Brahmacharya - Jemima Wright

brahmacharya-pratishthayam virya-labhah

When one does not misuse sexual energy, one obtains enduring vitality resulting in good health.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras II.38


In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali gives us five recommendations, called yamas, for how we should treat others if we want to attain liberation.  As Patanjali lists - As long as you see others and not the “One” – not the Self – then don’t hurt them (Ahmisa) don’t lie to them (Satya) don’t steal from them (Asteya) don’t abuse them sexually (Brahmacharya) and don’t be so greedy (Apirigraha) sounds simple right?

Brahmacharya has commonly been explained as “continence” or “chastity,” and one instantly conjures up images of orange-robed, celibate monks. This has also led to many mis-interpreations in regards to how does a regular person like you or me can practice Brahmacharya. My Teacher Sharron Gannon, founder of Jivamukti yoga explains it like this

"Brahmacharya is to respect the creative power of sex and not abuse it by manipulating others sexually.” 

If we look at the Sanskrit word 

Brahma - The creative principle (The energies used for creation).

Charya - a vehicle or a means to. 

To practice brahmacharya is to understand the potential of sexual energy (the creative principle) which is the essence of all physical and psychological forces. When sexual energy is directed wisely, it becomes a means to transcend separation, or otherness. When sexual energy is used to exploit, manipulate or humiliate another, however, it propels us into deeper separation and ignorance (avidya). 

To embrace the practice of brahmacharya is also to challenge our culture’s foundation, Womens rights, feminisim, equality. How often do we see misused sexual energy around us? Mis-treatment of women in society, Sexism, even just a snide remark to a passerby we have all been witness too. Sexual abuse in animals has also been ingrained into our society, breeding, genetic minipulation, castration, artificial insemination and forced pregnancy ( yes yoga practice extends to all beings not just humans!) 

This may seem hard to read, The practice of Yama's is not an easy one, it is very involved indeed, there are many in depth layers to contemplate. In the Ashtanga lineage the practice of yamas come first and foremost before any other yoga practice, Before the postures, before pranayama, before meditation, They are the outer practices that we get the chance to practice every day, no yoga mat or fancy yoga pants required, just a willingness to challenge and change habitual ways of thinking and viewing the world

To put it simply Bramacharya is how we choose to invest our precious creative rescourses, Each thought, word and action that we entertain is an outflow of creative energy. Some thoughts and actions will offer beneficial returns of this energy and others will drain all of our rescourses. In the name of Bramacharya we are asked to be wise investors of our potent creative energy. Where are you wasting yours?