Brahmacharya: This Yama asks us to think about where we are putting our energy and if it is getting us closer to or further away from our aspirations.
To allocate energy with wisdom, the yogi keeps their eyes on the prize (liberation) and does not waste energy on things that do not serve their greater purpose - or, at least, they try. The world is full of shiny objects, sexy people and delicious chocolate - making it easy to get distracted from your spiritual aspirations. As part of an ascetic tradition, the early yogis renounced all sensual pleasure and practiced celibacy. In fact ‘Brahmacharya’ is often translated as ‘celibacy’ - which, understandably, makes this principle VERY unpopular.
For modern, urban yoga practitioners that are not interested in living like monks, there is another way to understand the meaning of ‘brahmacharya’ and what it asks us to do. We don’t have to renounce the material world, but we do take a page from the ancient’s books and ask ourselves whether the pursuit sensual pleasures is de-railing our pursuit of other aspirations. If it is, we adjust. We simply re-direct our energy.
We always have a choice between spending our energy/thoughts/actions on pursuits of the not-so-purposeful kind OR directing them towards pastimes that serve us well and lead to lasting freedom, peace and fulfillment. Brahmacharya can be as simple as that.
Here are some ways you might incorporate Brahmacharya into your practice on and off the mat:
Intention/Affirmation: I make uplifting choices
Contemplation: Autobiography in 5 Chapters a poem by Portia Nelson (swipe to view)
To get where you want to go, you may need to choose another avenue next time;)
Off the mat: Notice which activities and people in your life raise you up and bring you closer to your goals and which do not. Adjust who and what you devote your time and energy to.
On the mat: Explore energy management through postures and breathing. What kind of practice will give you the energy you need to do your life today?