It’s not just about not having sex!

Today I want to talk about Brahmacharya (celibacy or »right use of energy«), the fourth Yama, according to Patanjali.

Photo by Vivian’s Photography Vancouver

I was thinking about Brahmacharya a lot lately. Maybe because it’s one of the Yamas that I never really studied, I must admit I kind of just ignored it for a long time. I guess it’s beacuse the word »celibacy« usualy makes us think about something extreme and religious and old-fashioned – and weird! But Brahmacharya is much more than just not having sex 😊


Traditionally, Brahmacharya was meant to encourage those involved in the practice of yoga to conserve their sexual energy, in favour of using that energy to further progress along the Yogic path. It is a form of self-restraint regarded as a virtue, and an observance recommended depending on an individual’s context. For a married practitioner it means marital fidelity (not cheating on one’s spouse); for a single person it means celibacy. In ancient and medieval era Indian texts, the term Brahmacharya is a concept with a more complex meaning indicating an overall lifestyle conducive to the pursuit of sacred knowledge and spiritual liberation. It usually includes cleanliness, ahimsa, simple living, studies, meditation, and voluntary restraints on certain foods (eating only Sattvic food), intoxicants, and sexual behavior.


Brahmacharya is not only about celibacy. The word Brahmacharya actually translates as ‘behaviour which leads to Brahman’. Brahman is thought of as ‘the creator’ in Hinduism and Yogic terms, so what we’re basically talking about here is behaviour which leads us towards ‘the divine’ or ‘higher power’.

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Photo by Your Sweet Little Memory

Regarding Brahmacharya as ‘right use of energy’ leads us to consider how we actually use and direct our energy. Brahmacharya also evokes a sense of directing our energy away from external desires – those pleasures which seem great at the time but are ultimately fleeting – and instead, towards finding peace and happiness within ourselves. So the complete opposite of what is going on in the world nowadays 😉


It makes me sad how yoga is being sexualized in the West, which has nothing to do with the core of this ancient practice. But it tells us a lot about how obsessed we are with our bodies, and how our attention is constantly focused outwards.


I encourage you to take a moment to consider where your energy is most directed. A large part of it is probably put towards worrying, or trying to present yourself as someone you’re not in order to please or impress others. What if we directed that energy into something more useful? Great things would happen! 😉




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