Exploring Brahmacharya

Finding Balance on a Tilting Planet

Anyone who has ever spent time with a puppy or a three year old will relish the promise we are offered in the Yoga Sutras if we practice Brahmacharya.  It assures us that by devotedly living a balanced and moderate life we will gain boundless life force energy.  Boundless! Did someone siphon the puppy juice, bottle and sell it?

Over the centuries, yogis have employed all manner of stringent methods to preserve and increase their personal quota of prana or life force energy.  Of course in the grand cosmic picture this precious commodity is boundless. The trick is adjusting the scale of balance in our lives, employing active practices in an ever shifting environment, to constantly renew our intake of cosmic energy. Think conservation and sustainability. 

By looking at energy as a commodity, we can begin conserving what we already have by assessing where we ‘spend’ too much on any given day. Picture all the places your energy is required: work, school, family, exercise, creative projects, socializing, and spiritual practice.  Are there imbalances? Are some areas monopolizing your life force energy and some languishing for lack of fuel?

If we can simplify and prioritize, we create space in both our external lives and in our consciousness. As we let go of thoughts and activities that are not so important, eliminate relationships that drain us, and choose not to do it all, we are using our vital energy resources wisely.

Of course finding balance is not a one shot deal. Sustainability comes through continual adjustment of the right daily combination of work, play, solitude, intimacy, creativity, service and rest. To find this we must remain acutely attuned to each moment, infusing every choice and every action with our full attention.

And, perfection is impossible as anyone who has tried to hold a balance posture in yoga class knows. Balance is hard enough to achieve, much less maintain for more than five breaths. In recognizing that balance--like any other state of being--is constantly in flux, we can see how essential periods of stillness are each day. If we stop, turn inward, breathe, listen, and focus, we can determine the shifts necessary to bring ourselves back into balance moment by moment. 

“Devoted to living a balanced and moderate life (Brahmacharya) the scope of one’s life force becomes boundless.”

 (Sutra 2:38 translation by NJ Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga)

This article is part of an ongoing series on the yamas and niyamas. For the full 10-part series click on each link below:

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