Brahmacharya – The Fourth Yama

Now this one is or can be a hard one to understand in today’s world. Brahmacharya, per the Bhagavad Gita (written in 3,000 BCE), meant a life of celibacy, religious study and self-restraint. Here, we can think of monks, of sage or Swamis who were dedicating their lives to following the Path and where sexual energy was seen as disruptive in their search for enlightenment or Samadhi.

It is easy to understand how sexual energy can be disruptive or at least, preoccupy the mind. I am sure that everyone has had desires and thoughts which seemed to completely take over any other thoughts. Often misunderstood, Tantra Yoga is a style of yoga which has chosen to harness this energy and build on the creativity and spontaneity of the male and female energy (Shiva and Shakti). But putting yoga, thoughts and desires aside, how is this fourth yama relevant in our lives? And how, or why, can we live happier through its understanding?

It all comes down to making the right use of energy, honoring ourselves and others in intimate relationships. Being respectful of ourselves and others in sexual intercourse. It means understanding our impulses and doing what is right rather than satisfying a physical need. Of course some will say that it feels good to do so. But what about afterwards, how do you feel then?

This is all about making decisions Now and in being aware of no matter how great this moment will be, it will not serve us or make us happier later. In fact, it may fill us with regrets, disappointment, and sometimes even disgust. However, since sexual tension and urges can be extremely powerful and even an illness for some, restraint can be extremely difficult. When it is linked with emotions, filling a void, it can be even more so.

But in practicing restraint from non self-respectful behaviors, we can move away from what in the end is really a non-satisfying action. By asking ourselves such questions as “Am I being respectful of my values, my body, my belief”, we can become aware of the behaviors and thought-pattern that drive us and stop giving in, conscious that these actions will not bring us any true and lasting form of happiness.

This post is only a part of what I have learned through the teachings I have received. There are many ways to interpret, to explain and to apply this yama. If you would like to share your point of view and feelings on this difficult subject I would be interested in reading them. I am also seeking to understand and grow in order to live a happier life.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ganesha3
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 12:30:26

    Beautifully written Véro and very good example.

    From my readings and studies, Brahmacharya is considered one of the cornerstones of a serious yoga practice and it has two meanings. Control of the senses and celibacy (or chastity). The second, helps to conserve physical and mental energy needed for a more vigorous practice. This doesn’t mean suppressing sexual instincts as anything that is suppressed will come back with redoubled strength.

    In our contemporary world, since, like you said, we are not monks, whether in relation to sex, drugs, alcohol, food, shopping…moderation of our senses is key to keep connected to our True Self, where all wisdom lies, to help us lead a happier life.



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