Jasmine explores her interpretation of the Yogic principle brahmacharya and how getting clear on where she puts her energy has helped her to find balance and stability in everyday life.
Brahmacharya is one of the yamas – which can be described as ethical code of conduct – making up Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga. Brahmacharya asks of us to consider where we are directing our energy and if it is serving us or not. Brahmacharya is often translated to or interpreted as “celibacy” or “chastity”. Many yogis throughout history and to this day 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 to “right use of energy” or “walking the path to the Divine” which can be interpreted freely by the individual as to what that entails for them.
Either way brahmacharya is the practice of understanding how to best use and conserve our vital life force energy, directing it away from that which is draining us and towards that which feels nurturing, whole and energising. It is a way to bring us closer to God / the Divine / universal life force / consciousness / whatever you want to call it. In the typical modern day lifestyle many of us are running from one thing to the next, in constant “busy” mode trying to do it all and fit everything in, perhaps without taking much time to pause. Brahmacharya teaches the importance of taking the time to restock on energy and check in with ourselves in how we are going about our daily lives.
Brahmacharya can even be deciding to take a nap instead of ticking off everything on the “To Do” list. It could, of course also be a lot to do with sexual and romantic relationships, as such an intimate form of exchanging or mixing energies with another person can leave a person feeling energised or depleted depending on whether the relationship is actually right for them. It’s about deciding when being involved with another person, whether romantically or platonically, is draining or uplifting, whether it’s taking more energy to maintain the relationship than what is being given back by that bond. I’ve had to get really clear on this for my own wellbeing, trusting that space can bring the opportunity for growth for all involved.
For me, it’s about listening to my needs and allowing myself to take care of them. That need could be as basic as needing to eat or it could be as deep as needing to fuel my creative fire and feed my inner artist!
Many times I have seen someone else or myself light up when talking about how we used to love something, be it painting or gardening or singing, but then come the words “I just don’t have time for that anymore.” That’s because it’s hard having to work for minimum wage or work 9-5 or night shifts or try to make it as a self-employed person or live with all the many varieties of pressures that are upon us. 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 the financial means but are stuck in some sort of situation that blocks them in other ways. I’m sure we have all been there before or are perhaps even there now.
Brahmacharya is a way to navigate through all of this and it encourages us even in challenging circumstances to choose wisely, when possible, where to put our energy. It empowers us to say “yes” and “no” and own it. There is no fear of missing out with brahmacharya because the right choice is being made in directing energy to what serves us best and brings us most in line with walking our chosen paths in life.
For example I haven’t been drunk in 9 months. It would be longer but habits can be difficult to break so it’s 9 months since my last slip up but years since I decided I didn’t want to drink alcohol. I am not in the slightest bit jealous of some of my friends’ party lifestyle because what works for one person may not work for another and alcohol never did me any favours. It bled my life force energy dry and caused a whole heap of serious problems on more occasions than I can count. So in order to replenish my energy I stopped drinking and started practicing Yoga every day. It was my no means easy, and I definitely slipped up A LOT of times before being able to fully let go of that habit so I’m not trying to say it is a simple or a quick process but it does take commitment. I wasn’t dependant on alcohol every day. It was more about binge drinking most weekends like a lot of people in Britain my age, which is surprisingly socially acceptable but that’s another story.
The beautiful thing about Yoga is that it brings to the surface that which needs looking at and sorting through in order to move through life with fluidity, balance and a stable centre. In finding that lovely place between effort and ease in posture on the mat, we can begin to pick our way over life’s hurdles off the mat with a similar sense of inner peace. It may take many practice go’s. It may even take a lifetime of straying from the path and then finding the way back again but in doing so we give ourselves the chance to explore what works for us and craft a life in tune with what our heart knows is the way of living that we deeply desire.
Brahmacharya has taught me how to best use my energy to keep me feeling level, strong and in flow. I’ve learnt how to listen to my body and my emotions in order to be clear on exactly where my energy is best placed.
Some questions for self-reflection on brahmacharya that I often ask myself are: What does brahmacharya mean to me? In what ways can I best re-direct my energy from that which dims my light to that which fills me up and makes me shine bright? Where is my energy best placed in this moment right now?
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