Paying attention to how you treat your body and other peoples bodies on and off the yoga mat can open up the door for great insights into what it is we are practising when we say we are practising yoga. Brahmacharya (the calming of the reactivity to the fluctuations of mind) is one of the Yamas in Yoga which can help us with this.
As an integrated way of life, Yoga includes moral standards (traditionally called “virtues”) that any reasonable human being would find in principle acceptable. Some of these standards, known in Sanskrit as Yamas and Niyamas ‘disciplines’ are encoded in the first limb of Patanjali’s eightfold path.
Yamas (Universal Morality). The Yamas are broken down into five wise characteristics, “they tell us that our fundamental nature is compassionate, generous, honest and peaceful.” – Below are links to each, this week the focus is on Brahmacharya which has many meanings and contemplations linked to it. Opening your mind to this Yama can help us on and off the Yoga Mat.
This precept means more energy moderation (or being able to connect authentically) Part of Yoga on and off the mat can be learning to modify our emotional and physical energy, to avoid stress, exhaustion or burn out. To avoid harm to ourselves (including our body) and others (including their body)
Traditionally this precept was had links to celibacy as a way to conserve energy for Yoga practice (and being able to draw your senses inward for states conducive to meditation). In this day and age, we can broaden the scope allowing the focus to be on the quality of the action being performed and the intention that it is being done with.
I love the idea of Brahmacharya being as simple as “Respect”. In my experience on a day to day basis, there are many temptations that can cause us to overdo things to the point where we are not really present in every action, every moment. Being pressed for time and just ‘getting things done’ can take us out of ‘being’ in the moment.
This can be getting on the yoga mat and just belting out your Sun Salutes, pushing without listening just to “get it done”. Most of us would not like to be on the receiving end of this in a relationship as we can all tell the difference between a connection that is intimate, respectful and sacred (like making love), and just getting it over and done with (sex). It is worth contemplating if you don’t wish for others to treat you this way, why would you treat yourself that way on a yoga mat?.
I remember this being pointed out in a class with Bryan Kest in LA where the bold and yet truthful observation of how people were practising their yoga or exercising was likened to more like masturbation than ‘making love’. I felt the energy of the room shift immediately from belting out sun salutes mindlessly pushing to get somewhere, to becoming more mindful and considerate of what it is we were all doing moment by moment. The practice was no longer about the end results and more about the process of listening and being guided by what the body was asking for.
Not only do we conserve energy in this art form of Mindful Listening we conserve relationships with every ‘body’. Including ourselves. In this way we can not only prevent burnout, we create more energy to give and to serve. This is very important especially those in caring/giving roles like Yoga Teaching.
Taking time to conserve energy can help us turn inward (self-intimacy) and is an aspect of meditation practice. If we are just going through the motions of ‘getting things done’, in my experience we miss out on nourishment and it’s not as much fun, regardless of whether it is exercising, cooking, walking someplace, or doing your Sun Salutes.
Another way for Yoga Teachers (and students) to practice respecting their bodies whilst practising yoga is to remember that we all have different bodies, we are not supposed to force ourselves to look like anything in particular. As yoga teachers, reminding our students they are not on their mat trying to look or be like us (or anyone else) in the yoga pose. They are there practising, connecting and being like themselves ~ in this way our practice becomes authentic and is a form of intimacy. Making the transitions just as important as the poses themselves is another way to stay with the respectful art of Mindful Listening.
This can be applied by refraining from pushing and forcing (especially as teachers when we are assisting or adjusting people) keeping in mind that the intention behind “assisting” has nothing to do with making people ‘look’ a certain way. There is actually a science behind truly ‘seeing’ and sensing how someone’s energy is flowing (this includes sensing what state of mind they are doing the ‘actions’ or yoga poses with) and then seeing is this helping conserve their energy to move their awareness inside. Or are they moving from a place of reactivity which when we continue we make it stronger. So we can either come to yoga to strengthen our automatic habit patterns of reactivity of pushing and bullying ourselves to be someplace or something better or we can go to yoga to strengthen our intimacy and ability to be authentic and show. Our body and all of our senses can have so much to teach us in our job as yoga students and as yoga teachers to learn how to ‘listen’.
One way to help us all respect ourselves and each other is to remember when it comes to ‘bodies’, ours and other peoples, is to remember ~ there are souls in there.
Enjoy taking your practice of Yoga (of Brahmacharya) on and off the mat by treating yourselves and others with respect.
There are many interpretations of Brahmacharya, find below a brief reflection from Katie Grice, one of our Yoga NRG Teacher Trainees. Well done Katie!
(Those participating in our Challenge by sharing your own reflections on each of the Yamas and Niyamas over 10 Days or 10 weeks could be coming on our NRG FOR SOUL YOGA RETREAT IN THE WHITSUNDAYS. Find out more below and share your reflections with us (other great NRG Gifts being offered for helping to share how we can all benefit from practising Yoga on and off the Yoga Mat ~ use the hashtags #yoganrg #yamaniyamachallenge)
Sometimes wiping the slate clean, taking time out to ‘retreat’ can be exactly what we need to refine our way of doing things so that our actions serve us, those we love and our community in the best possible way.
LEARN MORE ABOUT YOGA ON + OFF THE MAT: APPLY FOR YOGA TEACHER TRAINING ~ APPLY HERE
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CLICK HERE to Apply for NRG for Soul Retreat.
The Retreat Prize from our Yama Niyama Challenge will be drawn August 1st!
**Here is a share by Katie Grice one of our Yoga NRG Teacher Trainees ~
“Brahmacharya translates to disciplined use of energy. A conscious mover is one who is aware they are being aware. Aware of what they are doing, how it makes them feel, how it may impact others. By consciously choosing where to focus their energy – mental and physical, one learns that we can do more with less, and by doing less, we get more.”
– Katie #yoga #yamaniyamachallenge
To learn more about what each of the Yamas and Niyamas are and how to practice them in yoga & daily life – CLICK HERE