The next limb we'll explore, is the fourth tenet of the Yamas... Bramacharya.
Brahmacharya is often translated as 'celibacy' or 'chastity', which is meant to encourage yoga practitioners to conserve and maintain sexual energy. But the actual translation of this practice is 'behavior that leads to Brahman.' And Brahman from the yogic lens is understood as the Divine, Universe, God, Goddess, Higher Power... depending on your spiritual orientation.
So what is the encouraged behavior to achieve this sweet union or connection with Brahman?
If we were to consider that Brahmarcharya is also about focusing energy in a discerning way to maintain both the creative and sexual energies of the body, focusing solely on celibacy might not provide the full picture of how to employ the principles of Brahmarcharya in everyday life.
In considering Brahmarcharya within this wider lens, self-care becomes central.
How you care for yourself, how you direct your energy, and how you listen to the signals of your body can all be indicators of where you are with this practice. To practice Brahmarcharya, is to practice self-care in a way that keeps you aligned with what's important, connected to your essence, and supports the continued cultivation of the deeper inner work in which you're engaged.
How often have you completed a focused meditation session or healing yoga class and then no less than 10 minutes later feel your energy dispersing because of something you just read on your Facebook app or from some other distraction that pulled you off center?
Practicing yoga, meditation or even doing deep coaching work can be like a continual unveiling process that removes the tension, stress and layers of habit that keep you from feeling completely free and alive. Whenever your energy is dispersed or shaken, especially immediately following a yoga or healing session, the container for your energy is less strong and in some cases completely broken. This can lead to feelings of uncertainty, guardedness, and sometimes anger as a way of protecting the the more vulnerable parts of the self.
Reducing these types of scenarios (as much as you can), is in many ways an honoring of the work that you do on the mat, in your yoga, and inner work by creating a lifestyle that supports the goals you've set for your inner life.
For the modern practitioner, building a healthy and supportive lifestyle might very well come in the form of complete celibacy, and it can also be cultivated through:
- Right use of energy
- Listening to the deeper wisdom of your body
- Honoring what's important in your life
- Releasing comparisons of yourself to others
- Engaging in practices and experiences that feed your soul and boost your energy
- Letting go of habits, relationships, and ways of being that deplete your energy
- Taking time out of daily life (even if just 5 minutes) to be in a state of reflection, mindfulness, and reverence.
And you might have a few more to contribute to this list that feel supportive to you and your life. Feel free to make this list your own to make it meaningful for the goals you've set for yourself.
Whether coming into union with the Divine is or isn't your goal, the principles of Brahmarcharya can serve as considerations for conserving and focusing your energy on practices and experiences that fill you up, that nourish you, and ultimately bring you into a state of wholeness.