Brahmacarya – self restraint

Brahmacharya, eight limbs, yamas, niyamas, ashtanga, yoga

Brahmacarya is often described as celibacy – that by being celibate the practitioner is saving their prana (energy) or ‘virya’ (strength, power). The sutras do explain it as this, but also that sex should be moderate, in a ‘marital’ relationship, with only one partner. In Hinduism it is said that this is the first stage of life, that a person should spend the first 25 years of their life in celibacy so that they can focus on their studies…yep, remember how you were doing so well in school and then ‘boys’ happened?

However, Brahmacarya can also be practiced by controlling or restricting all our desires, not just sexual, but what about other kinds of desires? You desire an extra slice of cake/glass of wine/new pair of shoes…practicing everything in moderation can also be a good use of bramacharya, and one that is probably more relevant to our western lives.

That extra slice of cake/glass of wine/retail purchase is stimulating whilst it lasts, but doesn’t give us a lasting feeling of joy – no matter how much you think it does, I promise you the joy will fade and you will be looking to satisfy your desires again. It’s like eating sugar or taking drugs – a quick high followed by a lull and then the desire to have more. By controlling the ‘urge to splurge’ we are using our will power (or self restraint) – and this is a strong use of conserving energy and placing into something more fruitful.

So, if we look at Brahmacarya as how we use our energy and how we control our desires, it is said that in this way we can move deeper into knowing our divine selfs (which, if you remember, is the whole purpose of yoga!)

So, look at this yama as self-restraint and/or will power, rather than celibacy, and apply that to any part of your behaviour you feel you need to.

Focus on using your energy in a better way, cultivating more meaningful and lasting relationships maybe rather than one night stand’s. Spending time with loved ones rather than wasting time online. Spending less on material things and more time on self-development and inner contentment.


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