Brahmacharya: Appropriate Use of Vital Energy
As we deepen our knowledge of what yoga truly is, we must take a look at our use of energy.
Brahmacharya is the Sanskrit word in the Yoga Sutras' definition of the Yamas describing the observance of utilizing your vital energy appropriately and wisely. It is important to note that our vital energy is clarified and essentially held in our sacral chakra (swadhisthana), which governs sexuality and creativity.
Some schools of yoga practice observe brahmacharya as strictly chaste or abstinent living to turn their sexual vital energy towards developing enlightened states. Others, like Tantra, seek to harness and cultivate all vital energy in life to purposeful outlets and experiences. In the tantric tradition, sexual exchange is the literal act of honoring one another to fully experience and recognize the divine. It is the act of giving and receiving soma, or sweet nectar of life. Regardless of lineage or perspective, by utilizing brahmacharya, one must know how to appropriately engage in their sexuality and intimate exchanges to be cultivating and expanding rather than damaging, degrading, or dishonoring to parties involved.
Since our vital energy is that which creates us, makes us, and gives us purpose and life experiences broadening the scope of practice beyond sexuality is important for our culture and day to day living, especially with the state of local, national, and global affairs. Therefore, extending to all vital energy usage, this yama is the knowingness of when to take opportunities and also when to say no to those that will not serve you or the individual(s) that are offering them, which ties into the few yamas (ahimsa, satya, asteya) that we've covered previously. Some may even look at it as the practice of moderation and not indulging in an excess of any one thing to avoid burn out and depleted vital energy.
It is also vital to note that intimacy is not always sexual in nature. As one of my teachers presented to me, consider intimacy to translate to “into-me-I-see” for full depth of the word in all situations. How can we see ourselves in not just our own being, but also in that of another in the following expressions of intimacy:
- A temporary interaction based off of a situation in common
- A stimulating exchange of thoughts and ideas
- Opening to another for safety, support, compassion, empathy, relief, etc
- Eye contact, hugging, touching, cuddling, kissing or any other non-sexualized exchange of physical energy
- Kissing, hugging, sex, oral sex, foreplay, etc
In order to practice brahmacharya ask yourself the following:
- Do you have an abundance of energy?
- Do you feel tired frequently?
- What does your work and life balance look like? Is it balanced?
- Why and how do you use sex in your life?
- How do you feel after sexual exchanges?
- Do you have firm boundaries for yourself? Can you say no to others?
- How do you create?
- Are you allowing yourself to engage in uplifting intimate exchanges?
- What/Who do you spend most of your time/energy/attention on?
- Where do you put your financial resources?
Have fun exploring your use and view of energy and, as always, let us know if you need some guidance, coaching, clarity, or support in your ventures! Once you're able to harness where your energy is spent, you'll be able to start manifesting a life you want to be living and one you can enjoy!