Bringing Ethical Discipline of Brahmacarya / Brahmacharya into Modern Day Living – The Yoga of Intimacy and Respect
~ What does it mean for the practice of this Yama in Yoga and Mindfulness for Yoga Teachers and Yoga Students
There are several takes on the Yama known as Brahmacarya. First of all a quick and simple re-cap. There is a lot more to yoga than what appears to the western eye, more than the poses (asana) which is the third limb in the eight limbs of yoga.
The first limb of Yoga ~ Yamas is about the Yoga of relationship, how we treat others and ourselves and how we behave. The Yamas can help us make decisions , especially when faced with moral dilemmas. There is a lot of literature around on the fourth of the Yamas Brahmacarya some of which may not relate to modern day yogis if understood as celibacy.
For those interested in learning how these foundational teachings in yoga can guide us toward health, harmony and overall wellbeing great teachers like Mark Whitwell (in his book Love Sex and Intimacy) and Richard Freeman in his teachings some of which Ive shared below , shed some light for us.
Richard Freeman shares a practical and well considered approach to Brahmacarya.
He talks about Brahmacarya, literally meaning “to act within Brahman” or to treat all beings as sacred or with respect. This includes dropping any ego driven tendencies to feed unwholesome desires of “seeking satisfaction in exploitive relationships”
Given the recent exposure of teachers or the like in a place of power taking advantage of students, I thought it was useful in sharing the clarity expressed on this topic :
“Brahmacarya is a particularly important yama to be addressed and carefully considered bt any good yoga teacher. Sexual intimacy is an incredibly powerful act of sensation and emotion (not to mention relationship) Under these circumstances, the ego-driven mind has a powerful attraction to the pleasure involved in the act as well as the ego boost that results from being found attractive. So the ego is prone to overlook, warp, or rationalise a person’s own belief system, or ethical standards, to experience the gratification of the sexual act. It is imperative that we be aware of the complexity of this specific yama, because those of us who are yoga teachers are in a position of power and trust in relation to our students. A teacher may claim that the sexual act with a consenting student is not outside the bounds of ethical behaviour. However, just like with a priest, gang leader, or politician – anyone in a position of power – consent from someone who looks to you as a leader is not coming from a free, autonomous, integrated being. That form of consent is from an actor in the circle of the teacher’s narcissism” ~ Richard Freeman shares more on this topic and more in his brilliant book The Art of Vinyasa .
Although there is no “yoga police” or an official “yoga rule book” it’s very foundations are there to help free us from suffering. The best way to teach anything is by example as best as you can.
Regardless of weather you are a yogi or not, your body has a way of letting you know when you act or behave against what you know to be in alignment with the very first of the Yamas Non Harming. When it comes to decision makiing about anything I really resonate with this yogic perspective ~ to be of use is it based on “clear perception of reality and our necessity for love” When it comes to the Yama of Brahmacara / Bramacharya “intimate connection” is how I often share it as implies sacredness and respect.
Contemplating our relationship to these foundations in yoga can help strengthen the love, compassion and respect we have for each other as human beings. Highlighting and discussing with your yoga community what this means at a practical level and what it means to commit to them when you are putting up your hand to teach and share yoga is important. To skim over these in order to teach the fancy poses, or alternatively follow these ‘blindly’ without clear percetion based on reality is also harmful.
Thanks to Richard Freeman for your clear expression and articulation of a topic worth not only understanding but practicing.
Picutred: Richard Freeman (Yoga Teacher and Author of Mirror of Yoga and Art of Vinyasa ) speaking with Tammy Williams