Yoga for Happy Living – Brahmacharya
The third Yama in our Yamas and Niyamas series is Brahmacharya, which at in origins translates as ‘celibacy’ or ‘chastity’. Another more modern definition for this could be ‘right use of energy’ – perhaps more suitable for us house-holder yogis in the West!
Literally, Brahmacharya translates as “walking in God-consciousness.” Practically speaking, this means that Brahmacharya turns the mind inward, balances the senses, and leads to freedom from dependencies and cravings.
Brahmachayra has been given a more expansive definition in modern usage to be more in keeping with today’s world – where most of us are modern “householders” involved in relationships and families.
This definition refers more to introducing the concept of “moderation” into our lives, instead of complete withdrawal from the sensual realm.
First of all, we are not suggesting in any way that you need to give up sex or relationships to practice Brahmacharya. Unless we have chosen to follow a monastic lifestyle, we are part of the modern Western world – and intimate relationships are one of the (most wonderful!) aspects of our lifestyle.
There are ways to apply Brahmacharya which allow us to still live a full and authentic connected life.
“Brahmacharya — the moderation of the senses — is one of the key practices yoga offers for managing sensory cravings. It is the fourth of five yamas, or restraints, which help us cultivate self-awareness and transform habits that are out of sync with our spiritual aspirations.” ~Yoga International
So how do we do this? How do we practice moderation to live lovely happy and fulfilled lives?
One of the main functions of Brahmachayra is to help us preserve and harness our energy towards that which is important. One thing we probably all know about fixating on sex, bad habits or obtaining possessions – is that is is very very distracting! Who hasn’t wasted energy focussing on something desirable to us, that could probably be better spent somewhere else?
“Anything that causes turbulence in the mind and[or] stirs the emotions might be seen as a violation of Brahmacharya,” ~ Nischala Joy Devi
We can begin noticing where we focus and use all our energy, and see if it is doing us good… or harm. We live in a very consumerist, capitalist society and are actually encouraged to do the opposite of Brahmachayra at every turn; spend, spend, spend, obsess, desire, want!
“Living in Brahmachayra means we have control over our impulses of excess, whether that’s in shopping, food, sex, drugs, tv… anything. Whatever it is that we like to indulge in, lose ourselves in or obsess over… gone!” (The Yoga Lunchbox)
Personally I have a little saying I use to help me practice Brahmachayra and keep excess and obsession at bay. Whenever I feel myself about to fall into habits that would take me away from the path of moderation I ask myself “Is this the way I want to expend my energy”
For example, do I want to expend energy over-eating unhealthy treats – or do I actually want increased health, less lethargy later, feeling better without sugar and other toxins in my body?
Do I want to stay up late at night binge watching tv shows – or do I want to feel energised and active so I can do the things which are really important to me?
Do I want that extra one drink too many – or do I want to enjoy not having a hangover, less crankiness at work tomorrow, better health and more energy?
“Wasting time and energy on excess of any kind takes us further away from our path and our goal” (The Yoga Lunchbox)
So think about areas in your life where you might place unnecessary energy, or indulge in habits that ultimately aren’t doing any you any favours, and see if you can apply Brahmacharya to those.
“The practice of Brahmachyra gives good health, inner strength, peace of mind and long life. It invigorates the mind and nerves. It helps to conserve physical and mental energy. It augments memory, will force and brain power. It bestows tremendous strength, vigour and vitality. Strength and fortitude are obtained” ~ Swami Sivananda
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