Bramacharya is something we’ve been exploring in my yoga classes in Rugby and Houlton I wanted to share some thoughts on it in this blog post.
First things first, let’s talk about the Yoga Sutras. These ancient yogic texts were written by Patanjali way back in the 3rd or 4th century. They contain 196 short “sutras” that were passed down from generation to generation. Within the Sutras, there’s an eight-fold path called “eight limb yoga” or Astanga. Each limb offers practical guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life, free from suffering.
The first and second limbs are called the “Yamas” and “Niyamas.” These are ethical guidelines of yoga, like a moral code of conduct to guide you on your journey. There are five Yamas, which teach us what behaviour to avoid, and five Niyamas, which teach us what virtues to focus on.
One of the Yamas is Bramacharya, which means “walking in the presence of the Divine.” According to the Yoga Sutra (2.38), when we become established in the practice of Bramacharya, we gain vitality. Practically, this yogic principle means sexual celibacy and chastity. Traditionally, Bramacharya was meant to encourage those involved in the practice of yoga to conserve their sexual energy, in favour of using that energy to further progress along the Yogic path. It’s similar to modern day monks and nuns who take their vows of chastity.
But Bramacharya is about more than just sexual celibacy. It’s also about directing our energy away from external desires and towards finding peace and happiness within ourselves. We can apply this principle to many aspects of our lives, not just sexual energy.
For example, Bramacharya can be broadly defined as the management of our internal and external energy and focus. If you feel drained all the time, consider whether your daily tasks are draining you of your vitality. Maybe it’s time to cut back on some activities or find ways to recharge your energy.
Another example is speech and thought. Talking uses a lot of vital energy. Restraining ourselves from unnecessary speech, whether it’s gossip or talking out loud to ourselves, can retain much vital energy that we carelessly lose every day. Similarly, we often expend mental energy on things that don’t serve us well, like ruminating over past events or worrying about the future. Bramacharya teaches us to quiet the mind and reduce or eliminate unnecessary thought.
In essence, Bramacharya is about moderation in all things. It’s the practice of remembering that there’s more to life than immediate gratification. Too much of anything quickly turns into a lesson regrettably learned.
So, if you’re feeling depleted, take a look at your habits and see where you might be able to apply the principles of Bramacharya. Maybe you need to get more sleep, take more breaks at work, or cut back on screen time. By directing our energy towards positive actions and thoughts, we can boost our vitality and live a more purposeful life.