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YAMAS: YOGA’S ETHICAL GUIDELINES FOR SELF-REGULATING

This week, we go deeper into the practice of restraint, or brahmacharya

A woman I’ll call Katie has always strived towards the best in her work and loved to have intense workouts to relieve the stress she has had at work. Yet, she noticed after her last injury, she felt the need to find more balance for her own mental and physical well-being. She had recovered from the sprained ankle. 

Almost. There was a weakness there now. It had slowed her pace in her running and she had to limit the weight she could now lift. Her workout partner, a woman I’ll call Sue, noticed this one day. 

As they chatted, Katie shared she would like to add a day of rest in their schedule plus add a conditioning class with yoga or Pilates at the gym.

Both agreed to the new schedule and after a month, Katie and Sue noticed that they both felt they could cope better with stress at work with easier recovery from their workouts. Katie noticed her ankle felt stronger. 

Brahmacharya: Moderation and Boundaries

This week, we’ll continue a series that takes a closer look at yoga’s ethical guidelines for living. These are called yamas, and they fall under Raja Yoga, the branch that governs the disciplines about controlling the mind and senses. The first two branches on Patanjali’s eightfold path are yamas and niyamas.

Simply put, yamas are things not to do, niyamas are things to do. Yamas can be thought of as practices of self-restraint, while niyamas are virtues to cultivate, or observances.

This week, we look at brahmacharya, the practice of non-excess. This yama is often seen in the ancient texts as restraint or continence in a matter of sexual conduct. The translation from Sanskrit is “one who vows to study the Vedas” or to “to find and walk with God.” 

This week, we go deeper into the practice of non-excess, or brahmacharya.

This is the practice of moderation. Establishing boundaries with your own time and energy would be the focus here.

One definition I like is by the Yogi BKS Iyengar: “Continence or self-restraint of the body, mind and speech. 

Balance in our life is important as we juggle more expectations in various settings. Consider where you can experience more balance in your life. 

Celibacy and balance

Yes, celibacy is a part of this yama. It is important to consider periods in your life to have this experience. It teaches us much about ourselves. Once resuming sexual intimacy, balance here is as important as it is in the rest of your life. 

Celibacy is a part of that journey yet, more importantly, in our daily lives, it applies to the correct use of our sexual energy. 

Ojas: Elixir of life

In Ayurveda and in the yogic tradition, this means preserving a form of subtle energy known as ojas. Being mindful of the release of sexual energy preserves this energy of ojas. If there is a spiritual practice, there is an increase in ojas. 

Misusing our sexual energy leads to depletion of ojas, imbalances at physical and mental levels, reduces our immunity which can lead to health issues. Practicing brahmacharya can lead to creative energy. This creative energy can then be focused on the service of others.  

QUESTIONS FOR ENGAGEMENT

When did you last take a day off from the computer? 

When did you take a day off? Or spend exclusive time with your partner? 

Where are boundaries needed in your life so you feel more balanced? 

When did you play with your children or your pet?  You need that play as much as they need to connect with you.

MANTRA FOR BRAHMACHARYA

A mantra that can help with depletion is to connect with this mantra that is about soma which is an elixir generated by our body when we nurture and take care of it. It is more of an etheric concept and is not measurable.  Soma can be described as the nectar of life that restores and then rejuvenates our body and mind. This leads to creating a sense of fullness.  Soma is connected to moon energy. It is related to Ojas which is a fluid present in the body from an ayurvedic understanding.

One concept to consider is to repeat a mantra up to 108 times. It is considered auspicious to do so. You may notice a difference in your energy level, if you do this practice once daily for a week or longer. 

Om somaye namaha 

YOGA POSE FOR BRAHMACHARYA

Child’s pose allows you to slow down and be in a resting place with all your senses being able to quiet. 

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