The Yamas - Brahmacharya: The Significance of Non-Excess
Moderation Is Key
“By one established in continence, vigor is gained” - The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra II.38. In the ever-accelerating pace of modern life, the ancient concept of Brahmacharya, often translated as 'non-excess' offers a refreshing perspective on balance and self-discipline.
While commonly associated with celibacy, Brahmacharya reaches far beyond abstaining from physical relationships. It encourages us to moderate our thoughts, words, emotions, desires, and anything we 'consume' to find a more harmonious way of living.
In this blog, we'll explore the importance of Brahmacharya and how it can enhance the quality of our lives.
Brief Yoga History: Yoga Sutras + 8 Limbs of Yoga
The true meaning of Yoga is the union of body, mind, soul, and spirit to reduce suffering.
According to the practice, we often suffer because of not knowing our true Self and the illusion of separation of our individual consciousness from Universal Consciousness.
So taking a step back... where do the Yamas come from?
The Yoga Sutras contain 196 verses, which discuss the aim of yoga and how you strive for freedom, liberation and self-realization - the 8th Limb of Yoga, also called Samadhi.
The Yoga Sutras were transcribed by a man (and most likely many of his colleagues and students) named Patanjali, presumably from India, living somewhere between the 2nd and 4th century BC, and act as a practical guide to assist you on your journey of remembering the ultimate union.
According to the Sutras, beginning the pursuit of self-realization is the most significant step in life – as they make us aware of our pitfalls and how to overcome them.
The Meaning of Brahmacharya
Brahmacharya is the 4th Yama, within the 8 Limbs of Yoga and another guideline in yoga philosophy helping us to improve our relationship with the external world.
These five concepts are:
- Ahmisa/ NonViolence
- Satya/ Truthfulness
- Asteya/ NonStealing
- Brahmacharya/ NonExcess
- Aparigraha/ NonAttachment
Brahmacharya encourages us to use energy wisely and responsibly.
It's not about complete withdrawal, but rather a call for moderation and control over our desires, whether they are related to physical, emotional, intellectual, or even spiritual aspects of life.
Balancing Our Desires
In a world filled with constant stimulation and instant gratification, Brahmacharya reminds us of the value of balance. It encourages us to evaluate our desires and decide which are truly essential for our well-being. By refraining from excessive consumption and overindulgence, we free up energy and focus for more meaningful pursuits. This balance can lead to a deeper sense of contentment and satisfaction in life.
"I am hungry to learn from the silence, and see if I'm on track with my soul. I am hungry to tame the stimulation and pull back the indulgence. I am hungry to do nothing and let that more than enough, Resting rejuvenates my sense of mystery, and I find my eyes are shifted to wonder and my heart spontaneously bursts with songs of gratitude." ~ Deborah Adele, The Yamas & Niyamas
Brahmacharya is, at its core, a practice of self-discipline. It challenges us to confront our impulsive tendencies and develop control over our desires. By doing so, we become more resilient in the face of challenges and better equipped to pursue our long-term goals.
Another vital aspect of Brahmacharya is the idea of conserving vital energy, often referred to as "prana" or "life force." When we are constantly caught in the cycle of excess and overindulgence, we deplete our energy reserves. Practicing Brahmacharya allows us to preserve this energy, which can be redirected towards personal growth, creativity, deepening relationships, financial goals and spiritual pursuits.
In embracing Brahmacharya, we learn to become more mindful of our desires and actions. This mindfulness enables us to make conscious choices and avoid falling into the traps of impulsivity and excess. By understanding our motivations and assessing whether they align with our values and goals, we can lead a more intentional and fulfilling life.
The Balanced Life
Brahmacharya encourages us to find a balance in all aspects of life, from our relationships to our work, and even our leisure activities. It prompts us to question whether our choices are contributing to our growth or hindering it. In a world where excess is often celebrated, Brahmacharya reminds us that a balanced life can lead to greater contentment and personal fulfillment.
How To Apply Brahmacharya to Your Practice & Life
ON the mat:
- Maintaining balance with our practice, not becoming obsessive with it, continuing to do other activities with people and yourself
- Trying different spots in the room to practice, not getting attached to one area
- Keeping your practice fresh with new teachers, styles and poses you are working on
- Connecting to the energetic side of the practice, not just the physical
- Maintaining balance on your mat, not always pushing hard, or taking it too easy
- Noticing when the ego is present and creating unsupportive thought, emotions and actions
- Closing eyes more on your mat, going within more
OFF the mat:
- Not allowing a special treat to become an addiction, or necessary on a daily basis.
- Being fully present to what the present moment is offering, not always wanting more
- Maintaining balance with… consuming, energy, work, rest, play, social and alone time
- Leaving room in your schedule for free time, rest, surprises and spontaneity
- Becoming aware of how you feel around others and certain situations and planning accordingly
- Trying to lift others up when you are around them, being light and loving energy
- Using moments of balance to ease to connect to something bigger than yourself - prayer, volunteering, giving back, connecting with the planet
Benefits of Practicing Brahmacharya
Enhanced Energy Levels: By conserving vital energy (prana) that is otherwise expended through excessive physical or emotional activities, individuals practicing Brahmacharya may experience increased vitality and reduced fatigue.
Improved Focus and Concentration: Brahmacharya encourages a disciplined and controlled approach to life. This can lead to improved mental clarity, concentration, and the ability to focus on tasks for extended periods.
Emotional Stability: Moderation of desires and emotions can lead to emotional equilibrium. Practitioners may experience a reduced frequency of mood swings, irritability, and impulsive behavior.
Stress Reduction: A balanced and disciplined lifestyle can help reduce stress and anxiety. By avoiding excessive indulgence and impulsivity, individuals can maintain a calmer and more peaceful state of mind.
Enhanced Self-Discipline: Practicing Brahmacharya requires self-control and the ability to resist temptations. Over time, this can lead to improved self-discipline in various aspects of life, from diet and exercise to professional and personal goals.
Better Relationships: Brahmacharya doesn't necessarily mean avoiding relationships but rather fostering balanced, meaningful connections. By practicing moderation in relationships, individuals can develop healthier, more profound, and longer-lasting bonds with others.
Spiritual Growth: In many spiritual traditions, Brahmacharya is seen as a means to cultivate spiritual awareness and growth. By redirecting the energy that would otherwise be spent on excessive desires, individuals can channel it towards higher, more profound experiences and self-realization.
Increased Self-Esteem and Confidence: By conquering desires and temptations, individuals practicing Brahmacharya can develop greater self-esteem and self-confidence. They often feel a sense of mastery over their own impulses and actions.
Improved Physical Health: Practicing moderation and control over one's physical desires, including diet and exercise, can contribute to better physical health. This can lead to a reduced risk of health issues related to overindulgence or unhealthy lifestyles.
Ethical and Moral Development: Embracing Brahmacharya encourages individuals to live by a code of ethics and morality. This can lead to a more virtuous and principled way of life, both in personal and societal contexts.
Mantra and Active Meditation Technique for Brahmacharya
The Hanuman mantra cultivates devotion to something bigger than ourselves, helping us to use our energy wisely.
- Hanuman Bolo: Son of the wind, embodiment of devotion, ardent devotee of Ram and Sita. Hanuman is a monkey-god who helps Rama defeat Ravana and reconnect with Sita, as told in the Ramayana. Bolo/bol: A hindi word meaning "speak" or "sing."
- Jay Sita Ram: rām/rāma: An avatar, or incarnation, of Vishnu, the lord of the universe. Rama's story is told in the Ramayana, his wife is Sita, and he is known for his compassion and courage. sītā: An avatar, or incarnation, of Lakshmi, Goddess of abundance. Lakshmi and Vishnu incarnate on earth as Sita and Rama. Sita is known for her devotion and purity, and is the central female character of the Ramayana.
- Jay Jaya Hanuman
Brahmacharya, the principle of non-excess, is a timeless philosophy that encourages us to lead a balanced, mindful, and intentional life. By moderating our desires and practicing self-discipline, we can conserve vital energy and focus on what truly matters. Embracing Brahmacharya is not about deprivation but about finding a deeper sense of contentment and fulfillment in the choices we make and the way we live our lives.
Would you like to start embodying these amazing concepts to enhance your life and the lives around you?
Check out my 8 Limbs Yoga Tribe!
This is where you get access to weekly virtual classes, videos, discounts on in-person classes, events and retreats, community and support.