The first time I heard about Brahmacharya it referred to the practice of “celibacy”. I learned much later that it was about “containing the sexual impulse”. Even later I connected the Ayurvedic teachings around ojas to brahmacharya. Ayurveda teaches us that the reproductive fluids fuel the vital essence of ojas, which is the subtle energy of immunity and protection of our vitality. If we use up too much of our reproductive fluids/energy we lose our capacity to build ojas which stabilizes our prana (vital life force energy)… A loss of ojas leads to dis-ease.
Literally this sanskrit words translates to “walking with the Creative Force” – Brahma being the energy of creation. This alignment with the creative energy of the cosmos becomes an expanded expression of love.
Here are some modern translations of brahmacharya:
· Nischala Devi explains it as acting from our inner Divinity.
· Moderation, or wise use of one’s vital energy.
· My therapist would suggest that a great way to practice this is by cultivating Healthy Boundaries, which means learning to say no. To this I will add that we must learn to say no to others, and sometimes to ourselves.
· Deborah Adele translates it as non-excess, she explains that this yama “implies dealing with the passion of our desires in a manner that is sacred and life-giving, rather than excessive”.
Here is the sutra:
YS 2.38 brahmacharya-pratishtayam virya labhah
When established in moderation, vitality is obtained.
At its essence, Yoga is a deep spiritual practice. This yama offers us the opportunity to connect with the sacredness in life each day. Deborah Adele invites us to enter each action “with a sense of holiness rather than indulgence”.
With Yoga being a practice of skilful living, brahmacharya is an invitation to find the perfect amount of engagement with what we are doing – not under doing, not over doing – just enough. In our culture it becomes very easy to move to excess (ex: super sizing a meal, working 60 hours a week, saying yes to every invitation). Being in excess squashes our prana, our vital life force our aliveness, and keeps it from flowing freely and easily. We get heavy, bogged down, sluggish… much like after thanksgiving dinner. We go from a pleasurable experience to one of suffering and discomfort.
I invite you to consider when you feel alive, and when you’ve moved past that balance point into something else – over doing, under doing, suffering, discomfort? Can you identify an area of your life where moderation would be helpful (work, family, food, leisure, study)? What would it look like to bring more balance into that area of your life?
Enjoy the practice!