Living yoga – Brahmacharya

Living yoga philosophy, part 4 Brahmacharya: Energy moderation

So this one is a little tricky to interpret in to modern western living, there are some widely varied definitions of what it means, from total celibacy at one end, to the application of moderation towards all sensory experiences at the other.

Some also define it according to the literal word meaning itself, which provides another spin altogether.

Brahma literally means the ‘divine consciousness’ and charya, in this context, means ‘living’ or ‘one who is established in’. A literal definition of the fourth yama becomes not ‘celibacy’, nor ‘moderation’, but ‘being established in divine consciousness’, or ‘being established in the higher (form of the) mind’. Or even, ‘walking with God’.

For your average western yoga student, living in a sexually aware society, surrounded by advertising and social media which could be seen to encourage materialism, consumerism this has to be the most difficult yama not just to understand, but also to follow.

After reading a lot of different interpretations I think it’s pretty simple really.

Think about how much time and energy various celebs devote to their various obsessions and quests, whether it’s plastic surgery, money, cars or just attention from the media in general. Maybe also think about things you might be obsessed with, even if they are not that extreme. Now think about what would happen if that time and energy was freed up and available for use in other things – like the spiritual journey. When we commit to yoga, in all it’s aspects, we’re committing to self-realisation, and that requires time and energy. Wasting time and energy on excess and obsession of any kind takes us further away from our path and our goal.

You could think of energy like money in the bank: If you have £100, you don’t want to spend it all right away so that you have nothing left. Take a few moments today to try and be a good energy manager ;).

If you want to look in to the yoga sutras a little more you can find this in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali number II:38

“Performing each action with an awareness of a higher ideal (brahma-charya) engenders tremendous strength” ||38||

ब्रह्मचर्य प्रतिष्ठायां वीर्यलाभः ॥३८॥

brahma = ( from ) God; the absolute

carya = (iic.) to change; to transform; to transition; to move; to walk

brahmacarya = transitioning to an awareness of the absolute; to be a monk; hence also frequently connotes celibacy

pratiṣṭhāyām = (loc. sg. f. from pratiṣṭhā) fixed; permanent stable

vīrya = (iic.) life force; vitality; strength; force

lābhaḥ = (nom. sg. m. from lābha) require; achieve


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