I'm continuing on with our exploration of the Yamas of yoga with the fourth Yama - Brahmacharya. This is frequently one that people haven't perhaps heard of, or aren't quite sure of the meaning of it so it'll be really useful to go through!
Although it was previously associated with celibacy and chastity, to encourage those involved in practising yoga to conserve the energy used for sex and use it to progress down the Yogic path. This didn't alway make it very popular!
The actual translation of Brahmacharya is "behaviour which leads to Brahman" who is seen as the Creator in Hindu and Yogic terms. Brahmacharya can be regarded as the 'right use of energy' - behaviour that leads us closer to the divine or higher power, however that is represented for you.
In essence, Brahmacharya encourages us to consider how we use our energy and where we direct it. It encourages us to focus less on those more physical and external things that only provide fleeting pleasure, and focus more on finding peace within ourselves.
That's all very well, I hear you say, but what does that actually mean for me on a daily basis? Great question! As humans, it's very easy to get caught up in the physical things we experience - eating, sleeping, exercise, sex and so on. It's also very easy to get caught up in the emotional and mental experiences we have and see those as reality and as all-consuming. It's easy to forget we are spiritual beings having a human experience rather than the other way round.
Before I go any further - there is no judgement here! Most of us do this at least part of the time, it's all part of being human and moving through life. If you saw how much I focus on food and when I'm next eating you'd think I spent no time at all thinking about anything else!
So, why should we focus less on the physical? A lot of people chase the physical and emotional experiences to be 'happy' or 'fulfilled'. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, although it can be in excess or if we get ourselves into dangerous/addictive situations. The problem stems from us not realising that these moments of happiness and fulfilment that come from the external physical and emotional stimulations only last a short time. We constantly are chasing the next 'hit'...the next delicious meal, the next piece of attention from an attractive person, the next piece of validation from a friend or partner. If we don't get it in the way we want or the timescale we want, then we don't feel happy or fulfilled.
The difference when finding that happiness and fulfilment inside ourselves is that it is always there, easily accessible and doesn't depend on the actions of others. Directing our energy to things that bring us this inner fulfilment and happiness results in an overall happier, more contented and more balanced life. We experience less of the ups and downs that come with relying on other people or things to bring us joy and contentedness.
How we direct our energy and what works for us can depend on the type of person we are. For me, it involves meditation, yoga, talking to the Goddess, serving others and walking in nature, among others. For someone else it could be a favourite hobby, spending time alone, praying to their god(s), reading about philosophy, and more. There is no one path, no right or wrong. It is all about directing our thoughts and energy to those things that bring us inner peace and happiness, which in turn leads to a more fulfilled life.
For me, Brahmacharya works in conjunction with the other Yamas to bring inner happiness. It's something that I don't focus on in isolation. I have found, personally, that living life (as much as I can!) taking the Yamas into consideration has made me a better person, a more fulfilled person, and a person better able and willing to live in a way that benefits others and not just myself.
So - a bit of a long post this time and I'm interested in hearing your thoughts! Get in touch by commenting here, on Instagram or Facebook, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm a yoga fanatic who been practising yoga for 22 years and teaching for almost 4. I'm quite spiritual, a bit of a hippy to be honest, and love discussing theoretical aspects of yoga as well as the practical elements. You'll find articles on how yoga benefits my life on both a physical, mental and emotional level, as well as how it can help you - as well as some non-yoga related articles just to keep you on your toes!