The fourth Yama is 'Brahmacharya' or celibacy. It is described in the Yoga Sutras as abstaining from thoughts of objects of desire through a firm control of one's mind, as well as through a controlled diet and sleep. 'Brahmnacharya' cannot be attained if one indulges in too much sex, sleep or food intake.
This makes me laugh inside as Thanksgiving is coming up!
I am going to leave the sexual aspect of this to the side, because I've been exploring 'Brahmacharia' through its aspect of being able to dedicate our energies towards achieving the goals we have set for ourselves. I'd like to address our innate ability to avoid non productive activities, hobbies, habits…that absorb our energies and mislead us from our set intentions.
Brahmacharia takes its root from the name 'Brahman' which is the absolute reality; the supreme being and guess what? It resides within all of us, it is the 'Purusha', the higher Self!
To cultivate this higher self, you can probably guess that we need to engage in activities that will add some goodness to our state of being, that will guide us towards the light. Brahmacharia is a making vow to use our time in productive activities that will lead us to the famous 'self realization' woohoo!
The bottom line: too much or too little of activities such as: talking, eating, sleeping, working, and yes sex too!, will be counterproductive and mislead us off our path! It is important to practice moderation in our lives, and moderation is the same concept of balance.
What better time to be mindful of 'Brahmacharia' then Thanksgiving? Abstaining or refraining from indulging is not to take the fun out of eating together with family and loved ones, but rather to respect the ecosystem in side of us.
You might have noticed that a good yoga class is made up of: standing poses, seated poses, balancing poses...forward bending, back bending...inhaling and exhaling, balancing on feet/hands/forearms... Yoga is a clear example of moderation, of balance. If you walk into a class and the teacher has you do too much of one thing for most of the class, you will not be happy or feel good by the end of class. Overall happiness happens when we are able to have a bit of a variety of things, which will help us create a sense of balance. It's not always easy to practice moderation. I wanted to express the importance of moderation because I know that I have often obsess about one thing until I overdue it to the point where I have to take a break.
Ashtanga Yoga is the perfect example of moderation and dedicating all the energy to achieving specific goals. In Ashtanga each pose stacks on top of the other. Before your teacher gives you the next pose you must be able to complete the current one you are working on. So as you practice you are asked to devote all your attention and energy to everything that leads up to that specific pose, you pay attention to each posture and you explore where to go deeper, where to let go, so that your body opens up and changes, prepares for that next pose. But it is only through constant moment to moment attention the the practice as a whole, that it will all make sense. And then so that you don't get tunneled into thinking achieving more and more, and get your ego all psiched up about it, every friday you go back and practice Primary Series, the very basics of the whole practice.
Utplutih , the final breathing posture, the very last one before Savasana, when you are just ready to give in, you must instead pick your seat up off the ground and count 25 or more quick, but not too quick, breaths! This is where I see if I am practicing 'Brahmacharia'. It's such a smart practice, all these elements of the more spiritual are intertwined within the physical practice , and you encounter them, and there is no way around them. you are in or you are out!
Why am I saying this?
In the practice its clear...if you give too much attention to your moving forward in the practice and you apply all your energy at the beginning of the practice, by the time you have to lift your seat in Utplutih you have nothing left; if instead you use moderation and keep in mind that, yes, you are giving your best efforts to achieve a specific pose, but that what matters is the practice as a whole, so you don't loose track of the scope of the practice. You moderately apply a little even energy to all and each of the poses from beginning to end.
I love this practice it teaches me so much!
I invite you to join me this week and explore where you are putting too much or too little effort. Just notice and see what would happen if you did a little less or a little more?
Anything is valid, be it food, exercise, spirituality, sex, studies...