Brahmacharya is one of the yamas – a part of Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga, which discusses the ethical code of yoga practice. It is often translated or interpreted as “celibacy” or “chastity.” Many yogis throughout history, as well as yogis today, have indeed taken a vow of celibacy as a commitment to their spiritual path in order to focus wholly on their yoga practice. However, brahmacharya can also be translated as “right use of energy” or “walking the path to the Divine” which can be interpreted freely by the individual. Brahmacharya asks us to consider where we are directing our energy and if that choice is serving us or not.
In today’s modern lifestyle, many of us are running from one thing to the next, in constant “busy” mode. We often try to do it all and fit everything in without taking much time to pause and reflect. Brahmacharya teaches us the importance of taking the time to recharge our energy and check in with ourselves, to evaluate how we are going about our daily lives.
With that interpretation, brahmacharya can even be deciding to take a nap instead of ticking off everything on the ‘to do’ list. It could also have a lot to do with sexual and romantic relationships, as the intimate exchange of energies with another person can leave you feeling energized or depleted, depending on whether the relationship is actually right for you. It’s about deciding whether a romantic or platonic relationship is draining or helping to lift you up. Is it taking more energy to maintain the relationship than the energy you are receiving in return?
It’s listening to your needs and allowing yourself to take care of them. That need could be as basic as needing to eat or it could be as deep as needed to fuel your creative fire and feed your inner artist!
How many times have you seen someone light up when they talk about how much they used to love something, be it painting or gardening or singing? Then they just “don’t have time for that anymore,” and the spark you first saw begins to dim. That’s because it’s hard having to work for minimum wage, work 9-5 or night shifts or try to make it as a self-employed person living with a variety of pressures.
Not everyone has found a way to make a living from doing what they love and as a consequence can feel too drained to put any time or energy into the projects that really matter to them. Or maybe they have financial and emotional blocks and are stuck in some sort of situation that stops them in other ways.
Brahmacharya is a way to navigate through all of this, it encourages us, even in challenging circumstances to choose where to put our energy wisely. It empowers us to say “yes” and “no” and own it. There is no fear of missing out with brahmacharya because you know you are making the right choice for you in directing your energy to what will serve you best and bring you most in line with walking your chosen path in life.
Brahmacharya encourages us to understand and conserve our vital life and energy. It’s about directing it away from anything that is draining us and towards that which feels nurturing, whole and energizing. It’s a way to bring us closer to God / the Divine / universal life force/consciousness whatever you want to call it.