The fourth Yama – Brahmacharya
There are so many different translations of the fourth Yama, Brahmacharya. I’ve heard it described as ‘moderation’, ‘correct use of energy’ and, most commonly, ‘celibacy’!
Because of the restrictive sounding nature of this Yama, many modern yogis might choose to ignore this one! However, I don’t give up on things as easily!
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I like to reframe things in a positive way. But is that possible with this particular Yama?
Is Brahmacharya something that householders (that’s people like you and me!) are able to practise on a day-to-day basis?
Or should it, in fact, be reserved for the monastics?
Shift your perspective to find Brahmacharya
We’ve seen that the word ‘Brahmacharya’ can mean ‘celibacy’, ‘moderation’ or ‘correct use of energy’. But let’s break it down…
‘Brahma’ means ‘the divine’ or ‘divinity’. And in yoga, we talk about the divinity as living within us.
‘Charya’ is your complete and utter devotion to something.
So, Brahmacharya means the devotion to the joy that is within us.
That sounds better than ‘celibacy’ to me!
Brahmacharya, in my perspective, is about using your energy to develop intrinsic contentment rather than relying on external pleasures.
When you are truly happy, you don’t want or need anything.
For example, when I’m happy, I don’t notice that the house is a cluttered mess and I don’t care that I haven’t shaved my legs for a month!
On the other hand, when we are not truly happy, we need external things to be a certain way.
As for me, when I’m not content, everything annoys me! I get stressed about things not being in ‘the right place’, about the linen basket overflowing and the kitchen being anything less than spotless!
And I’m much more likely to do some online shopping or ‘treat’ myself to something when I’m in this less-than-joyous state too!
In my opinion, practising yoga – both on and off the mat – is a way to boost this feeling of inner joy and to quench the desire for external pleasures – whatever they may be.
Have you noticed a difference in your behaviour when you are feeling truly peaceful and content?
Affirm Brahmacharya in your life
There are many interpretations of Brahmacharya from celibacy to finding inner joy.
However you connect to Brahmacharya, we can all agree that it is helpful to direct our energy into things that do good for us, our relationships and the planet.
Here are some affirmations to cultivate a sense of Brahmacharya in your life:
“I live a balanced lifestyle”
“I choose to direct my energy wisely”
“I am putting my energy into things that bring me peace”
“I am choosing inner joy over short-lived pleasure”
Bonus: A yoga pose to cultivate inner joy!
Brahmacharyasana, as the name suggests, is designed to support a yogi’s practice of Brahmacharya.
It does this by encouraging energy from the root to move up from the base of the spine into the higher more subtle energy centres in the body where it eventually can turn it into Ojas (our subtle vital energy)
There are actually two versions of Brahmacharyasana. I chose this one because it resembles the L-Sit which I’ve played with on and off over the years during strength training sessions. It’s a fun pose that is easier than it looks if you add props and get your bodyweight in the right position (lean that torso forwards!)
To keep the legs straight, you’ll need to really engage the quads (thigh muscles). Don’t be surprised if you get cramp in your thighs! Just shake it off and know that it’s only because you are recruiting so many muscle fibres to get the maximum amount of strength from the quads and they might not be used to it.
In addition to building strength in the quads the other benefits of Brahmacharyasana pose are HUGE!
Strengthen the forearms, wrists, and shoulders in the upper body while building strength in the core (abdominals and hip flexors).
The increased blood flow to the stomach area will also aid digestion.
With so many benefits, why would anyone not practise Brahmacharyasana?
Spread the joy!
Now that you know how to find inner joy, go forth and spend your energy wisely.
Once you have found it, don’t keep it a secret! Tell me about your experience with Brahmacharya in the comments and keep the conversation going on social media.
PS Get in touch if you have a great idea for a workshop or blog post!