Brahmacharya, The Fourth Principle of Yama
Brahmacharya is the fourth principle of Yama. Along with compassion, truthfulness, and abundance, it makes up the ethical guidelines for how one can interact with other people and the world around us.
What Is Brahmacharya?
Brahmacharya often translates as celibacy. But, before you write me off as nuts or decide to skip on a Yama, I’ll ask you to hang in there. There is something valuable that we can take from this principle.
Remember that Patanjali outlined the eight limbs of yoga thousands of years ago. Quite a few things have changed ever since.
In yoga philosophy, to practice the higher limbs of yoga, you need a great amount of prana, the vital life energy. So, it’s necessary not to squander our energy on what doesn’t do us any good.
Thus, a more modern interpretation of Brahmacharya would be moderation. In any aspect of our lives.
Sounds much better, right? Told you.
I’ve put together a few ideas of how you can practice Brahmacharya in your daily life.
Brahmacharya in Relationships
You can practice Brahmacharya by filtering your contacts and being selective about whom you interact with.
When we spend a lot of time with someone, they influence us. We can even adopt some of their likes, beliefs, and habits. It’s not a bad thing in itself. But it may become degrading to you if their values and aspirations in life don’t align with yours.
If that’s where you’re at, make a change toward surrounding yourself with the people whom you look up to and who help you grow. If you don’t have many of those around you, make changes to your lifestyle based on what you like and want to do.
Join the gym, change your job or career, or go to a knitting club if that’s your thing. Despite what those around you would think or say. Do your thing, and you will eventually attract the right kind of people into your life.
You’ll also gradually start spending less time with those who negatively influence you because you simply won’t have much in common with them.
If that’s too big of a step to make right now, start by doing that on social media. Unfollow those who make you feel negative or depressed.
Instead, follow those whose lives you would like to be living. It will give you a good idea of what it is that you want and are interested in.
Read books about the people you admire. Listen to inspiring podcasts or talks. This may feel uncomfortable at first, but it will affect you on a subconscious level. Even if you don’t realize it at first.
Brahmacharya to Yourself
Nowadays, it’s considered good to be always busy and have your schedule packed. Yet, remember that constantly running around the clock depletes tons of your energy.
Therefore, make sure you set aside some “me” time, get enough rest and sleep, and have your stress levels in check. Avoid burning yourself out physically or mentally.
But how do you do that while still making sure you manage to handle all your responsibilities? Bills need to be paid, deadlines have to be met, and no one really wants to hear that you need to have some time for yourself. You may even be labeled as selfish, weak, or unreliable. What do you do then?
To use your energy properly, develop and practice discipline. It will help you to stay focused, be in control of your life, and balance work and personal life. You’ll also be able to do more, manage stress, and stay healthy.
Staying disciplined is easier said than done. So, start small.
Incorporate short morning and bedtime rituals into your daily life. For example, start your day with a few minutes in meditation and some gentle stretching. Instead of scrolling through Instagram before going to bed, journal, or read a book. Be flexible with your routines if need be.
What also helps me to stay disciplined is planning my time. Install time management apps, buy yourself a nice planner, or get a bullet journal if you’re the creative type.
Set goals and top priorities that you would like to do every day. Then, try planning ahead for the entire week or even a month.
You’ll be able to track your progress and procrastinate less. It’ll keep you accountable to yourself and free you from needing to memorize everything you need to do.
Be realistic about how much you can squeeze into one day, and set a manageable amount of important tasks. No more than 3 to 5. Brahmacharya is moderation, after all.
Brahmacharya in Thoughts
Are you one of those people who makes a mistake and then spends hours beating themselves over it? If so, then think about how much energy you’re burning by judging and criticizing yourself for that. Accept the fact that you’ve made a mistake. That’s human and absolutely normal.
What’s much worse is making the same mistake repeatedly and not learning from it.
Take a moment to think or journal about what has happened. Decide what you can do in the future to prevent it from occurring again. Forgive yourself and move on. Use your energy for something more positive and productive.
Brahmacharya in Asana Practice and Fitness
When it comes to asana practice, listen to your body and use your energy accordingly.
Imagine that you’ve had a stressful day at work, and you still need to go home and take care of your overly energetic kids. Is a vinyasa class in between a good idea? Will it actually de-stress you and replenish your energy levels? Or is it going to make you feel drained?
Discipline is crucial if you want to stay fit and healthy. But there is a fine line between being disciplined and doing something to satisfy your ego.
Exercise and do yoga regularly, but don’t overexert yourself, either. Give your body a rest day or two if you need it and even more if you are feeling sick or have injured yourself.
Brahmacharya and Food
The same goes for food. Listen to your body and eat only as much as it requires.
Too much of anything can be bad. Even if it’s healthy, like kale, coconut oil, and avocados. Even too much healthy eating can be bad. Ever heard of orthorexia? That’s actually a legitimate eating disorder.
Spice up your healthy diet with some reward meals. (Many call them “cheat meals,” but “reward meals” sounds a lot more positive, in my opinion.)
Go get your favorite pizza and cheesecake. If you do it once in a while, it won’t sabotage your diet. It’ll actually boost your metabolism and make it easier for you to stick to healthy foods the rest of the time.
There was a quote that I once read that suggested that Brahmacharya is the secret to success. There is only that much time in a day and in our lifetimes. And it’s only within our own individual power to choose what we use our energy for.
How can you practice Brahmacharya in your everyday life? Are there any more ideas that you can think of? I’d love to hear from you.