For the house holder, the interpretation is more complicated. This yama is requiring that we be wise with our energy especially our sexual energy so that it is focused and we are not depleted. When we focus our energy in one direction, toward one goal, we see that we become very skilled in that subject. When we allow distractions to pull our energy and fragment our thoughts, we do not master said subject. Keeping energy focused and avoiding distractions such as doubt and laziness is one way to practice Brahmacharya. For the aspiring yogi, the goal is enlightenment and all energies should be focused toward union with Divine Energy. Our sexual energy is very powerful. Harnessing it is one way to do this.
“On being established in celibacy, vigour is attained.”
If you were aware of even the tiniest sliver of your power, you’d be established in Brahmacharya. You are energy. Every act you take, intentional or non ripples for eternities. Every intention you have whether you act on it or not bounces through the universe shaking everything in its path. You are magic.
To practice Brahmacharya means to walk in the path of the Creator.
To live Brahmacharya means that each expression of your energy is perfection. No waste. No misdirection. (See why we can’t call ourselves yogis? This practice is HARD!)
There is a downward current of energy that is naturally occurring in our human experience in this world. Think gravity, digestion, blood flow. The aspiring yogi is not concerned with “going with the flow” (a common misconception) but with reversing this downward pull and moving energy upward. Using Mula Bandha, Pranayama, and other techniques, we create a dam and harness the energy of this current redirecting our energy upward and outward toward unification with the Divine.
Sound heavy? In some ways it is. But as with all aspects of the yoga practice, we are advised to move slowly and consistently towards our goal. Especially with Brahmacharya, the practice should feel natural and gentle and not at all forced. Whenever we speak of an aspect of the yoga practice we are mean to acknowledge its expression in thoughts, words, and actions. It’s important to point out that this remains true with the practice of Brahmacharya. Any restraint in action that causes confusion, anxiety, or any mental frustration is not correct implementation and is moving AWAY from yoga.
So, what does it mean to be a Brahmachari? For the monk, this practice is celibacy and restraint from thoughts, words, and actions which are sexual in nature. Most of us are not monks, however, so I will concentrate on exploring the practice of Brahmacharya as it relates to the householder.
Where your energy goes, you go. As we begin to understand our true power, our responsibility to ourselves to be careful with our energy also increases. One of the biggest ways to deplete our energy is by talking. Try not to talk before your asana practice, or too much at all. Practice being mindful of your energy. Worry and negative thinking also are energy zappers. So are negative people. Experiment for even a short time cutting these energy stealers out of your life and notice the immediate boost. You are under no requirement to keep relationships with those who bring negativity into your life. Especially in the early stages of practice, surround yourself with those who lift you and energize your spirit.
It is important to speak of oneness and loyalty to a single partner when discussing Brahmacharya as well. Just as with hobbies, jobs, and tasks, we find that when we commit to the right partner, energy is increased. When we focus on a single partner, the energy created through the partnering actually fuels back into the individual, so not only does one not lose, one gains. Contrast this with the loss of energy which occurs by taking multiple partners and the choice is clear.
Misuse of sexual energy is big temptation and common trap even amongst the greatest of practitioners. Remember that simply refraining from wrong doings in the physical sense is not enough to satisfy the conditions of Brahmacharya. Using sexual energy in thoughts or words to manipulate others to give us status, comfort, ego boost, or recognition is a misuse of our very powerful selves and should be avoided at all cost. Looking closely you will probably observe, however, that this occurs all the time even in some seemingly platonic arrangements. Avoid misuse of sexual energy by focusing strictly on your work. Put your energies there and take ownership of your actions. Look to yourself and to The Source for moments when you feel lacking, not to other beings.
We are living in a time of extreme lack of commitment. There are so many choices that most find themselves afraid to make one for fear of missing out on another. Sadly when we try for a bit of everything, we really end up with nothing. Having a personal mission statement and checking frequently (every six months) that our energies, decisions, and commitments are supporting our larger life goal is the best way to stay on track and avoid projects, people, and situations that rob us of our energy and purpose. Discovering our true life purpose and how to continuously moving toward it is what we do in my Train Your Brain Workshop. I share this work locally and abroad to help individuals as well as communities meet their goals. Invite me to your city or join me for my FREE session this September at the Harlem Mind Body Soul Conference. I will be posting exact details on that shortly on the Land Yoga site.
Understanding Brahmacharya in its many interpretations is the goal of our Instagram challenge this month. As always, I hope you will participate. Each contribution enhances the conversation and opens us up to learning more from each other. Keep your eyes open. I will be sharing some personal discoveries about the practice of Brahmacharya in my life.
Here are the guidelines:
*Nominate THREE friends to join you in posting on the subject of Brahmacharya (At least ONE of your followers must participate for you to be considered for the final prize.)
*Post THREE times each week quotes, pictures, or video on the subject of Brahmacharya. Could be related to Focus, Commitment, Energy, Sexual Responsibility, Keeping on your personal mission statement, Conserving energy in asana or anything that inspires you on this topic.
*EACH POST MUST TAG @LANDYOGANYC and hashtaged #alleightlimbs.
This is a very important conversation for us to have. I look forward to sharing more on my personal experience with this yama and to hearing from you as well.