Here we are at our fourth yama: Brahmacharya. In the old texts that were meant for those men seeking monkhood in yoga, this word was translated as celibacy. Today, with so many people of varying backgrounds practicing yoga and immersing in the yoga philosophy, we’ve sanded the edges and broadened the meaning to encompass moderation of all appetites.
But the principle behind celibacy is still valid.
When one is studying to become a holy renunciate, the goal is to devote one’s entire being to God or that higher power, bigger cause, the Universe, etc. And to that end, sex is a distraction. Along with a whole host of other behaviors.
Here’s how this all rolls out.
When we engage in anything beyond its purpose - sex for procreation, credit cards for emergencies, food for sustenance, exercise to keep fit, social media to stay informed and connected – we are wasting valuable energy (known as prana in Sanskrit). This energy that we are giving away willy nilly could be harnessed and used for higher purposes. Maybe going after an advanced degree, starting a business, raising a family, and in the case of our holy men (and now women) spiritual pursuits and study.
This particular directive is asking us to take stock of where we’re sending and spending our energy. Are we buying things we don’t need? Do we eat when we’re not hungry? Do we over indulge in sex, alcohol, pot, talking, social media?
Only you can answer these questions for yourself.
Perhaps another way to look it would be to ponder what you could be doing with your time, money, energy, or resources instead. For your higher purpose.
Not sure what your higher purpose is? What better way to uncover it than to dial back or even deny yourself excesses. Spend time in nature, in silence, in austerity. Be with yourself.
Consider if it would it be more beneficial to read a book on a topic you love or watch TV? Is there a creative project you’ve been wanting to work on, but you get caught in the Twitter trap? Perhaps you want to write a book, go for afternoon walks in nature or spend more quality time with friends and family. Again, this is your life and your energy, you make the call.
But, probably no one at the end of their life wishes they had more time to scroll.
Deborah Adele in her book The Yamas and Niyamas brilliantly sums it up like this, “Brahmacharya reminds us to enter each day and each action with a sense of holiness rather than indulgence.”
Every breath and every moment is a gift. Use them accordingly.