Brahmacharya is often translated as ‘celibacy’ or ‘chastity’, which doesn’t always make for a very popular Yama in these modern times. Traditionally, ‘Brahmacharya’ was meant to encourage those involved in the practice of yoga to conserve their sexual energy, in favour of using that energy to further progress along the Yogic path. The common misconception that Brahmacharya is all about celibacy means it is often overlooked or considered irrelevant in our modern culture.
However, the practice of Brahmacharya or ‘right use of energy’ as it is widely translated, is more relevant now than ever.
The word Brahmacharya actually translates as ‘behaviour which leads to Brahman’. Brahman is thought of as ‘the creator’ in Hinduism and Yogic terms, so we’re talking about the behaviour which leads us towards ‘the divine’ or ‘higher power’.
Regarding Brahmacharya as ‘right use of energy’ leads us to consider how we actually use and direct our energy. Brahmacharya also evokes a sense of directing our energy away from external desires – you know, those pleasures which seem great at the time but are ultimately fleeting – and instead, towards finding peace and happiness within ourselves. Brahmacharya also evokes a sense of directing our energy away from external desires ... and instead, towards finding peace and happiness within ourselves.
Consider for a moment where your energy is most directed. I’ll have a guess that a large part of it is put towards worrying and generally concerning ourselves with things that don’t really serve us best. A lot of our energy may also be spent on trying to present ourselves as someone we’re not in order to please or impress others, or maybe we direct our physical energy towards endlessly pushing ourselves to be fitter, stronger or to 'fit in'…. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, it might be time to look a little closer at that Yama you’ve been avoiding….
In order to be the best version of ourselves and to use our energy in the right way, we need first of all to listen to what our bodies need. To really make the most of what we learn from our yoga practice, we need to have enough energy within ourselves.
L I S T E N
We’re often encouraged to listen to our bodies in a yoga class, but if we’re accustomed to practicing Yin, butterfly pose in one particular way, it can be difficult to change our habits – even when our bodies are asking us to. To make the most of our energy, we can enhance our health and well-being with the right yoga practice for us at that time; if you’re accustomed to a strong yoga practice and your body needs restoring, allow some time for a deep Yin practice. If you always opt for a soft and still practice, try some Power Yoga to give yourself a boost of strength and energy. Your body is always talking to you; listen and see what it has to say, It's normally the opposite thing we need the most!
S L O W . D O W N
Right now there seems to be an over-emphasis on how ‘busy’ we should all be – that busy is better – and that if you’re not busy, there’s something wrong. The point is, whether we’re constantly ‘busy’ or not doesn’t matter - it’s whether what we’re doing is worthwhile. Filling our schedule with as much as we can may seem impressive on the outside, but when it comes to how this makes us feel on the inside, it doesn’t leave much space to breathe. Brahmacharya encourages right use of energy, so if your energy levels are flagging at the moment, consider whether your daily tasks are draining you of your vitality. Could you find a way to take a few moments a day to just stop and breathe and find a little peace?
This ability to slow down will not only allow your body and mind to take a much-needed break, but you’ll be much more aware of how you’ve been using your energy that day. As we mentioned earlier – listen to your body! Think about where you’re directing your energy - is it helpful or hurtful? Be aware of how you feel physically and energetically when you’re in certain situations - do some people drag your energy down? Do others make you light up? Is there something you love doing that really gives you a boost? Whatever your day-to-day schedule includes, become aware of not just what you do, but how you do it, and how it affects you.
By becoming aware of how our bodies and minds respond to certain situations, we can begin to cultivate a life that does serve us, and that makes the best use of our energy. By contemplating Brahmacharya within our every-day actions, we can take our yoga practice off the mat and into our lives and allow it to serve us all the time.