The fourth in the series of yamas (moral limitations) and perhaps one of the most misunderstood and much debated in our times … Can I, ask many yoga practitioners, to apply this quality to my life in the modern world? The common misconception that Brahmacharya only refers to celibacy means that it is often overlooked or regarded as irrelevant to our modern culture. The term brahmacharya is sometimes identified with celibacy, but while maintaining vital energy through the management of sexual activity is part of brahmacharya, this is a narrow view of this practice.
But let’s take it from the beginning.
Brahmacharya in turn means: charya-compatible behavior with Brahma (the Divine, Absolute Truth, pure Conscience), or in a more free translation “walking with Divine consciousness.” In its very traditional sense, it refers to celibacy, to purity, that is to abstaining from sex or in another context in faith in marriage.
In India the life of a man is divided into 4 stages (ashrama) first with the brahmachary who is up 25 and refers to the pupil’s life, which at this stage his engagement should be with his studies and not with sexual desire, the other 3 stages are grihastha (25-50 engaging with the family), vanaprastha 50-75 sharing with the world, teaching), sannyasa (75-end renegade, silence, time for inwardness century meditation).
In yoga philosophy it is said that the sexual energy that is wasted can be transformed and used for higher spiritual purposes. The retention of sexual energy is transformed into a subtle energy called “ojas”. It can stimulate the personality, create new neurons, improve brain power and calm the mind. Ojas, when preserved, creates ‘tejas‘, that is the aura or glow. The ability to maintain and to be able to transform this energy is the key. Otherwise, if sexual energy simply is bottled-up, it can be very dangerous.
In Sutra 2.38 from the text Yoga Sutras of Patanjali says:
brahmacharya pratisthayam virya labhah
- brahmacharya = Divine chastity, calmness / abstinence, purity, sexual self-restraint, constant presence with Divine
- pratisthayam = (sthaa= establish) firmly establishment
- virya = vitality, energy, courage
- labha = benefit, profit, conquest
In a freer translation: When walking with the awareness of the higher reality is firmly established, then great power, ability or vitality is gained.
Brahmacharya in our lives
Has it happened to you that you have eaten so much that you feel you can not even move? Is that second coffee you’ve drunk that has created an anxiety? Do you often stay awake till scrolling at instagram and you can not wake up in the morning to go to work? Are you troubled by a nightmare from the thriller you saw recently?
In the modern world of searching for the constant enjoyment and satisfaction of the senses we live in, we can experience temporary pleasure often but this can get us out of balance and waste our energy. Consistency in the world of senses is one of the most important tasks of the practitioner of yoga and helps us to restore peace and harmony to our body and mind.
Literally, brahmacharya is translated as “walking with the consciousness of God”. Practically it means that it sends the mind inwards, it balances the senses and leads to freedom from dependencies and cravings. Yogis tells us that when the mind is released from sovereignty by the senses, aesthetic pleasures are replaced by inner pleasure.
Brahmacharya encourages proper energy use, so if your energy levels ring a bell at this time, think about whether your daily tasks absorb your vitality.
In order to become the best version of ourselves and to use our energy properly, we must first of all be able to hear what our body needs. So what are the behaviors that lead you to your greatest strength, helping you to make the right use of your energy that leads you to the best version of yourself?
Listen to your body! Think where you want to direct your energy! Our day is full of desires, but are these desires the right ones, or I just lose control …
On the mat
Our practice is full of desires, we desire to be present, to conquer a pose, to stop thinking about our desires. Which of all, however, is this desire that I must address in my practice today. If my deepest desire is to experience my true nature, putting my intention at the beginning of practice and going back to it all the time can really help me stay on the right path.
Hip openers can encourage our emotions to emerge safely. Shame, guilt, criticism are emotions stored in the second chakra. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, or the pose of the one-legged dove, is a very good place to unblock them and let energy start moving again, as well as the cobra or Bhujangasana in which we can feel the energy from the second chakra grounded in earth moving up in the fourth chakra and expressing it as love.
Finally, a walking meditation is a wonderful way to silently observe desires and thoughts as they come into our heads and remember that at every step we can really choose to walk with Divine consciousness.