in a new world of greater concern. And as James Cameron says in the video, what better way to show your concern about what we eat, how animals are treated in our society, how we treat the environment, ... the list goes on, than to live the talk?
Although I have not yet progressed to becoming a vegan, and maybe I never will (getting there slowly), I do feel harder, better, faster, stronger and I'm enthralled and thankful that this lifestyle has been in large part inspired and supported by our work ethos.
Luis for the Balsamiq Team
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Congrats, being vegan, and if possible, raw vegan is the way of stay healthy, strong and young.
I’m so proud of you Luis! I remember that yoga class in SF, and look forward to practicing together in August. 🙂 Enjoy!