Right use of energy – Brahmacharya
The third yama is all about moderation of the senses and the right use of energy. It asks us to look at how we utilise our energy and question whether we make choices mindfully or impulsively. It asks us to observe how much we are driven by sensory cravings and, with practice, guides us toward freeing ourselves from dependencies.
When we are highly dependent or addicted to something our mind constantly wanders in that direction. Without it we suffer. We struggle to steer our mind away from it. We can understand Brahmacharya as harnessing that energy and, instead, directing it toward our own personal growth and development.
When our energy is used impulsively and without thought it can be painful, regretful and take a huge toll on our wellbeing. Instead, we practice to harness the energy that can be drained through our senses. We learn to control the senses and utilize that energy to go inward. We always take into account Ahimsa (do no harm), Satya (be honest) and Asteya (don’t take what isn’t yours).
There is a common misconception that Brahmacharya translates directly to celibacy – whilst this was definitely a part of the traditional commitment to the spiritual path, it was more about conserving all energies toward seeking union through personal self enquiry – observing the senses and drawing them inward instead. Brahmacharya is not limited to conserving just sexual energy, although our sexual vitality has a huge pull on our vital energy, so it’s definitely important to use it wisely, gently, truthfully and with consent. The practice teaches us how to master and conserve our vital energy.
On the mat
Right use of energy on the yoga mat can go two ways. Pressure may be felt to keep up, when really we would benefit more from taking Balasana (Child’s Pose). Or maybe we feel fearful or shy about giving something new a go, which also gets in the way of our evolution and growth. Remember, there is no growth within our comfort zone – but there is a fine line between mindfully expanding and stretching our capacity and pushing ourselves beyond what is gentle (Ahimsa) and honest (Satya).
Off the mat
Brahmacharya asks us to listen to what our body truly needs. It asks us to constantly observe our energy levels and choose wisely what our attention and devotion is drawn to. If we are always really busy, it asks us to ask ourselves if what we are using our time and energy for is worthwhile in relation to how it makes us feel inside. If you feel drained, what is it that is draining your energy? What do we need to change in order to be able to create practical and positive strategies towards our actions and inactions. What are we wasting our time and energy on, and what do we need to do to be in a position where we cultivate energy and vitality instead of draining it?
It’s a worthy questions to reflect on.