The Eight Limbs of Yoga by Kristen Keaney

The 8 Limbs of Yoga: The Yamas (Moral Restraints), Part 4


We’ve discussed Ahimsa (Non-harming), Satya (Truthfulness) and Asteya (non-stealing). The fourth Yama, Brahmacharya, is traditionally understood as ‘Celibacy’ or simply restraining from temptations so that our energy can instead be directed towards furthering our Yogic studies. It may be the hardest element to transfer into this modern way of living.

I hope I didn’t lose everyone with the use of the word celibacy, because Brahmacharya can still be practiced without necessarily adhering to its traditional definition. Brahmacharya in its truest form means to direct our energies away from external pleasures so that we can focus more on finding happiness and contentment from the inside out.

Think of Brahmacharya as the awareness of where you expend your “vital” energies. For a moment just close your eyes and think about where you think you direct most of your energy.  I’m sure to some extent we all direct a lot of our energy toward outward stresses that in the end don’t affect us as much as we feel. Energy is sometimes put into trying to make ourselves appear different than our true selves. Trying to appear more successful, more organized, more positive, just more than we really are. Excess energy directed towards outward “improvements” leaves us with very little to direct inwards. 

Try incorporating Brahmacharya into your daily lifestyle by slowing down periodically and observing your daily patterns. Take time to notice if any of your habits seem to drain you of energy.  I don’t necessarily mean the bodily fatigue that sets in after a vinyasa class. I invite you to look more deeply, who you surround yourself with, what you choose to consume to “fuel” the body, in both your foods and your conversation. 

Brahmacharya is traditionally taught as restraint from sexual desires in order to better focus on one’s Yogic path.  A modern interpretation can be understood as observing where our largest energy outputs are and acknowledging whether they are truly benefiting our personal growth or if they’re draining our precious energies.