Brahmacharya or the moderation
After having talked about ahimsa, satya et asteya, let's consider the 4th yama transcribed by Patanjali in the aphorism II.38 of the Yoga Sutras:
« Brahmacharya pratishthāyām vīralābhah »
« When one is well established in moderation, life force is gained »
The first conception of this yama was all about sexual abstinence and celibacy in order to keep the vital energy. At that time life was seen to be divided in four phases and the first one was brahmacharya. This period of life was linked with creativity, play, studies and self-knowledge: that was not really the time of life when you should have sexual relationships. Furthermore, when the aphorisms begun to be interpreted it was a puritan era. However, according to the old texts you don't have to be sexually abstinent to be a yogi.
Moreover, if you look at the literal translation of the word brahmacharya you just have to admit that its meaning is much more wide. In fact, brahma refers to the infinite, to the creator whereas charya means to go to, to remain with. Once both words are put together they can mean moderation to maintain the life energy to go to a higher spiritual level. As Iyengar said it in its book Bible of Yoga, moderation is the flame that lights the torch of the wisdom.
So, more than just the control of the sexual life the goal of this principle is to live with moderation without being guided by our desires and our senses. Following this path, it is possible to become more courageous, to get more stamina and to have deeper and more spiritual thoughts.
The first thing you have to do to apply this principle is an introspection to analyse where you direct your energy.
This idea is to not waste it anymore so that you don't exhaust yourself with worries, futilities, judgements or excesses but that instead you redirect it to what really matters for you.
Brahmacharya in class :
During yoga classes, listen to your needs, your body and your heart. If your teacher suggest some modifications try them all to know which one best suits you. An other good way to control your energy is to put an intention into the class or to stay focus on your breath. Your concentration and your stamina will be raised.
Brahmacharya in our daily life :
It is a really big challenge to apply brahmacharya in our modern daily lifes because we are not helped anymore by the rythms of day and night, of the seasons and of the nature.
We have to discipline ourself to maintain some balance in our life and not waste our vital energy.
So be careful of where you put your energy: do you eat too much or not enough? do you work by far too much? are you on Internet all the time without a real purpose? do you say to yourself that you should practice some sport activities but stay before your TV screen all day long?
Begin your moderation process step by step in one area avoiding to go from an extreme to another. For example, if you want to exercice more begin with one class a week, see how it feels and readjust slowly if you need more activity.
When you will have found your balance in sport try to moderating an other area in your life where you feel an imbalance that exhausts you.
The more you will live in a moderate way, the more you will gain in efficiency, in mental strength and in stamina!